Recalling Some Clinton Hill/Weequahic Names and Places in the 40s and 50s


by Barbara L. Rothschild

 

I went to Avon Avenue School. I recall the principal, Dr. Edith Gann, a very diminutive (but very strict) lady who lived at 738 High Street. She was also principal of Maple Avenue School during my last year (8th grade) when I attended there as well. I believe her father was a rabbi with a connection to the Oheb Shalom synagogue on High Street.

In Avon Avenue School, I had a fellow classmate, one Paul Milmed, whose family name was originally Melamed, and whose family were all in the legal field. I recall him telling me he was related to a Kussy family, who first helped establish Congregation Oheb Shalom around 1850, they being from Germany. I believe the name Kussy is an important one in the early Newark Jewish history.

I also attended Avon Avenue School with a Steven Gabbe (formerly Gabrowitz), who is now a very famous infertility doctor, once associated with the University of Pennsylvania. I believe he is now on the West Coast, I have seen him several times on television talk shows. His mother was a substitute teacher, and he had a sister Maxine. The father, I believe, was some type of dancing teacher.

I have been told that Jerry Lewis (nee Levitch) used to live at #1 Hillside Avenue, corner of Avon, prior to his vaudeville parents moving to #1 Lehigh Avenue, a large and elegant apartment house, also on the corner, looking over Weequahic Park. The family lived on Hillside Avenue, also an apartment building, sometime in the late 20s or 30s. I recall Jerry Lewis had a favorite aunt living on Chancellor Avenue, Irvington, whose address he gave, in order to attend Irvington High, after he was expelled from Weequahic High, for some type of "funny" remark made to the principal, during an assembly program. It was this same aunt who was viciously murdered in the 1950s, out for a walk on Chancellor Avenue, and mugged and robbed. I recall Jerry Lewis offered a fifty thousand dollar reward leading to the capture of his aunt's murderer, but I do not believe the murder was ever solved, or the murderer caught.

Another name comes to mind: this person came from a brilliant family, who were all attorneys, and she, too, was one of the first women attorneys to practice in Newark. She was considered to be an eccentric. Her name was Miss Lillian Clawans, and she used to have a storefront practice on Clinton Avenue. What made her so eccentric was that she kept many types of animals, in the store, living quarters being in the rear of the store. I recall even her having live chickens as pets, as well as an assortment of cats and dogs. It was said that she was very reclusive in her old age, but she owned a great deal of real estate, near East Orange, N. J. and rented out many of her properties. She was a spinster, never married, and she was supposed to be a very sharp cookie.

I also attended Weequahic High, with a daughter (Susan Finkel) of the Finkel Family, whose several brothers were judges in Newark. Her father was also a judge, and her brother, a young attorney, died tragically of a heart attack in his early thirties. The family lived in a beautiful home on Hansbury Avenue, complete with uniformed maids. Susan invited me for a luncheon at their home one time. We were classmates at Weequahic High and she felt bad that I lived as an orphan in the Hebrew Sheltering Home on Chancellor Avenue opposite the "Y". We were excellent friends, and I recall being dazzled at all the wealth this family had, and yet, were such kind and unpretentious people. Her mother, Anne, was an elementary teacher at Maple Avenue Elementary School. She was a beautiful blond haired lady, very kind, a little bit on the "zaftig" side.

My half-brother married into the Dr. Aaron H. Haskin family. He was the director of the then Newark Health Department, and the former Martland Medical Center (City Hospital).

 


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