Living Inside the Racetrack: A Weequahic Park Memory

by Anthony Wereta


I grew up in Newark near South 10th Street, and in 1941 married a girl who had attended and graduated from Central High School the same year that I did.

During World War II, I served in the Seabees (Construction Battalion) and after the War I lived inside the Weequahic Park racetrack for five years.

It doesn't sound believable at this time, but I was able to live inside of Weequahic Park because of the atom bomb.

Apparently, in anticipation of heavy casualties in the last stages of the Pacific war, the Government built hospital barracks buildings in four locations inside of Weequahic Park, in anticipation of using them to accommodate those that would be evacuated from an impending invasion of Japan.

The with the atom bomb canceling the invasion, the buildings stood empty at the end of the War. They were rented out to veterans with families.

Each barracks building had six four-room apartments, each with kitchen, dining room, and two bedrooms. The apartment came with a kerosene stove. Electricity was included as was front-door garbage pickup by horse-drawn garbage wagons from the Newark Department of Sanitation.

I paid $37.50 a month rent. The rent was payable to The State of New Jersey. They had a maintenance office inside the Park where I paid my rent.

All told, there were 578 apartments for veterans with families in four locations within Weequahic Park, each location named after the site of a World War II battle.

The barracks buildings inside the racetrack were I lived were located in Anzio Square. The other three locations inside the Park were Corregidor Square, Oran Square, and Bastogne Square.

I lived inside the Weequahic Park racetrack from 1949 to 1954. for recreation, we traveled outside the park to Sabins and Millmans for hot dogs, or occasionally to the Tavern Restaurant Pastry Shop for one of their great coconut cream pies. We all went nuts for it.

Looking back, the accommodations may not have been that great, but for a young married family like ours, it was like living in your own private home and we loved it.

An update on Anthony Wereta from Nat Bodian

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* (As told to Nat Bodian)
Please direct any inquiries to Nat Bodian

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