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Hoboken High School Class of ‘73 Remembers Hoboken 50 Years Later

by Lauren Alberti
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When walking along the Hoboken waterfront, taking in the beautiful Manhattan skyline and maybe stopping off at one of the piers to watch an iconic Hoboken sunset, it can be easy to forget that this wasn’t always what Hoboken looked like. There was a time before the development of the waterfront, before parking on Washington Street was nearly impossible to find, and before a new generation of Hobokenites moved in. In honor of the upcoming 50th high school reunion for the class of 1973, two Hoboken High School alumni remember what the city was like back in the day. Read on to hear what it was like being a teenager in Hoboken 50 years ago. 

A Quaint City: Hoboken According to Cynthia

Cynthia Mack is a native New Yorker. She grew up in the Village and her family moved to Hoboken when she turned 14. To her, this was the absolute worst thing that could have happened. Here she was, a New York City kid, going into her first year of high school in New Jersey of all places. She eventually got used to the quieter side of the Hudson River and came to enjoy the Mile Square. (She even settled in New Jersey as an adult – landing in Toms River!) 

Now, she looks back fondly on her time coming of age in Hoboken. She recalls a quaint city where everybody knew everybody. She used to walk down ‘The Avenue’ (Washington Street) and was constantly stopping to greet friendly faces. She misses the days when she could drive her car up to Washington Street and find a parking spot without much effort. 

the avenue hoboken nj

(Photo credits: @hobokenmuseum)

Most residents at the time — the 1960s and 70s — worked in the numerous factories that were in Hoboken. Cynthia recalls many of her classmates having parents who worked at the Maxwell House Coffee plant (now Maxwell Place), the Bethlehem Steel company (now the Shipyard), or the Lipton Tea factory — where her own mother worked for some time (which is now the Hudson Tea Building). Workers would take the old Washington Street bus that ran daily up to their factory jobs, and many would even walk to work. There was a simplicity in the easy commute for local factory workers.

hoboken factory nj

(Photo credits: @hobokenmuseum)

Cynthia also recalls a divide between ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’ Hobokenites. The uptown residents were seen as the wealthier crowd, and the downtown neighbors were a more working class crowd. Although, as a kid, she never noticed any difference between her uptown and downtown friends. The city had an unspoken open-door policy. Cynthia remembers walking into her mother’s apartment building on Hudson Street and smelling all the different dinners that were cooking in each apartment that had their doors open for neighbors to come and chat. 

Read More: Who Discovered Hoboken: A Brief History

She and her classmates would all hang out in different spots around Hoboken. Different ‘cliques’ would congregate at their self-assigned corners and just hang out on someone’s stoop, and everyone knew which corner “belonged” to which group. There were the kids that hung out at 7th and Park, 8th and Bloomfield, and so on. Cynthia’s group of friends could be found on 5th and Madison. Some of their favorite spots included Biggie’s, which was a popular spot for Hobokenites, and Leo’s, which is still open on Grand Street. Once they were old enough to drive, the high schoolers would go up to Palisades Amusement Park in Fort Lee to enjoy the public pool. 

Back then, Carlo’s Bakery was right next door to Fiore’s Deli, and Cynthia would often stop in to Fiore’s and then go next door to get pastries from Carlo’s for Sunday dinner. She would get her Italian bread from Dom’s Bakery on Grand Street, and she recommends getting two loaves so you can eat one on the way home. Antique Bakery on 2nd Street was also one of her favorite local bakeries. 

Playing Games in the Street: Hoboken According to Mike

stickball hoboken

Photo credits: Hoboken Historical Museum)

Mike Sarullo was born and raised in Hoboken. He grew up in an apartment on 1st and Hudson street, and he has similar memories to Cynthia of a city where everyone knows each other. He spent his childhood afternoons playing stickball, punch ball, bottle caps, and pitching pennies with other kids on the block. For the youngsters out there, stickball was a common neighborhood pick-up game similar to baseball and was often played in the street. Mike and his friends used sewers as their bases — one on each corner. Pitching pennies refers to a game where players threw pennies at a building’s wall and whoever landed closest to the wall was the winner. It was certainly a simpler time where kids in the neighborhood got creative with how to have fun. Mike also looked forward to hot summer days when the Hoboken Fire Department would open up the hydrants on the street and kids could cool down under the water. 

 

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A post shared by Hoboken Museum (@hobokenmuseum)

Hoboken felt like a typical small American city, and to Mike, it was the greatest city in the world. Around the late 60s and early 70s, as Hoboken factories started to close down, local workers also left the city in droves. It was a tough time for Hoboken, as the city was experiencing a tumultuous transition from being a factory town. Mike took notice of this. 

Fellow 70s Hoboken High School alumni might remember Mike from the time he ran for City Councilman while he was a senior in high school. He and two friends, also Hoboken high school seniors, Kevin Hauk and James Thorpe, took advantage of the new law that allowed anyone 18 or older to run for office and vote. They were passionate about getting young residents involved in local politics and being informed voters, in order to keep Hoboken the greatest city in the world that Mike had while growing up. The trio knew they would likely not win the race, but they are still proud of the message they were able to promote while running for council. 

 

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^ Hoboken in the 60s

See More: A List of Historical Places to Visit in North Jersey

Today, Mike enjoys visiting Hoboken and even seeing some of his old classmates around town. Walking down the side streets of town brings back memories of his days frequenting the Wilton House on Newark Street, The Shannon on 1st Street — both of which are still around and popular nightlife spots — and Signore’s Lounge and the Union Club, which are no longer open. 

Even though Mike moved to Bayonne 11 years ago, he enjoys taking the short drive over to Hoboken and revisiting his favorite spots. He saw many different sides to the city: the good, the bad, and the brand new. His cherished childhood memories are important to him and the man he has grown to be. He credits his parents, who he says are “the best mother and father a kid could have,” his twin brother, and his four sisters for giving him a great upbringing.

Cynthia’s mother continued to live in Hoboken, uptown on Hudson Street, until 2008. Cynthia and her family often visit her cousin who still lives in Hoboken whenever they can, and they enjoy seeing the different businesses and parks that continue to pop up. “There’s just so much to do,” she says. “You can never have a dull day in Hoboken.” 

Cynthia and Mike are spearheading the planning for the Hoboken High School Class of 1973 50th Reunion. Currently, the event is set for October 24th, 2023. For more information, contact Cynthia Mack at cynthia.mack@me.com

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