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Fond Memories of Wood-Ridge

Wood-Ridge, early 1960's, My Snapshot in Time
By Jerry Korb

This year marks exactly 50 years that our family moved to W-R. My perspective of life in our 1-sq.mile community is thru the eyes of a youngster in early 1960's.  I had only my bicycle, a pair or strong legs, and overwhelming desire to explore the unknown reaches of town beyond my street.

Mostly, I remember fewer cars, much fewer cars. Can anyone here believe me when Moonachie Ave. was closed in snowy weather to allow sledders a mad-dash downhill?  Yep, been-there, done-that many times! Or joining the neighborhood kids, many of them playing hopscotch drawn in chalk in the middle of Ryerson Ave, w/o a car in sight. Or the days when Route-17 had a stoplight at Moonachie Ave.  Bets were taken how often the crossing-guard's shack would be knocked-over, by tight-turning 18-wheeler from Moonachie Ave.  My family regularly stopped at Strunck's farm for flowers and veggies on Rte-17 southbound.

I remember many buildings which aren't around anymore, except in two-dimensional photos. The full-length Park Pl. West street, former Adelung's Hotel converted to lumber business with heaps of sawdust outside. And the ornate, historic W-R train-station demolished utterly to make room for the 1968 overpass. I now could have afforded to move the bldg., intact for preservation. Oh well, I'm a bit late.....

The Masonic Temple on Madison St. was a mystery to a young kid, as was the elusive Victorian home on Columbia St, complete with overgrown weeds, small greenhouse, arched cement work over garage, etc. Great for a kid was the abundance of empty lots in town, which disappeared 1-by-1.

The Hilltop Tavern on Carlstadt border was a place of "intrigue" to a 7-yr.old. The original Assumption church bldg. was converted for grades 1-2. Carl Leibold's shoe-repair business was a place of wonderment, with all the whirring machines within. My first taste of pizza in my life was at Alfonso's. Traber's TV repair business was located on Windsor/Cliff St., who inaugurated my interest in electronics as career.

On the "western-front" by Arnot Place, was the "blood-stream."  Heaven knows what I and others waded-in, those days!  Wood-Ridge Ave uphill from 14th St. was a test of snow-tires in those pre-SUV days.  A little bit of chainlink fence opened thru to the C-W land was a "wild jungle" to wide-eyed youngster, wandering around.  And finally, the "easy" access down the cliffs behind Madsen-Christensen greenhouses to Eclipse and Rte-17, was a test of agility and my folks' tolerance!

Hunt's Greenhouses on Garden St was another quality pristine piece of land. Five horses could be seen grazing or practice jumping on the property. The Cellofilm property nearby was still in use in those days, I recall seeing drums of "stuff" being unloaded. The nearby C-W property reminded residents of their wartime heritage, when occasionally a jet engine was fired-up and tested. Could be heard for several miles! And on the "eastern front" I walked thru the W-R Chemical Co. not realizing the tons of mercury being refined there. An "unofficial" walk thru the grounds of Teterboro Airport revealed bygone streets/homes of Moonachie which were purchased/razed when the airport expanded runways.  Was able to find the best doggone huckleberries on that land.  Then DDT spraying put an end to all that......

Any of you out-there ever visit the "brickyard" for a little skinny-dip swim? Unknown feet deep, and actually BELOW sea-level.  I'm surprised that myself and others lived to see maturity!

My snapshot in time from 40 years back includes many "little" things long gone from the area . Being closer to the ground, I clearly noticed old trolley tracks occasionally peering-thru the chipped asphalt roads. Cobblestones that were paved under Moonachie Ave (still are there ??).  And the old fire-gong at Anderson Ave. Speaking of fire, I recall many times the town horn scared me out of my wits!  Bluestone sidewalks, curbs are gone for the most-part from W-R.

Most interesting to me were the "expeditions" out of town, to Hasbrouck Heights on bike, Woodland Park and seeing unusual blue streetlights mounted low ,indicating emergency callboxes.  Remember, this is the perspective of a young feller, when seven-feet was the "outer-limits" of height.  My travels also brought me to Zimmerman Pk. in Carlstadt, cobblestones and all. I was deathly afraid to go past the cemetery on 7th St. (W-R St.) at night, lest a ghost would jump-out!....

And frequent visits to Surplus Electronics in Carlstadt, which was treasure-trove of WW2 electronics, tubes/goodies, which further inspired my choice of career and collecting.

The people and stores of W-R in those times left indelible marks in my young years. The old neon "FORD" sign stored behind the W-R garage would fetch a fortune today on eBay.  Marvin and Kelly Siegel's Hardware shop on Blvd. saved unusual lightbulbs for my budding interest in things electrical.  Neiman's Superette, Hanks's Candy Store, and the original IGA location where NAPA now stands. 

Star Auto on the Blvd owned by the Rigante family (where are you, Jerry?).  The W-R library was a storehouse of knowledge to me, I learned much there even in my early years. And of course the nearby mandatory dental visits to "Doc Young" . A test of bravery for a young kid. I was interested more in his trained pigeons kept behind the house, than the cruel-looking dental equipment within.

There's lots more I can write, but I think others from my age group (late 40's) should add their tales to mine.  From a then-now comparison, the atmosphere of W-R changed in my opinion dramatically after the Meadowlands was built in 1976. Only best thing that resulted from that development was permanently extinguishing the burning swamps/garbage .  As to the future face of W-R, whatever happens today will be tomorrow's history. 

Best Regards, Jerry Korb

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