Memories of Bambergers

by Bernice Blake


I grew up in Totowa Borough, New Jersey, and attended grammar school in Little Falls, NJ. When I was small, a trip to Bamberger's in Newark was a special treat (not quite as exciting as going to New York City, but almost!) Every Christmas my parents took me to see Santa Claus. I truly believed that the Bamberger's Santa was the "real" one. All the others were supposedly his "helpers" -- at least that was how my parents explained the presence of a bell-ringing Santa on every street corner! Besides getting a gift from Santa Claus (which my parents had paid for, I realized many years later!), I would be permitted to choose some small item for my doll house -- once I picked out a tiny toaster, as I recall.

As a teenager, I joined a group of friends in forming a "sub-deb" club. We heard about a special gathering of "sub-deb" clubs at Bamberger's (probably in 1940 or 1941) and decided to attend as a group. Since there were ten of us, we called ourselves "The Decimal Points." We had made identical outfits gray jumpers, with long-sleeved red blouses. We thought we looked pretty spiffy! But when we arrived, we overheard a member of one of the other groups remark "Well, here comes Dormitory Number One!" We were the only group who had dressed alike!

My friend, Bette, and I had prepared a duet of "Apple Blossom Time" -- I sang alto and Bette sang the melody. We were to be allowed to make a recording, and there would be prizes for the best performances. Another of our friends, Elaine, played the piano accompaniment for us. But when we started to sing, we somehow became confused, and Bette began to cry. What a disaster! We were permitted to start over again on a new record, and that one went much better. The judges didn't appear to be impressed, however, as we didn't win anything. On the other hand, our accompanist, Elaine, was invited to play "Manhattan Serenade" for them and she received an Honorable Mention. She hadn't even planned to enter the contest! They gave us the records, and when Elaine turned hers over, she had the version where Bette broke down! We certainly did enjoy playing that from time to time over the years. Bette now lives in Florida, but we get together every few years and our adventure at Bamberger's is one of the memories we always bring up. (She has continued her singing career as a member of "Sweet Adelines" for many years now.)


Email this memory to a friend.
Enter recipient's e-mail: