Okay... how about a stroll down memory
lane going east on South Orange Avenue now from Isabella?
On the southeast corner of Isabella and South Orange was a printing
firm, whose windows were painted blue so you couldn't see in from
the street. As you walked down the south side toward Columbia, there
were some houses. Across Columbia was a HUGE apartment house that
stretched halfway down the block towards Munn Avenue. In the middle
of the block was a beauty parlor, and the end of the apartment house
was Pat & Ann's Pizzeria. They made a great pizza and great
Italian-style hot dogs. I can still smell the aromas that came from
My memory is kinda vague here, but I think there was a house that
may have burned down at Munn and South Orange, and then it just
stayed as a vacant lot. They eventually built a diner on that lot.
When you crossed Munn Ave. you were at the entrance to Vailsburg
Park. And there was the huge fenced area that contained a US Army
outpost. Guns, tanks, trucks... a boy's dream, but I never remember
ever seeing anyone there. Then one day it was gone. I remember the
fields there always being muddy and wet. I think in earlier years
there may have been a lake in the park that was filled in, as they
did in West Side Park.
If you walked further down South Orange Avenue, you came to Maybaum
Avenue and the Garden State Parkway. You would walk under the Parkway
overpass and there was a guy who always sold pretzels at the corner
of Speedway and South Orange Avenues.
Crossing South Orange to the north side, there were the cemeteries
bordering both sides of the Parkway up to Maybaum Avenue. Crossing
Maybaum, I remember some sort of union office building there, with
a barber shop on the corner. Then you came to the huge Food Fair
supermarket. I loved going in that place! As you walked further
along toward Munn Avenue, there was a cabinet making firm and a
whole bunch of frame buildings and garages. Most were vacant, I
think, and they ended up all being gutted in a fire. They built
a huge gas station there in later years. I believe that was where
the old Vailsburg Boro Hall stood, but I'm not positive.
As you crossed Munn, there was a car repair garage and a plating
company. Next to that was an apartment house with stores on the
first floor. There was a candy store that sat just about opposite
from Pat & Ann's, but the name escapes me right now. And next
to that was the Sunny Bee gift shop. I always remember seeing a
gentleman in a wheelchair there... but I don't know if he worked
there or was the owner. Right next to that, and on the corner of
Chelsea Avenue, was Kravet's Drugs.
When you crossed over Chelsea, Spizak's Bakery was on the corner.
I can still smell all the donuts, cakes, breads, pies and rolls.
I used to love goin' in that place. It was on the first floor of
a three-story frame tenement, which burned out in a 2-alarm fire
on Feb. 15, 1970. It was saddening to pull up and see Spizak's on
fire. The building was pretty heavily damaged and I'm not sure if
they ever reopened after that.
Passing Spizak's, there was a large frame house that was a hardware
store. Now here's where my memory gets fuzzy... I'm not sure if
they tore down the hardware store to build Home Liquors, or if they
built it on the vacant lot next to the the store. Home Liquors,
home of Brookdale soda by the case! Black Cherry Pit flavor was
Then we come back to the laundromat that stood on the site of
the old A&P near Cedar Avenue.
Well, there ya have it. South Orange Avenue from the Parkway to
Alexander Street circa late '50s & early '60s.
I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane. I'll have to start
another trek from Alexander Street west, but that's another trip.
Maybe we can all stop at the Pilot's Lounge and have a cold one
or two, eh?