I have just seen the report on the new
performing arts centre that replaced the Military Park Hotel in
I was taken to that site by Google on checking the name Military
Park Hotel, as I hunted for it on the anniversary of Martin Luther
King's death, as a reference to his death triggered a memory.
As a very white white man (Red haired and very burnable in the
sun!) I was visiting a factory across the river close to the hotel.
My factory used to book the strangers into town in a motel many
miles away to get away from the depressed area and out of the 'black
However I was not 'American', I came from the UK and was used
to Africans both as soldiers, commanders, politicians and teachers
( for example from The King's African Rifles ) so I did not, like
most of my 'American' white colleagues, feel ill-at-ease in Newark.
I also disliked commuting, so some months before when I had lunched
at the Military Park hotel , I resolved thereafter when in town
to stay there, as it was an easy walk to the factory over the bridge.
It was like staying at the house of a dowager duchess who had fallen
on hard times; good service, courteous, but in poor
On the day of Martin Luther King's death, I was not aware of the
death, and walked back to the hotel after close of work, to find
the atmosphere very strange. Later the staff kept me in my hotel
room, and made me draw the curtains, as they feared that I might
be a target for riot action. A large constable (well over 6 feet
in height), looked after me to avoid me going out as he said I was
the only white man in that part of town! and they, the police and
the hotel staff, did not want trouble.
Nothing happened although the sadness pervaded the area and the
hotel staff. I have many pleasant memories of the staff, hotel,
and the town.
That the area has 'come up', and is now a centre of culture, I
am pleased to hear.