Bombing the Ridge

Posted on June 30, 2020 by

Life was slow in my hometown of Glen Ridge, a sliver of a North Jersey suburban community, three miles long and three blocks wide and tucked between brawny Bloomfield to the south and moneyed Montclair to the north.

 When I was growing up there in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, dads worked, moms stayed home, cooking, cleaning and doing the wash.  And kids kept busy being kids.

   I walked to and from Forest Avenue School every day with my friends. For fun, I rode my bike and skinned my knees, roller-skated and skinned my knees, played hopscotch and skinned my knees.    

   All that exercise made me hungry by dinnertime and ready to dig into Mom’s marvelous meatloaf or robust roast chicken, served at 6 o’clock on the dot, along with her strict orders — “Be home before dark.”

  In seventh grade, things changed. Childhood innocence dissolved when I left the safe confines of grammar school and entered the wild world of “teenage-hood” at the big, bad junior-senior high school in the center of town.

   I learned the facts of life pretty fast there just by watching upper class couples strolling hand-in-hand in the hallways between classes and stealing a passionate kiss or two before parting ways — for 40 minutes.

    I had countless crushes and smoked in the girls’ room. I slow danced and went to my share of make-out parties. I rode in cars with boys. 

 By 11th grade, I felt almost grown up. I knew all there was to know about dating, drive-ins and going steady. I was a brazen hussy, at least according to Mom who angrily called me that after she saw the blonde streak I had proudly peroxided in my hair. 

  By then, I’d kissed my share of boys and had worn Pete Clark’s ring around my neck for a while, a sure sign that we were a couple and madly in love — for a month or two.

  But one big rite of passage remained in my Happy Days world before I’d really be grown up. I had to get my driver’s license and I needed to Bomb the Ridge.

  Bombing the Ridge was a uniquely Glen Ridge term for the favored weekend sport of pressing your car’s gas pedal to the floor and taking off at 60, 70 or 80 miles an hour down Ridgewood Avenue, the borough’s wide, tree-lined main thoroughfare. 

  It resembled the Greased Lightning scene in the movie Grease. But we weren’t drag racing. Our goal was to see how fast we could make the car go at the start and then let it roll to a stop, a mile or so down Ridgewood Avenue, without ever stepping on the brake. 

   I had no souped-up jalopy with orange flames painted on its fenders when I Bombed the Ridge. Instead, I drove Dad’s oversized Dodge station wagon with a push button transmission, three plush, couch-like seats that accommodated nine comfortably and automatic windows that glided open and shut at the touch of a switch.

   The beige bomber beauty resembled an oversized creampuff, not some speed demon car that you could crank up to 70 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. 

  The night I tried to Bomb the Ridge, I crammed 10 or 12 girlfriends into Dad’s blimp of a car. The weight of all those bodies alone made reaching maximum speed difficult, if not impossible. 

   But we piled in, then I pressed my foot on the gas all the way to the floor. The old Dodge spit, sputtered and moved grudgingly along — at about 5 miles an hour.

   “Uh, wait,” whispered my friend Jean, seated beside me on the front seat. “Did you check the gas?”

  I looked at the gas gauge and knew what was wrong.

 You couldn’t Bomb the Ridge on an empty tank. So instead of ripping down Ridgewood Avenue at 70 going on 80 miles an hour, my friends hopped out of the car, and then huffing and puffing, pushed Dad’s Dodge and me all the way to the gas station two miles away.

2 Responses to “Bombing the Ridge”

  1. Polly Kernan Doyle says:

    Dear Nancy. Loved your writings about Glen Ridge! So many memories! Would it be all right if I shared them on my Facebook page. I’m Facebook friends with lots of people from Glen Ridge And I.know they would all love to read them.
    Our class of 1960 is pretty close and several of us meet for lunch about every three months in Point Pleasant Beach. We were supposed to have our 60th class reunion the Weekend of June 19th but of course it had to be postponed. Hopefully next year we will all still be able to get together.

  2. Nancye Tuttle says:

    Sure, Polly. Happy to have you share this on Facebook. I am sure Trudy has told you about the GRHS ’62 Zoom reunion that’s been going on every Saturday since the pandemic shut-down in March. We have been having a great time and learning a lot about each other and also reminiscing about the “good old days.” I’ll be doing more GR stuff, since I’m doing quite a bit of memoir writing. Take care and thanks for reading my post.

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