My grandmother died early in the Summer of 1967, leaving behind a Ford station wagon well on the road to the junk yard. Street sweeping and alternate side of the street parking regulations had recently gone into effect in Jersey City. My father quickly resented having to get up extra early a couple of times a week to move the car to keep from getting a ticket.
My mother had a vague hope of selling the car, but these were the go-go years; nobody wanted an old station wagon.
One day an Aunt who lived on the other end of town, close to Bayonne, called to find out if the station wagon was available.
“Ronnie, do you still have that car? It’s one hundred dollars, right? Well, little Georgie really needs a car. He got out of jail last week and he’s found a job already, but it’s in Secaucus. It just takes him forever to get there. He’s got to wait for one bus to take him to Journal Square. Then, he’s got to take another bus to Union City. He catches the bus to Secaucus from there. Even when he gets to Secaucus, he’s still got a long walk to the factory. And after working all day, to get home, he’s got to go through the same thing all over again. When he gets back here, his dinner’s cold. After he eats he just falls asleep on the couch. I’ve got to wake him up so early in the morning, I just hate to do it, ’cause he’s still tired. I told you he just started the job? Well, he doesn’t have the whole hundred dollars right now. He can give you ten dollars now, and then pay the rest off, five dollars a week.”
“Forget about the money. The car’s his. Now that he’s working, I hope that getting a car helps keep him on the right track. Tell George that he can stop by whenever he wants.”
I was a little kid around ten years old out in the street playing a game with the discarded caps from soda bottles. My cousin George, looking like a smiling young Elvis Presley, walked down the block, climbed the stairs, and rang the bell. My mother opened the door.
“Aunt Ronnie, you don’t know what this means to me. It’s like I’ve been living my whole life on buses! I just about get home and falls asleep when it seems like I gotta get right up and get back on another bus…. And I love fishing. This means weekends I can go down the Shore and do a little fishing.”
“That’s nice George, I hope that the car helps a little to make things better for you. Now here’s the title. I signed it already. All You have to do is take it to Motor Vehicles and transfer the title.”
“Can I have the keys so that I can drive there?”
“NO. You transfer the title, get your own plates, and take my plates off of the car. Then I’ll give you the keys.”
“Ah, Aunt Ronnie, I gotta go almost all the way to Bayonne to get to the Motor Vehicle. And I don’t have no money for lunch either. It’d make it so much easier if I could just drive there.”
“George, here’s three dollars. Get lunch first. And it doesn’t even have to be today. The car’s not going anywhere; it’s yours. It’ll be right here waiting for you.”
I just kept playing bottlecaps.
That very same day, early in the afternoon, Cousin George returned. My mother asked to see the paperwork and scrutinized the documents closely. She then went back inside and got a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. George quickly removed the original license plates and installed the new set. When he gave my mother her plates and the tools, she handed him the keys.
Getting in the car, “Thanks again, Aunt Ronnie. You don’t know what this means to me.”
“That’s alright. Good luck, George. Take care of yourself now.”
George started the car and rode hardly half a block east on Reservoir Avenue. He made a left onto Lienau Place travelling one short block, then making a left onto Booraem Avenue. He went two blocks on Booraem to reach Central Avenue, where he made a right.
Two blocks up Central Avenue, a bank is on the left. There, George stopped the car, got out, and ran into the bank. Once inside, he pulled out a gun and announced a holdup. Jumping back in the car, he attempted a getaway by speeding north on Central Avenue. Unfortunately for him, the car got stuck in traffic one block up, directly in front of the Police Precinct, where — like bees from the hive — the police were running out to answer the bank robbery call.
Needless to say, George was quickly apprehended and sent back to prison.