The Newark of yore was a shopping mecca
for the fashion-minded lady. All manner of shops and boutiques were
in abundance throughout the city.
In addition to the fine department stores, Bamberger's, Hahne's,
Kresge's, Ohrbach's, ladies could shop for bargains on S. Klein
on the square. I will never forget the women rooting through "specials",
as they were placed up for grabs, helter-skelter on a wooden shopping
table in Klein's. It was every man (or should I say woman) for themselves!
I can recall mother telling me to stand back, while seemingly dozens
of women proceeded to "fight" over who would be claiming
the cherished prize bargain item-of-the minute. I recall a loudspeaker
would often announce an item coming out, and immediately the women
would flock excitedly to that table to begin the hunt. Those were
the days before the "Blue Light Specials" of the K-Mart
Shopping Centers of the present day.
Any lady of substance in the day, never left her home without
her hat and white gloves. Mother made it a practice to do the same.
Every now and then, according to the season and the time of the
year, a special trip would be made to a millinery shop. Millinery
shops seemed to abound in the City of Newark.
In particular, I recall a small millinery shop right across the
street from Kresge's Department Store, same side of Broad Street,
but before the Old Gothic Prudential Insurance Building. This memory
has its place in an early 1950's locale. Browsing into the window,
one could see these many "chapeaux" mounted on display
"heads", which in turn were mounted on long, stalk-like
metal or Lucite bars. These mounting bars appeared to be "long
necks." To the eyes of a child, especially myself, it was rather
an eerie sight to see those heads, many with the same facial expressions
and sightless eyes. I recall another millinery shop that mother
would frequent when shopping the "Avenue", which at the
time translated to meaning Clinton Avenue. Right next door to Lustig's
Tavern on Clinton Avenue, near the Avon Theatre, stood mother's
favorite hat store. It was called Linda's Millinery Shop. The store
was run by a very amicable single mother named Linda, who always
"knew" the perfect style that would compliment milady's
appearance and fashion outfit. Although Linda did not carry the
"haute couture" fashion of designer chapeaux, in the manner
of Lilly Dache or Oleg Cassini, nor the very desirable models worn
by the famous Hollywood gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper, she did
carry attractive styles sure to compliment which would please not
only milady's fancy, but also go easy on her budget. If one was
so inclined to purchase a "fancier" (also costlier) chapeau,
the designer hats would be readily found on the second floor of
Bamberger's Department Store, or any of the other stores in vogue
at the time.
On the fourth floor of Ohrbach's was the Children's' Department.
I recall my mother taking me there to purchase school clothes, or,
if there were a reason, a "special occasion" dress. I
recall going to the "Sock Bar", where a very helpful saleslady
would ask the child to make a fist, in order to measure for the
proper sock size. The size would be determined by wrapping the heel
to toe portion of the socks, around the closed fist of the child.
I don't know how it worked, but it really did!! Also, little lace
gloves could also be bought at this station of the department store,
to be used on holidays like Easter and other special occasions.
Bergen Street, near Weequahic Park, and Chancellor Avenue would
be where the higher priced fashions could be found. These boutiques
usually catered to the women of means, who were married to the many
professionals, and who lived in the wealthier Weequahic Section
in that day and time. For the "plainer folk", there were
the department stores, and also many local little shops, a la Linda's
Millinery, and so forth.
For ladies' underpinnings or "unmentionables", there
were the many corset shops, where professionally trained "corsetiere's"
tugged and pushed milady's avoirdupois into the desired fashionable
"hourglass" form and figure popular at that time. It was
the era of the very "zoftig" Marilyn Monroe and Jayne
Mansfield, and every woman strove to emulate those figures. Compare
that to the anorectic-looking actresses and top models whose figures
today leave much to be desired (literally)! In the early days of
the 20th century, women flocked to the Prince Street area, where
many such shops existed. One might say these shops were the "Victoria's
Secrets" boutiques in their time. I can specifically recall
one such shop operating as late as the 1960's on Chancellor Avenue,
next to Bernheims Funeral Home, at 365 Chancellor Avenue. It was
called the "Ko-Ro Corset Shop", and it was the scene where
my first venture into women hood took place. "Downtown",
there was the Shirley (Hirsh) Shop, which featured not only lingerie,
but also sold bathing suits, which would enhance milady's figure.
The Shirley Shop was located on Washington Street, near Halsey Street,
as I recall it. I recall it being a fairly costly shop, especially
the prices of the bathing suits.
There were many other specialty shops to satisfy milady's lust
for style and fashion. For the tall woman, 5'8'' and over, there
was the "Tall Girls' Shop", which was located on the same
side of Halsey Street, a few doors down from the back (Halsey Street)
entrance to S. Klein on the Square. Petite women, such as I am,
were also not excluded, for, down a ways from the "Tall Girls'
Shop", stood the "Small Girls' Shop!" There were
few, but several shops also catered to the larger sized woman. I
recall one such store in the Prince Street area of the city, in
the Third Ward.
Another specialty shop was the womens' hosiery shop, which was
near the corner of Broad and Market, close to Nedick's hot dogs
and orange drinks stand. It was a tiny, tiny store, lined with rows
of shelves which contained flat boxes of womens' nylons (stockings,
for it was way before panty hose was invented.) These flat boxes
were arranged according to size, color and pattern, seamed or unseamed
nylons. One would ask the salesgirl for their size, and the salesgirl
would then pull down one of these flat boxes to demonstrate the
stocking to milady. Forming a fist, (fists, again!), the salesgirl
would insert her hand into the top of the nylon stocking to demonstrate
the color and denier (sheerness) of the stocking. There were nylons
for every occasion, dress and everyday, and usually the stockings
came three pair to the box. Seldom was only one pair sold to the
customer. My first pair of "grown up" nylons came from
this little store, and I recall the initial excitement of owning
such a pair of nylons for the first time in my life, at the tender
age of twelve!!! Usually, this little hosiery shop was brimming
with activity, always packed with eager women, who crammed into
the tiny store to purchase their hosiery, as I recall it now.
Immediately next door to the hosiery shop, was the costume jewelry
shop. Also a very miniscule shop, it gave milady the opportunity
to put the finishing touches on her ensemble of the day. I recall
the brilliantly shining and bright rhinestone necklaces and earrings
featured in this little shop. I recall my awe at seeing these dazzling
examples of brooches, earrings and other such baubles of this type.
Mother bought some very pretty rhinestone earrings once to wear
to a family wedding. I recall most of this jewelry was also modestly
priced, and today, such costume jewelry is highly sought after in
the collectible field, and is no longer inexpensive to own!!! I
should know, since I am an avid collector and seeker of this much
desired jewelry!! The costume jewelry of the 1940's-1960's are featured
on Ebay, many of which carry the price tags of the "real Mc
Two doors down from the hosiery shop, on Market Street, traveling
towards Ohrbach's and Bamberger's, were some of the more popular
downtown shoe stores. Kitty Kelly and A. S. Beck Shoe Store, stood
side-by-side. The Kitty Kelly Shoe Store existed back even into
the late 1930's and early 1940's, and its manager for many, many
years, was my step-brother, Al Kresch. He was a very popular man,
well liked by all of his employees. I still recall the very creative
and unique window trimming designs, which displayed the latest shoes
available for purchase in both Kitty Kelly and A. S. Beck. Both
stores carried shoes which were modestly priced. Further down on
Broad Street, near Mc Crory''s and Kresge's Department store, was
a similar reasonably priced shoe store called Baker's Qualicraft
Shoes. Baker's came into being sometime in the late 1950's. Again,
for "high fashioned" shoes, once could either visit the
shoe departments of the larger stores, or also the shoe boutiques.
One such shop was called Housmann's Shoes, and was located on Springfield
Avenue and Mercer Streets, in the Third Ward. Naturally, such shoes
carried a much higher price than those that would be found in the
downtown shoe stores, as detailed above.
Newark also contained many furrier shops, which catered also to
the wealthier women. I recall one such shop located on Clinton Avenue,
next door to Shirley's Beauty Parlor, and on the same side of the
street, as the elegant 299 Clinton Avenue Apartment House. Across
the street, on Clinton Avenue and Johnson, right on the corner,
was Peterman's Fine Delicatessen and Bakery, a very popular restaurant
in its day.
And speaking of Shirley's Beauty Parlor, it was only one of literally
hundreds which catered to milady's beauty and coiffures, in our
beloved Newark of old. One of the more popular salons of the day,
I recall the miter-type "conehead" hair dryers, which
the stylist set with a dial , which was in the middle of the "conehead."
The customer also had a hand-held contraption, which she could also
regulate the temperature of the hair dryer. I recall being frightened
by the snake-like coils of the permanent wave machine, which hung
down from a central holding platform, and was attached to milady's
head. It truly looked like milady was in training to be electrocuted
in the electric chair, and was quite a sight to see.!! Those old-timers
in the beauty industry, will probably well recall this evil looking
contraption, and the smell of that permanent wave solution was something
else.!! I have never forgotten that vile odor, even until this day!!!
Usually, the manicurist would pull up her table of nail lacquers,
which also gave off quite an aroma (!), and while milady's hair
was being "permed" (fried?), her fingernails would receive
careful attention. For a finishing touch, after her hair was styled,
a rubber-bulb like (looked like a baby's enema tool!!), the stylist
would apply a thick and very STIFF coat of lacquer, to keep milady's
hairstyle under control!!! I can only wonder how many of those poor
souls eventually suffered from chronic lung maladies, owing to all
those chemicals, which were used back in those days? It surely was
not very conducive to good health!! Mother's favorite hair stylist
at Shirley's, was a fine gentleman by the name of Nat, although
if Nat were not available, all the other stylists were excellent.
Occasionally, mother would go to Regina's Beauty salon, located
at 310 Belmont Avenue. Later on, Regina, who was a resident in the
apartment house at 312 Belmont, discontinued her shop, but still
continued her beauty practice, out of her home and apartment. This
delighted many of the neighborhood ladies, and it was very convenient
to travel just across the street for a quick hair trim, (I lived
at 321 Belmont Avenue, at the time).
Among the more "exclusive" hair salons, was the GOLDEN
JEWEL SALON, which was located for many, many years on Branford
Place, and was a definite favorite of the fair sex. The Golden Jewel
existed in the 1930's, and perhaps was at the height of its popularity
in the 1940's.
One of the more elegant and popular hair salons in the late 1950's
through mid 1960's, was CORTE'S BEAUTY SALON, which was located
also a few doors down from Bernheims Funeral Home, on Chancellor
Avenue. Constantly busy, this salon featured very high styling,
so popular in the 1960's. Many a fair lady had her hair coiffed
and bleached into incredibly "teased" and "Bee hived"
hair styles, so laughable today, but so VERY popular then!!! Some
of the hair stylists were Alan Bain and his wife, Marsha Penchansky,
who later bought the salon, I believe, before relocating to another
salon, near Irvington, as the neighborhood population began to exit
the city. Marsha was the colorist (hair dye), and Alan did the hair
styling. I recall Alan as being a graduate of my alma mater, Weequahic
And so, my fashion "tour" of Newark comes to a close.
To milady's utter delight, Newark surely was , for whatever her
fancy, THE place to shop! Whatever her budget, Newark was always
ready to fulfill her fashion desires. In today's era of malls and
the impersonal service one finds in places like the Wal-Mart's and
Targets, it sure brings back some good memories of how it was in
the "good old days" of Newark's fine shopping opportunities.
Easily, one could "shop 'til they drop", back in the day!!!