The invitation arrived in the mail in early spring: Please join us for your induction into the Golden Raider Society in recognition of the 50th anniversary of your graduation from Rutgers University – Newark. Because of distance we did not attended, but we did celebrate because it was more than an event, it was the fulfillment of a promise.
Ed and I first met in September, 1956, on the corner of the Boulevard and 46th Street waiting for the bus to take us to our respective schools. I was going to the Academy of St. Aloysius in Jersey City, and he was going to Journal Square to catch the PATH into the City and then to transfer to the NYC Subway System, ultimately to get to Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx where he was starting his senior year. He had moved across the street from me earlier in the summer.
During the next couple of years, we encountered each other around the neighborhood, but our social circles did not intersect. I was permitted to date only Polish boys my parents knew– usually the sons of their acquaintances—a very small circle. Ed worked weekends at the local supermarket and was friends with a group of guys who hung out at Christiansen’s Soda Shop.
He graduated from Cardinal Hayes and took a job with First National City Bank of New York—now Citibank. One of the factors influencing his decision was that the bank offered tuition reimbursement for continuing education. He enrolled at the American Institute of Banking and attended classes two and sometimes three nights a week
My grades and SAT scores qualified me for college, which was where most of my classmates were headed, but I was raised to believe that my destiny was to marry a nice Polish boy and have a family. However, my father did feel that girls should have a skill to fall back on “just in case”, so I enrolled at Katherine Gibbs in New York City for the two-year Executive Secretarial Program.
It was exciting to go into the Big City each day, wearing the required business attire, including a hat and white gloves. That meant I was taking the Red and Tan Bus into the Port Authority and then walking crosstown to Grand Central Station. Guess who else was taking that bus– Ed! We shared the commute and sometimes some conversation, and he asked if I would be interested in attending a CYO* meeting at St. Vincent’s. I would and I did.
Ed and I went out with the group several times. The first occasion was the National Drum and Bugle Competition at the Bayonne Stadium, then a few local dances and a trip to the Jersey Shore for a picnic on the beach—the boys brought the food which consisted of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a loaf of Wonder bread and a large bottle of Coke (no ice).
My social calendar was rounded out with going to the Friday night mixers at St. Peter’s College with my friend Jill and dating the young men I met there—movies, parties, etc. In September, 1958, Ed invited me to a performance of The Student Prince** at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn. I was impressed–this was much fancier than any of the other dates I had with him or with anyone else.
Dressed in his navy suit with starched white shirt and regimental stripe tie, he picked me up in his ’48 black Dodge coupe, which he dubbed “The Bug.” The play was wonderful: the story, though bitter-sweet, was very romantic; the music fabulous and the performance terrific. We were both feeling the magic of the moment when we left the theater.
When we were in the car, Ed put his arm around me, kissed me gently, told me he was “crazy” about me, and said he would like us to start dating one another exclusively—a more mature expression for “going steady”. I told him he was “just crazy.” Even though I enjoyed his company, I had no intention of limiting my new-found dating freedom. Besides, we were too young: I was eighteen, he wasn’t yet twenty-one. I was looking forward to completing my courses at Katie Gibbs and getting a job in New York City, meeting lots of exciting upward-mobile people and having some adventures before I even thought of settling down. I also reminded him that he wanted to complete his education, get his college degree and establish his career at the bank. We agreed to continue as we were while we worked on achieving our individual goals and “seeing where it goes.” The conversation and the evening ended amicably and we went on with our separate lives and interests.
Three months later, my hopes and dreams imploded. With my Father’s tragic death, my priorities changed from seeking fun and excitement to needing consolation and stability. Living across the street, Ed had a logistical advantage and was always around to offer whatever I needed. He was thoughtful and considerate not only to me but my entire family. Over the next year our relationship became exclusive, and we grew, rather than fell, in love, deciding that the goals we had set individually could be accomplished together–and it would be more fun.
We were engaged in February and married in November, 1960. Ed completed his studies at AIB the following spring, and our son was born that summer. In September, he enrolled at Rutgers. Taking classes four evenings a week at the Jersey City and Newark campuses and summers in New Brunswick, he completed the required curriculum in record time. He even made the Dean’s List. Meanwhile we added a daughter to our family, and Ed received several promotions at work. On June first, 1966, he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business as a member of Rutgers Bi-Centennial Graduating Class.
But he didn’t stop there. In the ensuing years Ed participated in Executive Training Programs at Dartmouth and Carnegie Mellon Universities. When he completed those, he encouraged and supported me in going first to Mercer County Community College, where I earned an Associate in Arts degree with honors and delivered the valedictory address at commencement; and then Rutgers in New Brunswick where, as the mother of two teenagers, I attended classes with twenty-year-olds—that was an education in itself ! When I graduated in 1978, my husband and children were there to cheer me on. I wouldn’t have changed that experience for anything.
Currently Ed is taking classes at Osher Life Long Learning Institute. He especially enjoys Current Events, Political Issues, and Irish Culture. His very favorite class was Medical School in Two Hours a Week—and the best part, no homework and no exams. Six decades later I am blessed to still have my very own Student Prince.
*Catholic Youth Organization
**An operetta in four acts by Sigmond Romberg which opened on Broadway December 2, 1924