Following the end of World War II in 1945,
a housing shortage existed in Newark and in many other places in
the United States and for that matter, the world.
For years there had been no home building due to regulations,
a shortage of building materials and a labor shortage. Now with
millions of service men and women returning home there was a demand
for housing that could not be satisfied with the present supply.
Many municipalities, Newark included established some sort of
a "Veteran' Temporary Housing Commission". In Newark the
temporary housing took the form of erecting army type barracks to
be rented to returning servicemen till the shortage was over. An
ex-serviceman had to apply to "City Hall" to have his
name added to a long list of applicants. A surer and faster way
to get living quarters was to know someone with influence in the
In 1948 I found myself in desperate need of a place to live for
myself and my wife, who was pregnant and shortly due. Fortunately
I had a brother-in-law, that had a brother-in-law, that had a close
acquaintance with a member of the commission. After a short wait
I received a notice that I had been approved.
Most of the barracks were constructed along "cookie cutter"
lines, with little differences. There were usually several places
where joints didn't match and drafts were frequent. The street my
barrack was on was a steep hill. The barrack was up another hill
leading away from the street. Our rear stairway led to an unpaved
area adjacent to an apartment house driveway. We never used the
stairway as it was so rickety.
We paid $36.50 a month to live here, that included gas and electricity.
In each "apartment" was a kerosene stove that was used
for heating in the winter. Outside of each "apartment"
was a steel drum perched upon a stand that stored the kerosene.
If you look closely the storage tank can be seen in the above picture,
it is the black object next to the garbage can. We used a 1-gallon
jug to transport the kerosene from the drum to the house. Heat was
controlled by opening or closing a knob that raised or lowered the
amount of kerosene flowing into the stove. If too much kerosene
flowed into a stove it glowed red. That was the signal to closed
the flow and hope for the best. It was not uncommon to read about
an explosion in some barrack.
Our first night in the barrack we were in our "living room"
and we could clearly hear the voices of four men in the next "apartment".
They were playing cards and the conversation went like this:
"Why are you dealing from right to left? You're supposed
to go from left to right."
"You already gave us six cards, why are you giving us more?"
"Who' going to open the betting? Someone is supposed to."
Talk like this went on for awhile, each facet of the game was
questioned and rehashed. Finally, when everything seemed to be agreed
upon a voice popped up asking, "What game are we playing?"
My wife and I both laughed. One a of the players then cautioned
the others to, "Keep your voices down, I think someone can
After we were in bed a few minutes I said that I had to get up
as we must have left a light burning someplace. I checked and found
out that I had not left a light burning but that light from the
next "apartment" was showing in mine. The wallboard separating
the two "apartments" did not reach the floor all over.
One hot summer night the Jersey mosquitoes were out in force.
We planned to hose down the roof and stay inside to avoid getting
"eaten alive". While we were inside we suddenly smelled
smoke and heard someone yell fire. I rushed outside and found the
cause for alarm. A neighbor, having had his fill of the mosquitoes
had set fire to an old overcoat. The coat did not burn, it smoldered
producing large amounts of smoke. He was waving the coat about in
an effort to ward of the mosquitoes.
Saturday nights in the winter months after my daughter was asleep
my wife and I would watch shows on our Silvertone console TV. We
watched Paladin, Gunsmoke and whatever Saturday Night Movie that
was on. Saturday nights in the summer months a neighbor and myself
would drive to "Little Italy" and bring back pizza from
The Rendezvous and Italian hot dogs from 'Jimmy Buffs'
Toward the end of our lives in the barracks and the end of the
barracks life the neighborhood was changing and we did not feel
as secure as we once did. As an apartment became vacant it was not
rented. We suspected that vacant "apartments" were being
broken into and used by unauthorized persons. I had set "booby
traps" in some of the nearby "apartments". They were
not designed to catch anyone but I believe that they did scare some
We suspected that there was as at least one "Peeping Tom"
visiting us. A neighbor and myself made a plan to combat "The
Tom" and did catch him. He was turned over to the police. How
it ended up I never found out.
The barracks are long since gone as well as "The Veteran'
Temporary Housing Commission". Let's hope that there is no
necessity for them to return but IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED.