From 1939 to 1955 I lived in a small two-block neighborhood just outside a medium sized North NJ town that over the years has grown considerably. I walked to a grade K-4 grammar school and then a school bus picked me up at the end of the block, along with many others to travel to a Junior High school (5th - 9th grade). The bus took us to high school for the last three years and sometimes we walked home or took a public service bus after lingering in town at the local soda fountain. The Catholic neighborhood kids went to different schools in another community.
Our neighborhood was one with many families of varied religions and backgrounds, but was mostly Irish Catholic, Polish and English. Our junior and high schools had Jews, Italians, and Colored kids. There was no racial nor religious tensions way back in my young life and we were congenial friends; just school kids doing what school kids did in those days.
The reason I am telling you this is that I have always respected others and their nationalities, origins and life styles because I saw how they lived life, first hand by often spending time at other’s homes with their families. One Irish family in our block had 13 offspring of all ages. The oldest daughter was a nun and the oldest son was a priest. From there on down, there were twin girls my age. Their mother seemed to be always doing laundry, ironing, cooking, cleaning and yelling. There was no yelling in my home so it was interesting. They were very emotional and cried a lot. That, too was a very different thing to me. I learned a lot from this family because they were such good, honest and religious people in spite of being quite poor. I had a fear of their father when he came home from work because he started drinking and was loud and bossy.
We neighborhood kids all collected newspapers to sell - bottles and cans as well, went in our little red wagons awaiting cow bell sounds of the junk man's arrival in his horse and buggy to pay us pennies for our hard work. We traded comic books and playing cards (for the back pictures) and we played marbles and jump rope, street games, tag, and roller-skated on sidewalks and rode bikes. We built caves in the woodlands and played soldiers and enemies. Wintertime was sleigh riding, ice skating, snow ball fights and the building of great snow huts.
When St. Patrick’s Day came around we ALL celebrated and became Irish. The Irish culture was fascinating and learned well by all of us, Irish ethnicity or not. I’m happy that Ireland’s Patron Saint Patrick is still celebrated. When I saw photos of my Great Nieces and Great Nephews making Irish Potatoes in their Philadelphia kitchen, I just had to celebrate with them. So I did, what I do…I created a picture of fun. There are four children in this family, one older and one younger but the middle two caught my eye this time as they had the Irish sparkle in their eyes as they made the candy potatoes.
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Caleb, Molly, Roisin and Cianan