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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

My First Move

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 3/21/2023
Occurred: 9/1/1952
Page Views: 4893
Topics: #Autobiography #StyertowneApartments #Clifton #NewJersey
We move into my father's factory.
Milestone: Change of Residence
Address: 148 MacArthur Avenue, Garfield, New Jersey
248 MacArthur Avenue (photo taken by me in 1985).

With the birth of my new baby sister, our apartment was rapidly getting too small. Plus, it still smelled of smoke from the neighbors' fire. We really needed a larger place.

As it happened, my father owned a larger place: it was a factory, the Cilwa Mold and Tool Company. Apparently, business wasn't going so well; after the Second World War, Dad had gone to work for Bendix Corporation, and we moved into the factory building, on which Dad had done a lot of work, some by himself, some with my half-brother, Walter, helping.

I don't remember moving, but I certainly remember the place we moved to. It was located at 148 MacArthur Drive, and the front part of the building was refurbished and made into a nice little home. My father may have had trouble finishing things, though; my room was given a first coat of paint, but the tape between the sheets of sheet rock was put over that and a concealing second coat was never applied as long as we lived there.


Old=school playpen

I had a playpen, standard for the time, made of wood with vertical wooden bars on the sides. (No soft mesh for us children of the fifties!) I suppose it worked well enough at first, but once I learned to walk, I wasn't about to be imprisoned in this thing all day. I discovered I could put my legs through the gap between the bars and walk the playpen by holding onto the bars with my hands while pushing against the floor. In this way I walked the playpen against the sofa, and then simply climbed onto the sofa and over to freedom. After that, Mama gave up trying to keep me penned up most of the time. If she had to, she put me on the floor with the playpen on top of me, upside down.

This was an era before air conditioning and our windows were always open except in winter. We had screens on them, and a screen door too; but somehow flies always managed to come in anyway and then cluster on the walls and ceiling in a torpor.

So every evening, and I have no idea how this ritual started, my mom would place me on the floor underneath my overturned playpen, putting me in a cage as it were. She would then take out our art deco Kenmore vacuum cleaner with the long wand and suck flies into it. As an eager participant, I would point out any she missed. I couldn't really talk yet, but I could hunt flies.


One time Dad took me to the little mom-and-pop grocery store on the corner, and he apparently let me wander while he picked up some groceries. I wandered directly to the candy counter, sat on the floor, and began pulling candy bars off the shelf and unwrapping them as fast as I could. I took a bite of each one. By the time Dad came back, I had over $5 worth of candy bars opened around me and chocolate all over my face, hands, and clothes. (And this was when a really large chocolate bar cost a nickel!)

In spite of this, I wasn't really much of a chocolate fan. When Mom bought ice cream it was always the Neapolitan (vanilla/strawberry/chocolate) type; but I preferred the "white" ice cream, as I put it.

In fact, my favorite snack was a slice of cheese served in a little tin cup in milk. I don't know who invented this concoction, but I do remember that it just wasn't the same without the tin cup. Eventually the tin cup "disappeared" (Mom threw it away) and I switched to cheese by the slice.