West Newark

by Alan M. Vigeant


I was born at 537 South 17th Street in November, 1949. The place was owned by Mr. Thomas Chelella and his wife, who's name I don't recall. They had several children Dominic, Theresa, Nancy and an older daughter who's name I can't recall. My best friend was Stanley Kraemer. Other playmates were the children from the Dean Family Phyllis, Alberta, Richie and an older sister, who lived at 541 S. 17th St. on the 3rd floor. Kenny Benes and his brother Jackie lived closer to 15th Avenue; they were friends of my brother's and mine.

Early on, the corner candy store at 16th Avenue and 17th St. was owned by a kindly, older gent by the name of Abraham Korn; he had a grandson named Mark. Another friend of mine, Walter Ostrowka, lived at # 543. He had a sister, her name was Orisa. One day, the Ostrowka apartment caught fire and I recall Walter taking his parakeet to the candy store. Mr. Korn opened the store so the family had a place to stay. He was a kindly gent. After Mr. Korn passed on, Harry opened up "The Park Sugar Bowl". It was a real hang-out for the teenagers! Harry was a real nice guy; he and his wife had the store.

On the opposite corners there were one of the entrances to West Side Park, Wilner's Liquor Store and a Jewish butcher shop. Always had freshly dressed(!) chickens hanging from their neck's on stainless steel hooks in the front window. Going down 16th Avenue (towards Irvington) from the Park Sugar Bowl was a paint store, Levit's Department Store with wood 1" X 4" flooring, Mr. Shiffman's deli, a woman's beauty parlor, Ralph's Barber Shop. I got the worst haircut there as a very young boy. He kept sticking the scissors in my scalp; the back of my head looked like a road map!! Next to him was Jacone's Candy Store. He and his wife had the best "snow cone" flavors. Crossing 16th Avenue to the other side was Mintz's Tavern. Next was Sal's Pet shop; he had a mynah bird that he kept outside the store; you could hear it's "wolf whistle" even if you were in the tennis court at West Side Park, no lie! Next was a small hardware store, then there was Tony's Restaurant. Next was a Jewish grocery store; they always had borscht in the window for sale! Next was an "8 Hour Martenizing" dry cleaners. At last we reached the best Jewish bakery in Newark Learhoff's! Poppy seed rolls, poppy seed danish, knishes, cookies, made to order cakes. On a Sunday morning, returning home after attending the 8 o'clock mass with my dad at St. Ann's Church (on 6th Street and 16th Avenue) you couldn't get into the place. The line was outside the store on 16th Avenue!

Crossing 18th Street was Finestein's drug store, a shoe repair shop, a TV repair shop, a Laundromat where you could bring your clothes and they would wash, dry and fold them for you, Mr. Bachmann's deli, the Tiger Beef Company (a butcher shop). The guy behind the counter told me each time I went into the store that I looked like Jerry Mather's "The Beaver"! Lastly, there was a tavern on the corner of 16th Avenue and 19th Street.

Crossing 16th Avenue there was a liquor store, Joe's Barber Shop; this is where I got my hair cut after the scalping I got at Ralph's. Then there was a large grocery store. In the early '50's it was called The White House, in the early '60's it was changed to Food Town. There was a unique aspect to the place; they sold upscale toys and dolls just above the refrigerated produce bins! One of the best Christmas's I had was when I mentioned to my mom how much I'd like to have the hook-and-ladder fire engine that was displayed. I got it, bless her heart! Next to the Food Town grocery was the West End Movie Theater where I invested many a Saturday afternoon watching the 1950's genre of sci-fi and horror movies. Lastly, on the corner was Johnny Duca's Tavern. It had an enormous bar and it had a banquet room/dance floor.

I feel like I've rambled on for quite a few hours, eclipsing half a decade! The more I write the more I recall! My folks and grandparents lived in the Clinton Hill section in the 20's & 30's. On Friday & Saturday night's, my dad and I would stay up 'till 1 or 2 A.M. playing cards and checkers. We'd listen to the police radio and he'd tell me stories about the "old days" when he was a kid in Newark. We'd hear a call for Doremus Avenue, Peshine Avenue, Hunterdon Street, West Runyon Street and he'd tell me exactly where in the city it was! I had one of those red, "Newark City Street" guides; that's how I checked up on him! He was always correct...

I would hope to hear from other West Ward residents. I'd love to reminisce. I can recall the area from Lyons Avenue to South Orange Avenue and from Grove Street and the Irvington border to downtown, Penn Station and a little of "down neck". Not much of North Newark or McCarter Highway area.

Thanks for a wonderful site!

All The Best to everyone from Newark!


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