Bergen Street Library Branch and Umbrellas

by Barbara L. Rothschild


I love reading and have an extensive collection of books. I think my love of reading started with a preschool visit at the Bergen Street Branch of the Newark Public Library.

An exciting trip on the number nine Public Transit bus would be to the Bergen Street branch of the Newark Public Library, especially in the warm spring weather, and later in the summertime, when schools were on summer break.

I recall it was an all brick building, built in the Dutch Colonial style. I do not know if the building was historic or not, only that I found my young child's paradise up on the second floor of that library.

The first time I visited the library was at about the age of three. I was mystified and held rapt by the "Storytime Hour", which I especially looked forward to as a very little child. The first floor of the library was where the books for the general public were kept, but the second floor was reserved strictly for the children! I recall the excitement as my tiny feet, would climb the wide and high wooden steps leading to the second floor. I looked forward to browsing the short shelves, made just the right height for small children, as I myself was. I can even recall the wonderful smell of those books, and probably the library pastes, which some librarian always seemed to be using to either cover a new book, or repair an old one.

For some reason or other, I recall some of my favorite books were about Peter Rabbit, perhaps the books by Beatrice Potter, of that, I cannot recall. After making my selections, I used to delight in watching the librarian stamp the date with a rubber stamper for this purpose, making the book MINE for an ENTIRE WEEK or two!! I do not recall the length of time for the borrowing period, however.

I seldom saw the first floor of the library, since it was the world of the "adults", but I do recall sitting by a crescent shape window, which flanked two sides of the upper floor of the library. I enjoyed the warmth of the sun, as it streamed through these windows, providing me with comfort, as my youthful mind envisioned all of the wonderful places the world of reading took me.

At the end of the visit, my mother and father would come upstairs to take me home once again. It was almost sorrowful leaving this magical place, for in those days, there was not much fear of child predators, especially in such a delightful setting as the library was. The library never seemed to lose its interest for me.

We would cross the street to wait for the number nine bus once again, but this time, I returned home armed with my treasures for that week or two. I recall waiting for the bus in front of a store which specialized in the making and repair of umbrellas, and I still marvel at the memory of all the beautiful umbrellas which were on display in the window of this shop. I even recall once, while awaiting our bus, it began to rain on a warm, spring day, and mother went into this store to purchase an umbrella. However, she would not fully open the umbrella to inspect it, since it was considered to be bad luck to open it indoors, hence, she allowed the shopkeeper to reveal all the beautiful patterns and types of the umbrellas he sold, from pagoda tops to mens', to very delicate and ruffled trimmed little girls' umbrellas. I probably received my first umbrella when I began kindergarten, from this very unique store! Does anyone recall these memories of the library or the umbrella shop?


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