“Hoboken, “On the Waterfront” and the Jesuits

Ever wonder why a priest (Karl Malden) was hanging around the Hoboken docks and prodding  the pigeon-racing protagonist, Marlon Brando, into confronting the union mucky-mucks? Well I really didn’t understand it.

With my new work, HEAVEN, HELL AND HOBOKEN, I learned that the congregation of Catholic men called the Jesuits, short for the Society of Jesus, have long been fighting for social justice.  If you go to their web page it says “Jesuits believe that Christian faith demands a commitment to justice. This means confronting the structures of our world that perpetuate poverty and injustice.
HHH poster iphoneNo where was it more blatant then the dockyards of the New York harbor.  I see now why the Jesuit priest, Father Barry, was trying to get Terry Malloy to fight the corrupt employment practices on the docks of Hoboken in a peaceful way.  The Jesuits believed in peaceful resistance.

HEAVEN, HELL AND  HOBOKEN gives the reader a glimpse of how and when the unfair practices began on the docks around New York harbor.  This story line is woven through a tapestry of tragedy, romance, war, and ethnic conflicts.

Available through Amazon, B&N and Idea Press, it’s worth your time and is a great summer read.


Read what a world-class journalist has to say about Heaven, Hell and Hoboken.

“Heaven, Hell and Hoboken” brings to life a turbulent epoch in U.S. history that has been all but forgotten.  The Great War ripped the covers off of the sedate lives of so many, inciting rivalries, enflaming passions and forcing soul-rending decisions that reverberated across continents. With an intimate sense of history of the time, and a perceptive eye for period detail, Elizabeth Vallone has brought that era alive, with all its tragedy, romance and dashed expectations.

Anthony DePalma, journalist and author of “Here: A Biography of the New American Continent”

Some of Hoboken’s Firsts


Baseball. On June 19, 1846 the first officially recorded, organized game of baseball was played on Hoboken’s Elysian Fields. The New York Base Ball Club defeated the Knickerbockers 23-1. Learn more at HobokenBaseball.com. Read a June 8, 2001 New York Times article that chronicles the game’s development before and after the famous Hoboken match.

America’s First Brewery. On February 5, 1663 Nicholas Varlett obtained from Peter Stuyvesant a patent for the first brewery in America, located on Castle Point.

Zipper. That’s right, the zipper was invented in Hoboken and first manufactured by Hoboken’s Automatic Hook & Eye Co. For more on the Zipper, check out Museum lecturer Dr. Robert Friedel’s book Zipper.

Blimpie. The fast food restaurant Blimpie was started by students from Stevens Institute of Technology, with its first “sub base” on Hoboken’s Washington Street.

Clock Towers. The first conversion of industrial space to residential use, a practice known today as adaptive reuse. Located at 300 Adams Street.

The first electrified train was driven by Thomas Edison from Hoboken’s DL&W Terminal to Montclair, New Jersey.

Central Air. The first central air cooling system in the United States was housed in Hoboken’s DL&W Terminal.

Wireless Phone. The first wireless phone, operable between Hoboken and Manhattan, was situated in Hoboken’s DL&W Terminal.

Colonel John Stevens. The inventor of many significant firsts including the first steam ferry and the nation’s first steam locomotive. Colonel Stevens also received the first American railroad charter. View the Museum’s Steven’s Family Digital Exhibit for more on the influential Stevens family.

Things You Didn’t Know About Hoboken (Reader discretion is advised)-


I lived next door to the Lewises, Jean, Sara and her father.  They were from Cleveland, Ohio.  No one else in the neighborhood could claim the distinction of being from somewhere else, somewhere west.  Of course the O’Briens were from Hell’s Kitchen but that’s east.   Hoboken being five minutes from Manhattan, we didn’t count them as being foreign.  Anyway, the O’Briens talked like everyone else, saying aw-range not or-range and Flaw-rida not Flor-rida,

Besides their speech patterns, Jean’s dad was ‘odd’ in other ways.  Her father had a hobby; he fixed time pieces. The only hobby the men in the neighbor had was going to the ale house on the corner.  Like clockwork, at 5:05 you would see a steady stream of men walking south from the Tea Company and Maxwell House Coffee, and noth from Bethlehem Steel.  The factory workers and longshoreman living between 5th and 6th streets would all stop for a few beers either at the German Ale House or Max’s Bar that were ‘kitty-corner” to each other.    Men chose bars near where they lived.  It was easier to get home for dinner on time that way, especially if they had to be dragged home.

When they passed Jean’s house would see Jean’s father, Ned and shake their heads.  “There was something weird about Ned.”  It wasn’t just that he spent every waking moment sitting at his desk in front of a wall of clocks which could be seem from the street. He talked to no one.

Jean’s father was always saying to her, “You must have a hobby.”  Jean thought taking care of her dog, Collossus and her cat, Hazel was hobby enough.

Jean’s cat was always about town; consequently, she had a litter of kittens at least three times a year.  There were cats, cats, everywhere, the backyard, front yard, the shed and in the hall. The only cat allowed in the main house was Hazel, the mother cat.

Well one day as Jean’s father returned a can of paint thinner without its lid to the bottom shelf in the shed attached the house. He couldn’t find the top in the darkened shed since the light was out. With the phone ringing in the kitchen, he just left  the shed and run for the phone.  Big mistake!

They say curiosity killed the cat and whoever said that knew what they were talking about.  A couple of the kittens made their way into the shed, climbed up and fell into the paint thinner. Their cries were pitiful and Jean immediately came to their rescue..  Their eyes were ringed in red and shut tight and patches of what little fur they had was burned off in spots.   How the tiny creatures cried!   Their pitying mews were heart-wrenching and Jean tried her best to wipe them dry but they mewed, mewed and mewed.  When she set them down, their legs wobbled and their bodies went into spasms, like they were being electrocuted..

That’s when I found out how Ned dealt with the many broods of cats that were birthed each year but mysteriously thinned out until the next litter was born.  Jeanie’s father turned the gas on and put the suffering kittens in the oven.  “It’s very humane,” explained Jeanie.  “They just breathe in normally and fall asleep.  It only takes about a minute.”

I didn’t want to know if the cats ended up in the trash.  Somehow, the entire idea, the oven, the trash, didn’t seem right to me.

I made the mistake of telling my neighbor Lillian about what happened to the cats.  Well, people thought the family was weird before. With this tidbit of information which became embellished as it was passed around and around—FAGETABOUTIT!  When people would pass by, they’d say, “They cook cats for dinner in that house.  Want some?  Yuk!”   Everyone laughed.   No one was really that shocked.  After all, everyone swore that the Chinese restaurant on Washington Street had been cooking cats for years.

Friends and Neighbors-A Treasure Trove of Possibilities.

Elizabeth Vallone - Raconteur

Do you know your friends and neighbors back story?  What you see may hide stories so fascinating they can keep you writing for a long, long time.

Take my neighbors from Thailand. Kitty and her husband are both doctors.  They are affluent, live in an upper class neighborhood, have three children who are all physicians and six grandchildren.

Sounds boring but if one scratches the surface, one would find out that Kitty is not her real name.  Her name is her native language means “Snow White.”  According to her mother, she was such an ugly baby, that they had to give her a name that would bring her luck.   Her mother abandoned her in a orphanage run by French nuns.  She was educated and sent to France to college because of her high intelligence.

Her husband’s father was a heroine addict and had abandoned the family. Kitty and her husband met in Paris…

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What Assistant Professor Pat Winters Lauro is saying about Heaven, Hell and Hoboken

Pat Lauro, Assistant Professor of Journalism at Kean University has somethng to say about Heaven, Hell and Hoboken.

“Heaven, Hell and Hoboken” is a fast moving tale of romance, war and the clash of immigrant cultures in early 20th century Hoboken, NJ, once a major port entry to the US.  The novel is an intriguing romance between star-crossed lovers during WWI, but it deftly chronicles a round-and tumble time when Italian and d Irish newcomers used cunning and muscle to supplant established bourgeois Germans.  Part love story-part ethnograph, Heaven, Hell and Hoboken” is an angaging read filled with insight into the dangeours Hoboken waterfront of yore.


Heaven, Hell and Hoboken  is a story filled with intrigue, ethnic tensions, espionage, romance and war.

Set in 1916 Hoboken, New Jersey, a city known before World War I as ‘Little Bremen,’   Martin Taupmann and Kurt Schneider epitomize all that is good about its residents:  honesty, integrity, intelligence, courage.  Yet with the onset of the war, they make choices that irrevocably change their lives forever.  At the same time the demographics and power structure of Hoboken is transformed.   The Germans of Hoboken are the most severely impacted and lose their dominance in education, business and employment.

Available through Amazon, B&N and Idea Press.

Don’t miss this great summer read based on the rarely acknowledged history of the Germans living in New York Harbor towns during WWI.

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