By JOSEPH TINTLE
Fords was one of the most interesting sections of Woodbridge, New Jersey, for a young boy to grow up during the 1950s and 60s, and Lafayette Estates was where the action was. Completed in 1955, this housing development featured a thousand homes and a thousand burgeoning families from Brooklyn, Jersey City, and even Hell’s Kitchen. And almost every house had its share of characters. This is the story about one of them.
One afternoon in July of 1960, I was out exploring the woods off Ford Avenue near Route 1. The woods was a 15-acre site with all sorts of trees, bushes, a marsh, a stream and “Snake Hill” where kids who lived nearby often hid out when they got in trouble with their parents. The woods has since been replaced by the Kensington Apartments, an architectural eyesore that rose up 51 years ago.
Now, I’m not a nature lover by any means, but there was a story at the time that a kid had drowned in quicksand just behind Snake Hill. A quicksand pit in Fords, New Jersey? I didn’t think so — even at age eight — but I wanted to make certain.
So I headed out after lunch and spent the better part of an hour investigating when suddenly I was pushed from behind. The next thing I knew Paul Monyer was sitting on my chest. Paul was the neighborhood bully. He was a year-and-a-half older than me, not particularly big, but he knew how to threaten people.
“Tintle, this is our turf, so don’t ever let me see you around here again,” he said. “Otherwise, this is going to happen to you.”
Paul turned to his aide-de-camp, Jimmy McGuirt. Jimmy opened his hand and revealed a baby sparrow. Paul took it from him, looked at me, and glared. Then, with bird in hand, he squished it on my mouth, leaving me with a bloodied face and spitting out a mugful of feathers and a bone or two.”
Panicking, I somehow broke loose, scrambled to my feet, and took off. To this day, I can still hear their sinister laughs in the distance as I was running home.