Last Thursday, I wrote about the Passaic Herald News bulletin when Howard Matson calmed my distress and saved my little kitten from the top of a tree.
Howard, my childhood friend, shared a second news story with me that I had forgotten about. It is undated, but it was definitely summertime either in 1962 or possibly 1963.
My friends and I were definitely into what was then called acrobatics, but more like tumbling skills. I think we were spurred on by a playmate named Judy who could effortlessly and perfectly do one armed cartwheels over and over. Judy lived in the house right next to the left apartment building in the image below.
I don’t remember who first came up with the idea, but we decided to put on a neighborhood show. Actually, I think we stole the idea from the kids on Autumn Street, the next block over, who had put together a show of their own.
Purple Arrow = Summer Street
Yellow Arrow = Autumn Street
Green Arrow = Adjoining backyards separated by chain link fence
Large U-Shaped Buildings = Apartments across from my house
Small yellow pin – my house at 49 Summer Street
Source: Google Earth
Those backyard fences allowed us to keep up with happenings on the blocks adjoining Summer Street and I think we saw them practicing one day and decided to do the same thing. Bits of memory are being jogged here as I write this. 🙂
Carol, Sandy and Patty Scheaffel (sisters) along with Lenore Matson, Howard’s sister, and I decided singing and acrobatics were acts that would bring in the big money, so we planned out and practiced routines for several days. All the practicing was done in my backyard, with the intent to have the show there.
Hosting the Show
The green dotted arrow is along what is almost an alley type cement path between my house on the right and the neighbor’s on the left. We all thought it would make a great entrance to the show area. The grass (yellow arrow) would make for a soft landing if any of the tumbling tricks went awry. When the van is parked in the other yard used to be a small rectangular grassy area with a little cement walkway all the way around it. Perfect for audience seating. Or so we thought.
Nana actually owned the house where I lived growing up and she lived upstairs. She got wind of this big show we were planning and put a kabosh on it very quickly. Nana wasn’t having all sorts of people trampling over the little grassy space that we had, nor did she really want us performing on the grass.
At the last minute (after we had put up a few posters on the street, as I remember), we had to switch locations to 69 Summer Street, which was the Scheaffels’ home.
69 Summer Street
The backyard didn’t have quite the same set up – in fact, I think it was mostly dirt if I remember correctly, but we made it work and had a pretty good turnout for the show. We realized we’d make more if we charged by kids’ ages and adults and then said we would accept donations. I think we even put on two performances. Tickets were maybe a nickel, dime and quarter.
A day or two after the show, Howard, Lenore and I walked up to Main Avenue, to the Cerebral Palsy Treatment Center on the Passaic/Clifton border to donate our money. I remember it as being a bit of a walk and Bing maps confirms that. It was a mile and a half each way from my house. Today, our parents might be charged with neglect for letting us walk that far! An aside: I am actually quite incredulous because I looked up this address today and its – the Cerebral Palsy Center run by the Elks. 53 years later and it is even in the same building.
Summer Street to the Center
I think we proudly donated a little over $20.00, a tidy sum for a few kids and a summertime neighborhood show.
Howard did a great job as our “publicity agent,” as he was the one who enjoyed contacting the newspaper. If the ages are correct, I was the oldest girl in the group so this would date the show to summer 1963. However, we weren’t an “octet” since there were five of us!
Here is the article that appeared in the Passaic Herald News:
Cerebral Palsy Summer Show on Summer Street
Children Give Show
For Cerebral Palsy
A group of young girls from
five to 11 who bill themselves
as the Summer Street Octet will
present a show at 7 p.m. tomor-
row at 69 Summer St., Passaic.
Sandra Scheaffel will sing and
perform acrobatics. Carol Scheaf-
fel will be a soloist and Patricia
Scheaffel and Lenore Matson
will acrobatic numbers. Linda
Sabo is director and Howard
Matson, publicity agent.
A grand time was had by all and we were rightly proud of the contribution we made to cerebral palsy research. I actually feel sorry for kids today because they don’t play anymore. They are too busy with technology to know how to go out and have real fun. I wouldn’t trade my childhood experiences for anything.
Thank you, Howard, for saving both of these clippings from the Herald News. It was a fun walk down Memory Lane.