Radio Free Montone: A Trip Down Memory Lane Via The Pulaski Skyway
By John Montone, 1010 WINS
Cruising over the Pulaski Skyway last week in the company car — the 1010 WINS Mobile Unit — I could almost smell Tony Soprano’s cigar.
That’s a line I used in a radio story, but later that day I thought that maybe the cigar I was smelling as I drove southbound over the rusting relic, bouncing as I hit massive potholes, spotting shredded tires and crumbling concrete — well, maybe that cigar was my father’s.
The Pulaski Skyway screams NEW JERSEY! And when I was a kid and my parents packed my brother and me into our ‘63 Dodge Dart with the push button transmission for a trip down the shore, the Skyway loomed large like a giant rusting Erector set.
After kissing the magnetic Saint Jude statue on the dashboard for a safe trip, my father would fire up a White Owl and head south on Tonnelle Avenue, which is when my mother would begin pointing and loudly directing him to the entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike which my father would accidentally-on-purpose pass by.
No way he was going to pay to go somewhere when he could take the “old road,” for free. The “old road,” was 1&9 and a section of that was the Skyway. It was a thrill riding up there above the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers and all that marsh land which I later learned was the final resting place for many mob associates who rubbed a wise guy the wrong way. Coming off the Skyway we were delivered into the petro-chemical alley of gasoline tanks, electrical sub-stations and belching smokestacks that run through the guts of the Garden State.
Following a day of sun, sand and salt water at Sea Bay Park, I would often fall asleep in the back seat on the way home, but I always seemed to wake up as we approached the Pulaski Skyway. It was even more enchanting in the dark. The chemical and power plants lit the way for our ascent on a stifling summer night. The concrete pilings and steel girders were welcomed sights as we drove down the ramp into the home stretch.
Tonnelle Avenue again, then up the high and winding Dan Kelly’s Hill to Bergen Boulevard, past HomeMade Ice Cream and into our driveway.
Crossing the Pulaski Skyway last week, I brought along my microphone and recorder. Turns out I was also carrying some long lost memories.