Joyrides At Monk's Castle and Albino Village 

By Anthony Buccino

And the only time we ever heard about somebody who went to Albino Village was when they came back and told us about how scared they were and how lucky to get out before they were grabbed by the Albino people.

We passed a new milestone in my household when school started this month. It feels more like a millstone around my neck as I think of the tremendous change in lifestyle it will encompass.

The high school where my 15-year-old is a sophomore has decided to take away her health class and, lo and behold, give her driver’s education classes for a semester.

Copyright © 2011 by Anthony Buccino, all rights reserved.

As the father of a little girl who has not missed a day of school in about nine years, I must protest that she continue with health classes and stay as far as possible from any class involving driving the family automobile.

All right, so her driver’s education class does not involve actually getting behind the wheel of an actual automobile. The mere thought of my child, the little red-haired tot I once held in one hand, driving a car is more than enough to turn the rest of my hair gray.

She has relayed that if she passes the written test in her driver’s education class, she can use it to waive her written test at Motor Vehicle Services when she applies for her driving permit.

How did it come to this? Whatever happened to that little girl who cried when I drifted off to a corner to build something with her Giant Loc-Blocks? How can that little girl possibly even think of driving a car?

I have not grown so senile that here in my 40s I cannot remember when I took driver’s education classes in high school.

There seemed to be a prerequisite for all driver’s ed teachers to have had a gazillion accidents. It seemed that every time they spoke of an accident, it was as if the teachers themselves had the accident.

That applied to nearly every accident the instructor discussed - including the ones where no one walked away. But driving was different when I learned to drive.

First of all, the cars were all bigger back then. Plus a lot of them had things in them called seat belts, which some of us even wore on the occasions we remembered they were there.

This, of course, I would explain to my daughter as learning to drive in the dark ages when I was a teenager in the 1970s.

“Yes, dear, we did have cars when I was in high school. . . . No, dear, it was long ago, but there were no dinosaurs around when I learned to drive . . . except for the Sinclair dinosaur. No. Never mind. There were no real dinosaurs when I learned to drive.”

In the early 1970s, it was fun to drive. The speed limits were 60, 70 m.p.h. and higher on some roads. We could pile into the car and go to the drive-in restaurant, or the drive-in theater - where they showed a movie on a giant screen and you watched it from your car.

Then you could go to the food shack and pay an enormous amount of money for some lousy food - no, there were no video tapes then, or VCRs. If you wanted to see a movie without commercials, you had to go to a theater.

But I digress, as Stephen Dedalus used to say.

Driving was great in the early 1970s. You may not believe this, but gasoline was about a quarter a gallon for the expensive stuff. No, really, I’m not making that up.

We could fill the tanks of our old gas guzzlers for about eight bucks and drive all week. When we got our licenses, we’d put our money together and fill the tank and drive around and around and around and then around some more.

Sometimes we’d get together with whoever we were hanging around with at the time and take a ride to Albino Village or up to Monk’s Castle.

No, they weren’t night clubs. The Albino Village was a place I never actually saw. But we planned to go there a lot of times.

From the book GREETINGS FROM BELLEVILLE, NEW JERSEY by Anthony BuccinoYou see, you take this road along the river, go over a bridge then down a long road and then under a highway, and after you come out of the underpass, that was where everybody said the Albino Village was.

[Off River Road, where Nutley meets Clifton, there was a road that lead past some factories and to the Passaic River, and it was said that if you followed the road you went through an underpass {under Route 3?} and arrived at a street where the road was narrow and Albino people {actually people with grey hair} came out and watched you - like in a zombie movie or something, and it was supposed to scare you, like stories of the White Lady in Branch Brook Park, the Purple Bishop, etc.]

Everybody knew that if you went into the underpass, you had to go to the end before you could turn around.

And the only time we ever heard about somebody who went to Albino Village was when they came back and told us about how scared they were and how lucky to get out before they were grabbed by the Albino people.

But I was at the Monk’s Castle, once. I don’t remember who drove, but it was probably Jerry in that great big Pontiac he drove, with Louie and Cindy and maybe Cathy and her sister Colleen and Barbara and me one day after Thanksgiving. We parked the Pontiac and headed to the abandoned building that did look like a castle.

Really, all we knew about this building was what we had heard from the other kids. Undaunted, we tarried up the hill for a closer look, passing signs that said,

Keep Out, This Means You Kids

 that caused us to tarry even slower.

The dry autumn leaves crunched like church bells under our sneakered feet.

It had looked a lot bigger from far away. There was no one here, and no one to chase us away from a closer look. We returned to the car .

And that reminds me . . . the stories my driver’s ed instructor told me about being on the road were not nearly as scary as really being out there driving responsibly with a load of people in the car.

What is most scary about all this driver’s ed stuff is that a long time ago, Cindy and Louie got married and their son, little Louie, I guess, is probably out on the road right now heading with his friends to Albino Village or Monk’s Castle but, of course, not with my daughter, who will be taking an extra semester of health classes from now until she’s 30.

First published in Rambling Round - Oct. 9, 1997, in The Independent Press of Bloomfield, Worrall Community Newspapers.

Adapted from Rambling Round - Inside and Outside at the Same Time

Also appears in Greetings from Belleville, New Jersey collected writings

ALBINO VILLAGE - A cul-de-sac accessed through a brick arch tunnel that, long ago, was rumored to be home to a colony of Albinos. It was a big late-night spot and kids would go there to scare their dates. It was prominently featured in Weird NJ. The shantytown was slowly torn down in the 80's and replaced by larger duplex homes. In 2008, the whole neighborhood was torn down to make way for an expansion project for Route 3. One theory says that the white-haired old people came out to chase the kids away. The kids called them 'Albino's because of their white hair and light skin in the headlights.

Kip’s Castle - aka Monk’s Castle - Originally known as “Kypsburg” was constructed over a three-year period from 1902 through 1905 by Frederic Ellsworth Kip and his wife, Charlotte Bishop Williams Kip. Frederic was a wealthy textile inventor and industrialist who also published several books related to U.S. tariff laws. Charlotte is credited for the design of the “Kypsburg” building and ground, cultivating a renowned octagonal rose garden in the southwest corner of the property. The site is now a facility of the Historic Essex County Park System.