Local 167 Bakery & Confectioners Union and the Polish Falcons

by Barbara L. Rothschild


My late father came to Newark in 1906, from Domyracz, a little village in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, long after the village disappeared following the two great wars, and the genocide of the Holocaust, I guess if it still existed, it would be part of Poland. My late father came to Newark with just five dollars in his pocket, in his early twenties, sponsored by an uncle, who lived on Rankin Street.

From the age of 8 years old, my dad became an baker's apprentice, and was a bread baker, who worked for the Harrison Baking Company, (Pechter's), for over fifty years. He was a bakery foreman at Harrison, who worked nights. Many of the bakers there were Polish nationals, who only spoke Polish, and that is how my dad communicated with them. I recall going with dad to some of his union meetings which were at the Local 167 Bakery and Confectionery Workers Union building, which was on Clinton Avenue, just a stones throw down from the Divine Hotel Riviera. The union building was a brownstone, with an elaborate stairway leading into the building, similar to the design of the Union League in the City of Philadelphia. It was a double staircase, one to the left and one to the right, leading to a landing, just before one entered the building itself.

My father was quite a Polka dancer. I recall his flying feet to this day. Mother, who was Hungarian born, could not keep up with him at all. Dad used to go, from time to time, down to the Polish Falcon's Club, at the lower end of Belmont, and he did some fancy dancing there ,too. I recall the Polish Falcons Hall and club were just a stones throw from the intersection of Springfield Avenue. Across the street on the corner of Belmont and Springfield was the Fidelity Union Trust Company bank, who first employed my mother in the Foreign Exchange Currency Department, when mom first came to this country, and then to live in Newark. As myself, mother spoke many languages, which is why she was employed in that department of the bank, in that capacity.

The Polish Falcon Club Hall was also located either near or next door to an employment agency, Solomon's Employment Agency, whose address, I think, was 3 Belmont Avenue. Solomon's largely employed domestic laborers and laborers, in general. Many of their clientele were African-American persons, who began to migrate to Newark from the rural Southern states, during the late 30's and 40's.

At the intersection (junction) of Belmont, Springfield, South Orange Avenues, I recall a custard shop, called Loufels, where they had soft custard ice cream, like Kohr's today, which one gets at the shore, and in some shopping malls, (one here at the Deptford Mall). They had a banana flavored one that was incredible. The custard shop was extremely popular, especially in the summertime, for right outside its doors, was the bus stops for many Public Service Transit lines. There were buses going up Springfield Avenue, buses going up South Orange Avenue, into I guess East Orange and beyond. If we walked from Belmont Avenue to Springfield to go shopping on Spruce Street, it was quite a trek, so on the way home, mom and I would wait at this intersection to catch the number 9 bus line, which would make a left turn from Springfield onto Belmont, and take us only one block from our doorstep, at 321 Belmont Avenue. The number 9 line would stop at the intersections of Avon and Belmont Avenues, before turning right to travel up to Avon, turning left on Bergen Street, where the line would terminate at Weequahic Park. Oh, those summer days, when mom and I would ride this same bus line, so we could get to go to the park! How, as a small child, I loved the playground and gardens at Weequahic Park! what a delight that was, and it did not cost very much at all! Sometimes mom would take a small picnic basket, and maybe she would meet some of her friends and parents of my playmates, and we would have a jolly picnic at the lake. To this day, I can even recall taking a nap under the shade of some beautiful leafy tree, near that lake. Sometimes, mom and I would "pretend" to fish. Mom would find a small tree branch, and would bring string (twine) from home to the park. She would tie the twine to the end of whatever loose twig or branch I found around the lake area, and I would "go fishing", while mom watched and maybe chatted with her friends. The fun was in the finding of an appropriate tree branch, suitable to "be used" as a "fishing rod." Of course, I was always hopeful of catching a fish, but of course, I never did.

I also recall mom and dad packing sandwiches, and mom made the BEST lemonade, to go picnicking in Branch Brook Park, especially when the beautiful cherry trees were in bloom.

Later on, sadly, my dad could no longer be a part of our enjoyment. He fell on a piece of dough at Harrison Baking Company, and broke his spine. Ultimately, that left him, after an early experimental spinal operation, a quadriplegic. While he was working, dad was a night worker, most bread bakers were in those days. I can also recall mom begging him NOT to drive our beautiful 1941 cream and blue two door Pontiac (with Chief Pontiac as a hood ornament), to work, on that late December, 1947 night. There was a snowstorm happening, but nothing would stop daddy from going to work. I recall he did not even get two blocks from home, when he called mom, to have my then teenaged half-brother and his friends come and dig him out, because he was stuck in what became to be called the "Great Blizzard of '47." Shortly thereafter, he suffered his unfortunate accident, and in those days, it was tough to receive workmens' compensation, so dad, permanently crippled, never collected a dime from the Harrison Baking Company. It was truly a tough break for my family, and the start of some unfortunate and terrible times which ensued thereafter, as a result of that awful accident. Life just never was the same after that.


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