Conrad "Cooney" Schwartz owned
a tavern at 552 Ferry Street, a little east of Vincent Street. For
brevity it was affectionately called "Cooney's ".
But it was more of a gin mill than a tavern.
Cooney was a short balding man on the portly side. Looking back
it seemed very strange that a Hungarian gin mill was so successful.
It always seemed that most establishments of that type were usually
run by the Irish. This gin mill had some very strange guests considering
it was Down Neck.
This is my recollection from almost 60 years ago. It may need
some enhancement but I think it's correct. When you entered Cooney's
from the front door the bar was on the left. A shuffleboard was
on the right. A mounted deer head was also on the wall. I think
Cooney also had a rod/gun club for sportsmen. The back room area
is a little fuzzy. But most bars were for men only and the rear
room was usually for ladies and families.
I can still visualize what I saw when I entered his gin mill.
There were two small window exhaust fans that did nothing but make
noise. The bar was always packed with everyone talking at once.
The custom of many men at that time was to go to the gin mill right
from work. In many cases most of the man's paycheck and time were
spent at the gin mill.
The smoke from pipes, cigarettes and cigars was unbelievable.
It was actually a white cloud that just hung over the bar. The typical
brass spittoons were resting at their stations. Usually located
underneath the bar rail that was everyone's foot rest. When I think
back I never remember seeing anyone chewing tobacco. But spitting
was a macho thing and thus the need for the spittoons.
Cooney provided an usual takeout service by today's standards.
If you brought a metal pail with a handle on it, he would fill it
up with beer to be carried home for consumption. This we did many
times when we visited Granny's house. As you know alcohol can be
the lubricant of speech. Looking back I think a couple of times
us kids were even sent to be the couriers. I guess that was before
the A. B. C.
If I went with my father I would always beg him to take me to
the backyard of the establishment. We always had to be escorted
into that area. On the exterior side of the back door was a junk
yard dog on a chain. His job was to make the uninvited sorry for
going into that area. This area was reserved for Cooney's pets.
Once the dog, which was a pit bull without papers, was secured we
entered the strange environment. The backyard was filled with cages
of many animals. They definitely weren't indigenous to Down Neck.
These strange guests that were so well protected were game birds.
Pheasants , Grouse, English Game Birds and Gosh only knows what
else. He had his own zoo.
Cooney ran for East Ward Councilman when Newark changed from Commissioner
to Mayor/Council form of government. While Cooney lost in his bid
for the council seat, Newark won. Because of the change in government
Newark was named in 1953 the most progressive city in the United
Cooney sold his gin mill in the 1970's.
Down Neck I guess always had it share of very strange guests.