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Life on Prince Street in the 60s & 70s

by Leon De Vose, II

        I lived with my parents at Stella Wright Projects up until age 13. Living in the projects was not always a negative experience.  In fact until the ravages of "white flight", political corruption and crime converged it was a positive experience.

        My address was 232 Prince Street, Apartment 4G.  I even remember my old telephone number while living there.  It was (201)248-6550.  I am not sure that "248" is even a Newark exchange anymore.  I know that "243" was a Newark exchange but at some point it became a West Orange exchange.

        I went to Morton Street School from 1965 to 1972 (K-6).  I remember my teachers.  They were Ms. Kimbrough (K) room 105; Mrs. Horton (1) room 101; Ms. Butler (2) room 212; Mrs. Tate (3) room 208; Mrs. Hardwick (4) rm. 303; Mr. Douglas (5) rm. 409;  my mother had me transferred to Mrs. Ciccone (5) room 405; Mrs. LoCicero (6) room 404.  These last two were sisters-in-law (maybe sisters).  There were three principals while I was there.  The first one was something -celli. The next one was Mr. Coughlin.  His vice principal was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Horton.

        From where I lived, my bedroom window in fact, we watched the 1967 Newark riots take place on my seventh birthday.  Before this there were shops, churches, "mom & pop"  stores, barber shops, shoe stores, etc.  I remember a live poultry market, a church with a bell directly in front of my window, Mantell's shoes, Freddie's Barber Shop, King's liquors, Martie's Meat Market, Mr. Bob's candy store, the Milk Bar, the Two-Way Inn.  I remember the White Way store, Slim's store (he was sickly), I think there was a Mrs. May's store.  I remember Zeke's Barber Shop when it was on Spruce Street.  There was red stone house with a curiously designed lightning rod.  There was a wood frame multi-family tenement where my great aunt lived.

        My father, Leon De Vose, played as a lead drummer for the Essex County African Dance Society.  One of our neighbors, Fifai Jones was a dancer.  Abdulla Baywas the lead dancer and choreographer.  Tom MCCray was a drummer as was Charles Bessler. They performed all over. My most memorable performances include a performance at Eagle Rock where I was frightened by Abdulla in the witch doctor costume for the first time (Abdulla was a tall enough man, standing at least 6 feet - the witch doctor costume made him look even bigger).  I knocked my father's drum over trying to escape.  The other performance I remember was at the Garden State Arts Center where they were the last act at a festival before Kool and the Gang came on.  I think that was  summer 1973 (maybe it was 1974).



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