Soho Hospital


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I don't remember very many incidents from my childhood, but do recall that I was always a sick child, crying a lot. I later learned from my grandparents that my parents were always afraid whenever I got sick because I was the first and only male child in the Maffei family and if anything happened to me the Maffei name would be doomed.

Sometime between the age of five and seven, I was taken down with diphtheria. Since it was a contagious disease, anyone infected with it was isolated in a special hospital.

The hospital was located in Soho, New Jersey, near Belleville and Nutley. I remember it was close to a golf course. I was confined there for three months. My parents were unable to see me because of the nature of the disease and because of the great distance away from my home.

There was no public transportation from Newark to the hospital. In fact, there was no continuous thoroughfare that I can remember from Newark to Belleville. There may have been a road of some kind but I didn't know of it. So it would have been almost impossible for my parents to get from Newark to the hospital, which was considered to be in God's country, it was so far away from Down Neck. Besides, I doubt that admission to the hospital was allowed.

However, I have a faint recollection of my parents coming to see me once. It must have been an impossible trip for them. Try to visualize the distance from Down Neck to the outskirts of Nutley. Travel was very difficult in those days. You can imagine what the route and road conditions were like. It must have been especially hard for these two immigrant parents who didn't have much of an English vocabulary and had only lived in America for four or five years.

But they did find the hospital one time, although they could only see me from a distance. They were not allowed to be in the area where I was, but they could see what it was like. I guess they were satisfied with what they saw. Of course, there wasn't much they could do about it. But nevertheless just the thought of being there was enough.

Some of the same type of road conditions, or lack of roads was apparent when we first started coming to Florida in the early 1950's. Five years before we moved to St. Petersburg, there was no 34th Street as it exists today. It was a dirt road and not a continuous thoroughfare. But now it is the main north-south artery-- a modern expressway. So much expansion has been made, so many new business have appeared.

As time goes on there is more progress, better living conditions, and more people moving down here. But the roads down here used to be like the ones we had in New Jersey when we lived Down Neck. Soho hospital was located so far out of town, and the road conditions were so poor, that it was almost impossible for my parents to get there.

Some time after I left the hospital, I developed whooping cough. The doctors didn't have much of a cure for it at that time. I remember being taken on top of some enormous gas tanks located on Market Street, three or four blocks from Penn Station. There was a hole on top where the gas fumes were escaping, and I was made to breathe these fumes because they were thought to be a cure for whooping cough. I don't remember how I got rid of the cough, but my mom and dad tried everything they could do to help me.