Vailsburg Memories Part 2

by Hank Przybylowicz


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 that place.

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 great!

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?


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