The Squatters of Newark

by Charles McGrath


My Father was a very interesting man and he would take me just about everywhere. When I was a little boy in 1940 my Father took me with him to buy vegetables from the squatters. As I remember they were poor souls living in shacks in the Meadows east of Route #1. They had no utilities (gas, water or electricity) in their dwellings. They also lacked screens for the openings in their homes. How did they survive the mosquitoes? Can you imagine sleeping in the meadows at night? Who were they? I remember them to be Italians and we bought Italian plum tomatoes from them. I never seen anyone that destitute before. I guess they were a vestige of the Great Depression.

When I got my driver's license in 1952 I returned to that area but it seemed like they had moved on. I forgot all about them until 20 years ago. At that time we were visiting Rome and on its outskirts were similar squatters. They reminded me of the same poor souls that I had seen in Newark.

Again with the passing of time I forgot about them until last December. Glenn posted four pictures from the Library of Congress and titled them as "unknown street imagines". When I saw them I almost fell over. That's where I was with my father 62 years ago.

I tried to locate the street by triangulation. In the foreground is the elevated Route # 1. If one looks at the horizon, the steeple of Saint Stephan's can be seen on the right (corner of Wilson and Ferry streets), going south (to the left) Raymond Commerce and National Newark and Essex Buildings, going further south the dome of Beth Israel Hospital.

I believe Delancy Street was the unknown street in the 1930's photos.

Let us hope and pray that we never see conditions like that again in our country.

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