Sauro Motel Blog


“Scared Straight” (or “How I Got My Driver’s License”)

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

I saw “The Wrestler” a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I hadn’t realized that a lot of it was filmed in New Jersey. I recognized the Asbury boardwalk during the scene where The Ram is walking with his daughter. In another scene, they mention that the characters are in the town of Rahway.

If you grew up in the vicinity of Rahway in the late 1970’s, you likely took your first driver’s test at The NJ Motor Vehicle test track which was located adjacent to the maximum security state prison that was featured in the award-winning documentary “Scared Straight.” That’s the one where trouble-maker teens are brought into prison for a day to show them what life would be like inside the walls. Being traded for a cigarette or ordered to hold onto a large man’s beltloop would certainly scare me straight. I forgot all about my earlier fear of parallel parking a car that had no power steering, my eyes darting back and forth between the cement wall, the barbwire, and the imposing green dome on the roof.

“Good peripheral vision,” the examiner said, as I maneuvered through the course.

Frankly, what was I doing there? I could have continued to bum rides or take the bus; either of which would have been superior to holding onto a large man’s belt loop for 5-7 years.

A friend of mine told me at the time that if you passed the test with an escapee in the back seat, your license was good for life. Luckily, I passed without incident. Whenever I get nostalgic for Rahway, I simply rent the Sly Stallone classic “Lock Up,” which pitted Sly against creepy warden, Donald Sutherland, and featured scenes at the prison.

By the way, here’s a shot I took at the Asbury boardwalk about three years ago.  To the right you can see the sign for the Howard Johnson’s restaurant – the last one to close in New Jersey.