ELIZABETH, NJ – Elizabeth native Kevin P. Brady has written a memoir dedicated to the city titled “North End Boy: Innocence and Experience Amid the Seven Wonders of Elizabeth, New Jersey.”
A fast-paced story about seven friends who came of age in Elizabeth in the 1970s, the book showcases Elizabeth’s “seven wonders” and the roles they played in the city’s rich history. Born to Irish parents who came to the United States after World War II, Brady was born at what was then St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. Her family lived on West Grand Street in Elizabeth until she was 2 years old when they moved to the north of the city.
“‘North End Boy’ is a memoir set in Elizabeth in the summer of 1978,” Brady said on Monday, January 3. “It’s the story of seven friends in their early twenties who, over a 36-hour period, sort out their fates against the backdrop of street crime, disused factories and political corruption. They were my friends.” North End Boy” is an intensely local book, but it’s also a broader meditation on post-war America, seen through the eyes of a young man with immigrant sensibilities and working-class roots. that’s how it sounded to me.
“Most of the action takes place in Elizabeth’s North End, a place I know well,” he continued. “Why write about Elizabeth? Because that explains everything else. I have six grandchildren aged 4 and under. I hope one day they will read “North End Boy” and understand where they come from. The book is really a note for their future themselves.
Brady spoke about being able to record things as he remembers them and the thrill he thinks local readers will feel when they recognize the city’s landmarks and historic sites.
“’North End Boy’ is a memoir, so I remember things how I want. It’s a rare luxury,” Brady said. “I remember the close-knit ethnic neighborhoods of Elizabeth, the economic struggles of the families I knew, the violence and the churches that held it all together. I try to be faithful to the times and to the people without too much romanticism.
“’North End Boy’ is a local story. Places, times, and characters will be familiar — in some cases, recognizable — to the reader,” he continued. “The book features real-life characters, like Mayor Tom Dunn, mobster John Riggi, and Father Ed Leahy of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark. Proceeds from the book are donated to St. Benedict’s, which is featured in “North End Boy.”
Brady spoke about the “seven wonders” of Elizabeth featured in the book and how he felt about the book being available for others to read.
“The Seven Wonders are Singer Sewing Machine (Manufacturing Co.), Bayway Refinery, Burry Biscuits factory, Newark airport, New Jersey Turnpike, Goethals Bridge and Union County Courthouse,” Brady said. “Each of the Seven Wonders is a character in itself and plays a part in the story.
“I hope readers have as much fun reading ‘North End Boy’ as I had writing it,” he continued. “I did quite a bit of research on Elizabeth’s Seven Wonders, especially Singer and the Bayway Refinery. Anyone who worked there or knew someone who worked there will enjoy this story.
Peter Wilderotter, a Maplewood native and St. Benedict’s Prep alumnus, is a longtime friend of Brady’s and a St. Benedict’s trustee. Brady and his wife, Maureen, have generously supported the school over the years, and Wilderotter expressed his gratitude that the school is the beneficiary of book proceeds.
“Even more importantly,” Wilderotter said Monday, January 3, “the book brings out the courage and greatness of our manager for 49 years, Father Edwin Leahy OSB. I attended Benedict’s in 1968, just after the riots from Newark. A close friend of mine at the time, Eddy Harrington, lived in Union Township. … It was through Eddy that I met Kevin, because he was in a gang who played basketball, hung out in pubs — K Tavern, which is featured in the book — and did general mischief.
“Although Kevin became a hugely successful businessman and entrepreneur in the world of taxation and finance, my earliest memory of him was his appreciation of great literature, especially Shakespeare,” he said. he continued. “We graduated in the early 1970s – a time of incredible turmoil – and the angst of our surroundings was probably overlooked and certainly underestimated. This turmoil has stayed with us somewhat throughout our lives, because we have all had great success in our careers, but the bond of youthful friendships lives on.
Wilderotter said he liked the book because he reached it in multiple ways.
“It’s significant on many levels. It reminds us that there is a thin veneer to success and to our environment. Elizabeth’s Seven Wonders are a treasure trove of memories, and revisiting them helps us absorb their meaning,” Wilderotter said. “The story is also somewhat universal in that anyone who grew up in turbulent times around a city that was once great will tell and enjoy the stories. It’s also a tome about redemption and the spiritual side of our life, and our need to replenish the soul. The chapter on Father Ed is as good as anything I have ever heard from the pulpit. Above all, what I like about this book is its authenticity. Henry Miller wrote, “I was born in the streets and. … In the streets you learn what human beings are really like. This book offers that in abundance. …
“We were a whole crew of friends who had so many ups and downs – we sat for hours in the K Tavern killing our brain cells with stories that took on a life of their own,” he said. he continued. “In the serendipity of life around us, St. Benedict’s has also incorporated the former Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, where Kevin’s sisters went.
“Take a moment to think about what you did, Kevin. This book is a tribute to your parents (and Maureen) – larger than life people. Now, as the grandfather of a new emerging generation, make sure they incorporate the story and life lessons of “North End Boy” into their annual rituals and traditions.
Readers can learn more about “North End Boy” at https://northendboy.com or purchase it at https://tinyurl.com/2p8nfsu8.
Photos courtesy of Kevin P. Brady