Landowner Fred Trabilcy generously allowed the Recreation Commission and Small Fry Baseball use of the Franklin Ave Field for some years in the 1950s. For a town with almost no playground facilities, this was a huge help. After all, it was the lack of a ball field that scuttled the Rotary Club’s attempt a few years before. Franklin Field is long gone, as houses were built there possibly as early as the late 60s.
The Park Ave Playground was a borough-owned property formerly known as Sacred Heart playground. The only reference I have been able to find on this playground’s location was that it was off Crescent Parkway. It’s possible that it was on or near the site of what is now John F Kennedy Elementary School (which opened originally as Crescent Parkway School in 1959). Hopefully a reader can help us out with this, as I have no recollection of this playground. The other side of town was another world to this 5 year old. I don’t believe the Park Ave Playground was actually behind Sacred Heart School but I don’t know for sure.
In 1954 The South Plainfield Recreation Commission had the following principals:
Recreation Director: Ernest Gardner
President: Adam Phillips
Recreation Commissioners: Matthew Brodzik, Charles Smith and Joe Farrell
Later in 1954 Harold Wyckoff would take over as Recreation Director and would go on to lead the Recreation Commission well into the 60s.
In spring 1954, preparation of playgrounds and ball fields was a main priority of the commission. I found a report that both the Sacred Heart Playground (Park Ave Playground) and Mildred St (now the location of John E Riley School) playgrounds were not ready at that time. As far as we can tell, Borough Park (now known as Mill St Park) and Franklin Field were the only ball fields available in town.
On May 4, 1955, Charles Beagle, the Borough Engineer, was able to report that four areas had been graded and prepped for use as ball fields: Park Ave Field, Borough Park, Franklin Field and Mildred St. This effectively cleared the way for the Small Fry League start up.
A facility which held two fields (since expanded and known as Ponytail Park) on the south side of the town would be under construction in 1956. It was then known as New Borough Park (later Southside Borough Park or Pitt Street Park), and that would become the main home for Junior Baseball in the late 50s and early 60s, supplemented by Borough Park, Franklin Field, and the ball field behind Our Lady of Czestochowa Church on the south side. Another person friendly to the club in the early years was Father Madura of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church. Like Fred Trabilcy, he allowed games to be played on the ball field behind the church.
Seven years after the league started, in 1962, the organization would purchase 7.5 acres of land on the south side, constructing what was originally known as Spicer Field (where the Pony League would play in 1965) and eventually growing into what is now known as Memorial Park. Most likely long forgotten but perhaps of interest to those who live in that neighborhood now, an alternate property appears to have been also under consideration at the time, a plot of vacant land stretching from Barone Ave to Somerset St (north to south) and between Peek St and Second St (east to west).