Memories of Oaklyn, NJ

We lived in Oaklyn for about six years - until we moved to Haddonfield in 1955. I still remember the day we moved there - Read Hopkins and I got into a fight right away. He turned out to be my best friend!

The Neighborhood

The railroad ran behind our house on Manor Avenue. There was our backyard and then the "railroad property" where the apple tree grew. Mr. Hopkins had a corn field on his part of the railroad property, and the lady up the street had a cherry tree.

The neighborhood was patrolled by Freddy the Cop. The kids adored Freddy and would follow him along the street when he came walking down to our end. The street itself was our baseball field. I still wince at the memory of the brush burn I got from sliding into base.

The Park

At the end of our street was the park. What a wonderful place! There was the cannon at the VFW Post where we would hang upside down. It is still there, but has shrunk over the years! During the summer, the park teacher would come for a couple of weeks and we got to do all kinds of neat crafts and other activities.

The best parts of the park were the "forts" and the "point." There were three forts. Two of them were small square foundations that had been dug at sometime in the distant past. Nothing was actually built there, but we sure could imagine! The third fort was an old fallen tree - our "tree fort."

The point was our beach. Newton Creek (pronounce that CRICK) ran along one side of the park and around the end - at the point. Here was where we put on our rubber boots in the winter and went "ice-skating" and where we found the dead catfish and buried it so that nobody would steal it before we asked our Mom if we could eat it for dinner.

The Gang

There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood. Our "gang" included (left to right on the picture) Lois from up the street, me, Willa from across the street, Read, my brother, and Read's brother Gary (not in the picture).

Read and I were constant companions - and constantly in trouble together. There was the time we decided to check out the tar barrels and climbed into them. Mrs. Hopkins spent what seems like hours cleaning us off with Lysol! Once we were going to run away and get married because our parents wouldn't let us go down to Jack's for candy. We had it all planned, but Lois told. Ah, what could have been....

Our big caper was at the Clinton Avenue School. Early one morning we decided to write grafitti on the big window sills in front of the building. OK, so we weren't grafitti artists, but we did proudly write our names in chalk. What a shock it was when Miss Finney, the principal, showed up at my third grade classroom door - with Read standing next to her and a bucket of water in her hand. The woman was uncanny! I challenge you to tell me how she knew it was us - after all, there must have been plenty of Read's and Betty Jean's in that school! I admit that after scrubbing that window sill, we never tried grafitti again.

Willa's father was an inventor - far ahead of his time. In their living room was a big wooden box that housed his wondrous projection television. Mr. Reese would pull down a movie screen, turn on that box, and we were treated to Lunch With Soupy Sales in bigger than life black and white!

The School

I began my life as a student at the Clinton Avenue School, home of the feared and respected Miss Finney. That must have been in 1952 because I can remember voting for Ike in the Kindergarten presidential election.

There were two buildings. The main one, which could be seen from Clinton Avenue, was connected to a rear building by what seems to me was a boardwalk. To get to the auditorium, we had to go through a large window in the nurse's (Miss Henry) office, along the boardwalk, and then into the other building. It was in that auditorium that I played my greatest theatrical role - the turkey in the Thanksgiving play. Good grief, I can still remember my lines!

In the morning we had to wait in the schoolyard for the bell to ring. Girls went in the right hand door and boys in the left. Downstairs on the right was the public library - in one small room. The library was also the distribution point for our afternoon milk.

Great Places to Walk

My dad used to take us on long walks, sometimes as far as Camden. But the hikes we enjoyed most were to the railroad trestle and to the bridge. A short walk along the railroad, past the park and the VFW post, brought us to the trestle, which crossed Newton Creek. The best time to be there was when the great mountains of suds came floating down the creek. The worst, though most exciting, time was when a train was coming.

Speaking of mountains, construction on the Walt Whitman Bridge began in 1953. Our dad would take us for walks to the early construction site and let us climb the mountains of dirt.

Go to South Jersey Memories.

BJ Swartz
Updated 18 November 2013