This is an article written by Kevin McVicker and was in the local e-paper. He describes perfectly growing up in our small town of Avenel, NJ. It's a nice read for anyone and for many Avenel natives, brings back fond memories! The article also shows how social media has brought many 'old' friends back together !
Avenel, the section of Woodbridge Township bordered by Colonia, Woodbridge and Rahway, often seems to be overlooked by people from other parts of the state, as well as the news media. Woodbridge has a big shopping mall. Many of us in Avenel were born in Rahway, which has the closest hospital.
In the 1970s, there was a popular bumper sticker “Give ‘Em Hell from Avenel.” That sentiment sums up a mindset, an attitude. People from Avenel exhibit an independent streak. Kids who grew up in Avenel learn a kind of toughness.
While I have not officially lived in Avenel for 20 years, it seems the bond with Avenel was broken when my mother recently sold our family home and relocated to the Jersey Shore.
Looking back, the days in Avenel were days of freedom. Our street, Lehigh Avenue, seemed to always come alive with ball games. Since it was a dead end, cars rarely interrupted.
The social networking website Facebook has a group made up of current and former Avenel residents. The reminiscent chatter of this group echoes thoughts of freedom. The group, with more than 1,200 members, has contributed memories of school, play, family and neighborhood.
The people who gather at that site grew up in an era when we had to be home by when the street lights came on and there were only four television channels.
Long-shuttered businesses on Avenel Street evoke fond memories. Metro’s Delicatessen had excellent cold cuts. Many men and boys frequented John’s Barber Shop and the whistle at the General Dynamics plant blared promptly at 7 p.m. every night.
Avenel Street School 4&5, which opened in 1912, generated the greatest response on Facebook. Many teachers from 30, 40 and 50 years ago are fondly remembered. Mrs. Hawkins, who taught first grade, Miss Boop, who taught fifth grade, and Mr. Ziccardi, who taught sixth grade, are still admired by legions of former students who benefited from their dedication.
St. Andrew’s Parish was a big influence on my life and on the lives of others. Many members of Facebook’s Avenel group still remember all the priests of the parish and even a time when the parish had nuns. I, and many of my classmates, served as altar boys, and my father served as a lector and Eucharistic minister. The parish, as well as St. Andrew’s Knights of Columbus #5088, were family institutions that nurtured relationships and friendships.
The spirit of Avenel can be seen in felt as it rallies around football player, Eric LeGrand, the Avenel native who was paralyzed last year playing for Rutgers in a game against West Point. The town is decorated with LeGrand’s No. 52 jersey and there have been numerous fundraisers to offset his medical expenses.
The Avenel I grew up in was a safe place, but we were taught to work hard, play fair, settle your differences. This is a town that deserves more recognition. It has my gratitude.
Kevin P. McVicker is the son of Nora McVicker and the late Donald McVicker. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife, Patty and children, Carolyn and Andrew. He is a public relations consultant.