UPDATE: For six years Hank wrote a column for CNBNews "When East Meets West". He died in August 2012 at the age of 75
published July 2007
By Hank Miller
Being so many miles away from Gloucester city on a rainy Sunday afternoon with the flu in Kitakyushu City, Japan with time to think of my past. I began thinking of when I was a boy in Gloucester and recalling the things that my good friend Eddie Williams had mentioned in one of his most recent letters from his home in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.
The things we enjoyed and did back then we can never forget; it was a time when people had time to enjoy and a time when few people had television sets. We enjoyed the donuts at Mosteig's bakery at Brown and Bergen streets, (where my mother worked for many years).
Of church on Sunday mornings. Playing stick ball or tire ball as it was called at the corner of Aukenbaugh grocery store just across the corner from Mosteig's bakery or just lying under the trees along Johnson Blvd. on a hot summer day feeling the summer breezes cooling you.
While writing there are so many other things that come into mind, and I am sure some of you old Gloucesterites will remember.
Such as our local theatre The King, more commonly known as the "Scratch", for obvious reasons. We would enjoy meeting there each Saturday afternoon and take up a collection and one boy would buy a ticket, once inside he would push open the fire door to the outside and we would all rush in and scatter so we wouldn't get caught by the ushers.
Going to our local Gloucester Drive in with the trunk of the car full of kids. We had so many things to do back then and enjoyed every minute of it all. After school I remember going to places like Powell's on Broadway across from the old high school or going to a place called Zimalongs on Middlesex street just off Broadway where we enjoyed eating subs and drinking shakes.
Martins Lake (below) use to be the fun place to go in all seasons. In the summer you could fish for sunnies or swim for hours, in winter we used to sled down the big hill off East Brown Street. Come winter my American Flyer was busy back then. We could also ice skate all day and well into the night and build bon-fires to keep us warm.Millers Lake to skate on in winter or also for fishing in the summer.It was a great time when we were growing up in Gloucester City.
I believe many of the old Gloucester people will remember these places, like the lot along the railroad between Hudson and Monmouth streets or the island along Johnson Boulevard, Cold Springs where we played sand lot baseball on warm summer afternoons, now-a-days there are no sandlots left and that's a sad thing.
I can also remember hopping the little spur Peanut Line train as it came by Quigley's Lumber Yard at Hudson and Johnson Boulevard there by the island and we'd drop off when it reached the "Hinky Dinks". The Engineer was Mr. Ackaroid, when he found us riding the line he used to chase us. When we jumped off there we would climb up to what we called "Devils Hole" or just swim in Timber Creek diving from the trestle wall or we would walk along the top of the "Hinky Dinks" to Black Horse Pike. There were so many fun things to do and look forward to each day.
The scratches and bruises we got after jumping off the train as it picked up speed to clear the hill and we would land in the cinders along the tracks and skinning up our arms and legs, it didn't matter because it was all part of the times.
Another exciting experience was riding our bikes down the "Hinky Dinks" from "Devil's Hole", or pulling dried reeds off the island and having spear fights or cutting the reeds and using them as pea shooters, there were even wild peas we would strip from the branches to use.
Not to mention the battles with poison ivy and sumac. We would have itches constantly but we still went back. Another place I well remember the place we'd called "Desert" we used to hunt pheasants or walk across Creek Road to hunt rabbits early on a cold winter morning or go duck hunting along Timber Creek by Johnson Boulevard or hunting black birds too along the old Peanut Line train tracks.
Do you remember these people who came around our neighborhood such as Mr. Walter Klaus selling his fruit and vegetables, "The Clothes Prop-Man", I can still hear him yelling "Clothes Props" in my ears,the"ice-man selling his blocks of ice, we kids could sometimes get a small piece from him.
And how about the coal man delivering coal with that metal shute from his truck through the cellar window to the coal bin in the cellar, and the noise of the coal rushing down that shute,"I can still hear it."
There was the knife sharpener man who used to go around the streets and another man with things like buttons, shoe laces, needles, thread etc. You name it he had it and if he didn't you'd bet he'd have it the next time around. Then there were the junk men, bakery man, milkman, the egg man, and the fruit and vegetable men.
Then we had the men in their horse and wagons such as Howard and Craig Schaffer, Butch Shaffer's Father and uncle, in their waffle wagon. They'd yell out "Yellow Hot Waffels", with the clang-clang of their bell. I can still smell those fresh waffles cooking as you waited and Howard smiling as he hit that clang. There was Bud Davis, with his Shetland pony pulling the little red wagon along selling yum-yums. There were also many kids and their wagons selling snow balls like my brother Joe Miller, and I each summer we'd work from morning till night.
There used to be a farm where Gloucester High School is presently. It was called "Farmer Jim's, I remember biking out there very early in the morning to pick tomatoes, peas and limas beans, all day in the hot sun. We'd try to get up early to be chosen to work that day. Because it seemed like every kid in Gloucester wanted to work.
I used to belong to the "Boy Scouts at Camp Donald Unger out behind Cold Springs."WOW!" Remember coming home with my brother Joe, and a few other boys, about 9:30 P.M. and passing through the hole in the fence and walking through Old St. Mary's cemetery; what a real scary experience that was for a 12 year old.
We experienced so many great and wonderful times when Gloucester City, was quiet and at a time when everyone talked to you as you passed them on the street. It was a time when you knew just about everyone who you met and could leave your doors and windows open when you went to bed without fear.
Though, I've been gone from Gloucester City since I was 19 years old in the U.S.Navy. I am now 71 and in fact celebrate my birthday today!
I can still think of all the really happy times with all my friends some of whom I still correspond with regularly from time to time. I just want to keep up on all that is taking place back home.
When I return to visit my extended family and friends every five years I can't help but notice the many changes that have taken place there over the years. But Gloucester City is still my home town and always will remain a fond memory of my past life. Though most of what was there then are gone but the memories are still very clear and it is a place to call home to.
As most of you already know I'm the owner and Director of THE MILLER ENGLISH SCHOOL JAPAN located in Kitakyushu City, Japan. I enjoy telling my students all about Gloucester City, its traditions and its history.
I write a weekly commentary regarding things that I have experienced here so you all can have the Japanese, experience firsthand. Since I live in the country side and not a large city. Though ClearyNotebook you'll be able to follow my commentary, WHEN EAST MEETS WEST
Warm Regards form Kitakyushu City ,Japan
Hank F. Miller Jr.