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Photo Courtsey of Bill Grippo, BHS'62

The Annual Sidewalk Sale
by Terri DeLucia, Class of '79

Every year on the Avenue in Bergenfield, the stores would all participate in the annual sidewalk sale to clear out the old stuff, making room for the new season's merchandise. The entire Avenue was blocked to traffic, allowing shoppers to walk right down the middle of Washington Avenue and enjoy a day of shopping, food, and fun. As a kid growing up in the '60's and early '70's, it felt like the event of the year to me.  I remember my best friend LeeAnn and I would make a day of it. We didn't necessarily go for the shopping; it was more of a social event for us, and the whole town seemed to be there. Sooner or later throughout the course of the day and early evening, we would see almost everyone we knew at the sidewalk sale. LeeAnn and I both lived a block from Washington Avenue, so it was convenient for us to walk through the many alleys accessing the Avenue. It was always a short walk home to check in with Mom and Dad for lunch, dinner, or the rest room!

Back in those days, life seemed happier and simpler. Our parents would let us come and go without any worries. Bergenfield had such a wonderful charm, with its long time residents, and everyone looked out for one another. Shop owners knew their customers by name. Everyone was on their honor, and nobody took advantage of the open-air market feeling that today would invite bad behavior by those less scrupulous.

There was even a higher level of respect among people back then, especially between the
youngsters and the adults. Our generation was raised to address our friends' parents by
Mr. and Mrs., not by first names as the kids do today. If we ever got scolded, whether it be our parents or another adult, we wouldn't dare to even think of talking back or showing disrespect. It was always "Yes Sir or Yes Ma'am, I'm sorry, it won't happen again." We would wait until the moment had passed, and the adult was gone, to joke and make fun amongst ourselves, but never in front of the adult. It was a matter of respect, which somehow our parents instilled into us with suttle, effective techniques lost to the newer generations.

It was precisely this mindset that I believe made the Sidewalk Sale of yesteryear seem so
special to me. The people of Bergenfield and neighboring towns would come together, shop, enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and participate in an unofficial town gathering. I remember you could buy anything you needed for a price that couldn't be beat. The atmosphere made it genuinely unique. If I remember correctly, they even had carnival rides right there in the middle of Washington Avenue for all to enjoy.

After it was all over, and the stores closed down, the task of cleaning up the Avenue was at hand. In keeping with the true spirit of the day, LeeAnn and I were there till the end,
watching the D.P.W. send the street sweepers to clean up the litter and get everything back in order. Shop owners participated in the cleanup, sweeping the sidewalks in front of their stores. Everyone respected their own little area, and collectively, it made all the difference in the cleanup process.

I feel so fortunate to have grown up in such a wonderful town. I have such fond memories of my childhood and my hometown. The era in which we grew up made such a difference compared to today's attitudes, mentality and seemingly unpersonal feelings to the communities in which people live. I remember my mother and father always stressing to us that Home is a place where you should feel safe and loved. There was enough bad in the outside world, even back then, and it was instilled in us as children to appreciate, respect, and love our Home. And Each Other. The simplicity and innocence of Bergenfield's Annual Sidewalk Sale brought out the best in all whose lives it touched.

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