South 20th Street

by Mary H. Tomalesky


I was born and raised in Newark until I was 10 years old. My family lived at 389 So. 20th Street. It was a 4-family house across the street from Turner Lumber Company and 2 houses down from Red's store. We were around the corner from Al the Butcher and the Pepper Pot pizzeria. One block from Grove Street and Pabst. I attended Speedway Avenue School from kindergarten through the 3rd grade and then 15th Avenue School until we moved during the summer of 1964 to Union. I attended 15th Avenue school for fourth and fifth grades. When I played in my backyard, which was along with border of the Hoffman/Pabst lot (as did all the home on this block of 20th Street, Ferdinand Street, Grove Street, and So. Orange Avenue, I could see the Hoffman bottle (as we all called it). Probably every kid in the neighborhood knew that when the lights came on around the bottle, it was time to come in the house for the evening.

I used to walk through the Catholic cemetery, Holy Sepulchre, as a kid. I was fascinated with the mausoleums at the main entrance. I remember the Food Fair market, the park across the street from the market (can't remember name). I specifically remember the old, tall wooden slide. I used to take the bus up into Vailsburg as a kid and go to the moves, swimming at the Boylen Street pool for 10 cents a day.

I remember the old Jewish cemeteries down the street on 20th Street and across So. Orange Avenue and at 21st Street. I remember the slate sidewalk at the corner of the apartment house that sat at 20th & Ferdinand Streets. It was the greatest for roller skating. I remember the drug store at the corner of 19th Street and So. Orange Ave. Gosh, so many memories are now flooding back.

My family's name was Alexon. My father was Vincent. My mother was Ruth. My grandfather was William. My aunt and uncle lived on the other half of the 4 family house, at 387 So. 20th Street. Their last name was Krause, Charles and Julia. My uncle installed automatic overhead garage doors. Ah, I also remember the dentist - Doc. Ritzel on the corner above Red's.

I am now 50 years old. It seems like such a long time ago. And, it was such a carefree time for me - no-one ever bothered me as a kid. I felt very safe and secure playing in that neighborhood. The security guard at the Hoffman/Pabst lot would let us kids play and ride our bikes in the lot. I guess he kept watch over all of us. We had a great time. About 2 years ago, after an absence of over almost 40 years, my husband and I drove through this area when I decided to get off the Parkway for a quick tour on our way back from visiting our son in northern Jersey. What happened? It almost made me cry. I guess I was in a "time-warp" concerning the neighborhood.

Well, got to go. Take care.


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