An Australian's 1915 Report of a Celebration in Downtown Newark

by Nat Bodian

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Among the cycling 'greats' who raced at the internationally-famous Newark Veledrome in the years leading up to World War I was Jackie Clark, known as "The Australian Rocket."

In those years, the Newark Veledrome, at 701-711 South Orange Avenue, was considered the nation's leading bicycle racing track, and had hosted the world cycling championships.

I had been in contact with one of Jackie Clark's descendents, Clive Allen-Paisley, and with a letter he sent to me, he had enclosed, from a family scrapbook, a copy of a November 1915 account from an Australian paper, which reported on a happening in Downtown Newark.

In the account, the Australian reporter described the 1915 Downtown Newark festivities in which the Australian cyclist was being honored.

Clark had won a popularity contest for bike riders at the Newark Veledrome, conducted by The Evening Star (forerunner paper to the Newark Star Eagle) at 217 Halsey Street, and had been presented with the first prize -- a new automobile -- in front of the newspaper's offices.

"The presentation was made by George D. Smith, general manager of 'The Evening Star'. It was accompanied by a brief, informal address in which Mr. Smith congratulated Jackie Clark and expressed the hope that he would derive much pleasure from the trophy which the affectionate regard and untiring efforts of so many friends had won for him.

"In reply, Jackie Clark said: 'I thank you sincerely.' Earlier in the day, he sent 'The Evening Star' the following letter: 'I wish to thank you for the Overland Speedster put up by yourselves as a prize for the most popular cyclist at the Veledrome which was won by myself through the aid of many friends who arduously worked in my behalf.'

'I wish to express my appreciation to the fans and public in general for my success in this voting contest, which I consider an honor to win.'

'I am delighted to know I have so many friends and assure them my constant aim has been to give the public my best efforts in the races at the Veledrome which I also promise to do in the future.'

'I thank you for such a magnificent prize, and again thanking all my friends, I remain, respectfully yours, Jackie Clark.'

"Admiring friends sent wreaths of flowers and great bunches of big, red American beauties. When these were placed in the car, they encompassed Jackie in what appeared to be a veritable bower of roses."

"Hundreds who gathered to witness the presentation cheered loudly and scores ran along beside the machine until its speed defied their efforts. And then they gave one final hurrah as the car swung around the corner of Halsey Street.

"Branford Place was crowded with enthusiastic spectators and the police had great difficulty in clearing a pathway for Jackie and his prize auto.

"An Evening Star photographer had the time of his life getting a place of vantage amid the surging throng and then holding it long enough for a snapshot of the winner and his car."


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