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Greetings from Freehold, Part 3 - Growin 'Up

Greetings from Freehold, Part 3 - Growin 'Up

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Published by David Wilson
Part of "Greetings from Freehold: How Bruce Springsteen's Hometown Shaped His Life and Work," a paper that was presented at the 2009 Glory Days conference.
Part of "Greetings from Freehold: How Bruce Springsteen's Hometown Shaped His Life and Work," a paper that was presented at the 2009 Glory Days conference.

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Published by: David Wilson on Oct 10, 2011
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11/08/2012

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GROWIN’ UPBruce Frederick Springsteen arrived in Freehold, the seat of Monmouth County, NewJersey, shortly after he was born on Sept. 23, 1949, in Long Branch. His parents, Douglas andAdele, brought him to the home of his paternal grandparents at 87 Randolph St., where theylived at the time. His sister Virginia, known as Ginny, was born the next year.
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St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which his family attended, was next door tothe house. Bruce was baptized and confirmed there, which might explain why he has another middle name, Joseph, that isn’t listed on his birth certificate.
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He also served as an altar boy.
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Many of his relatives lived nearby. “There was my cousin’s house, my aunt’s house, mygreat-grandmother’s house, my aunt’s house on my mother’s side with my other grandmother init,” he later said. “We were all on one street, with the church in the middle.”
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Bruce and his family moved out of the house in 1954, shortly after his fifth birthday.
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About three years later, St. Rose of Lima acquired the property and tore down the building as part of an expansion of its parking lot.
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The family settled into a duplex at 39 ½ Institute St., about three blocks east of RandolphStreet.
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Forman and Willetta Smith owned the house until 1959, when they sold it to a neighbor,Samuel J. Venti.
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He worked at the A. & M. Karagheusian Co. rug mill and was president of the plant’s union local when production was shut down in 1961.
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The duplex was across the railroadtracks from Karaghuesian and Texas, a residential area to the east of the mill.
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 Douglas and Adele moved the family again after their daughter Pamela, known as Pam,was born in January 1962. They rented half of a duplex at 68 South St., four blocks from their Institute Street home, that November.
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Ducky Slattery’s Sinclair gas station, the topic of stories that Bruce would later tellduring concerts, was next door.
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John W. Duckett Jr., a Sinclair distributor, was the family’slandlord. He bought the house on the assumption that his company would want the property toexpand the station.
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It didn’t, and Slattery’s was eventually closed. A convenience store nowoperates on the site.Bruce’s education began at the St. Rose of Lima School, an elementary school that hisfather had attended. In the classroom and in church, he gained an awareness of religious imagesthat would later resurface in his lyrics. “Nuns run bald through Vatican halls, pregnant, pleadin’immaculate conception,” he wrote in “Lost in the Flood,” released on his debut album.
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Music first attracted him as a 7-year-old, when he watched Elvis Presley perform on theEd Sullivan Show. After seeing the show, he asked his parents for a guitar. They bought him asmall, semi-toy acoustic.
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Before long, he set his sights on baseball instead. “I wanted it pretty bad at the time,” hesaid later. “Every day from when I was eight until 13 I’d be outside pitching that ball.”
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In 1960,he played in the Colonial League. He moved up to Little League the following year as a member of the Indians, the first team in league history to go unbeaten in the regular season.
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They werethe “Indians in the summer” cited in "Blinded by the Light," also from his first album.
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 Bruce returned to music at 13, when he bought his first guitar with money earned fromdoing odd jobs. The second-hand acoustic cost $18 at a Western Auto store in Freehold. Frank Bruno, his cousin, taught him some basic chords. His mother borrowed $60 to buy a Japanese-made Kent electric guitar and an amplifier for him as a Christmas gift.
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She made the purchaseat Caiazzo’s Music Store, at the corner of Center and Jackson streets, when he was 16.
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Bruce made his performance debut with the Rogues, a band that threw him out because“my guitar was too cheap.” George Theiss, a guitarist who was dating Ginny, then recruited himfor the Castiles.
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Bruce passed an audition with the group’s manager, Gordon “Tex” Vinyard, inJune 1965. Tex and his wife, Marion, lived in a duplex just across the street from Caiazzo’s. The band practiced at the house, frequented by children from the neighborhood.
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The duplex and the building where Caiazzo’s was located were eventually torn down.The Castiles played about two dozen shows in Freehold with Bruce. The last five weremonthly appearances at the local Hullabaloo club, starting in March 1968, when it opened. Thegroup broke up that August, and Bruce performed at Hullaballoo in October with Earth, a bandhe had formed. After that, he didn’t have a show in his hometown for 28 years.
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Two songs co-written by Bruce and George, “That’s What You Get” and “Baby I,” wererecorded in May 1966. The band made the recordings at Mr. Music, a studio in Brick Township,Ocean County. They weren’t released as a single, though acetate copies survive.
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 Bruce’s singular focus was evident at Freehold High School, then called FreeholdRegional, which he attended after graduating from St. Rose of Lima.
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“He always carried hisguitar around in the halls, and every once in a while he’d sit down in a corner and play for hours,” his music teacher, William Starsinic, later recalled.
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The school was located onRobertsville Road, about three-quarters of a mile from his South Street home.
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“You had your plaid bookbaggers and your greasers, and Bruce was one of the greasers,”said Bob Hoenig, a classmate at Freehold Regional. After school ended on Fridays, Bruce hungout at Federici’s Pizza on Main Street with a group of leather-jacketed friends.
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Frank “Spat”Federici Jr., whose family owned the restaurant, was a childhood friend of his father.
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