In the late 1930s, when I started my newspaper
cub-reporting days, Newark was a great newspaper town boasting four
papers. Two were afternoon dailies -- The Newark Evening News, and
the Newark Star-Eagle. Also a seven-day-a-week tabloid, the Newark
Ledger, and a thick weekly -- The Newark Sunday Call.1
In earlier Old Newark memories, I have dealt with my own journalistic
start with the Newark Ledger. I have also written obituary-type
memories of the venerable Newark Evening News and the esteemed Newark
Sunday Call, and of my associations with each.
However, the third Newark daily -- the Newark Star-Eagle -- never
touched my life as a young, budding journalist. Therefore, there
was nothing I could write about it.
But now I can. Reviewing a newspaper article I filed away more
than a quarter of a century ago, I discovered, nestled in it, a
brief 1930s recollection of what went on inside the walls of the
Star-Eagle building, written by a former Star-Eagle reporter, Ben
Kluger was a native Newarker, who grew up in the living quarters
behind his father's shoe business on the corner of Congress and
Ferry Street in Newark's "Down Neck" section.
In his recollection, Kluger talks about losing his job at the
Star-Eagle in the late 1930s. In all likelihood, his job loss took
place at the time that the Ledger-owner, Samuel I. Newhouse, bought
the Star-Eagle and moved his Ledger operation from 80 Bank Street
into the Star-Eagle building at 217 Halsey Street. With that move
and the accompanying change from a tabloid to a full-size paper,
he renamed his morning paper the Newark Star-Ledger.
I was already associated with the Ledger at the time of the Ledger
move into the Halsey Street building. I don't recall knowing of
anyone at the renamed Star-Ledger who had been carried over from
the now defunct Star-Eagle, except for my sportswriter idol, Anthony
The Star-Eagle City Room
Here is what reporter Kluger had to say in his 1977 writing about
his days in the 1930s at the Star-Eagle:
"Journalism was still in its 'Front Page' days2.
The City Room at the Newark Star-Eagle was disheveled enough to
delight Ben Hecht or Charles Macarthur and it was people by a colorful
cast of characters.
"Frustrated playwrights, amiable drunks, glib con men, brassy
photographers, hot-shot reporters lured by the mirage of the Pulitzer
Prize, or enhanced in their self-esteem by the reportorial performances
of Lee Tracy3 and
Clark Gable4, budding
novelists fresh from Harvard, brash cubs from the gutter, young
men on their way up, old men on their way down.
"Meager salaries gave them a starveling existence, while
the publisher made ostentatious journalistic philanthropies to Yale.
Working the Newark Beat
"We reporters who worked the Newark beat were the recorders
of Newark's day-by-day events as the decade edged toward the '40s
... the scandals and the gang shootings ... the fires, the thefts,
the murders ... the political wars with the perennial combatants--Ellenstein,
Byrne, Parnell, Franklin, Duffy, Minisi, Villani, Keenan, and Brady."
Kluger's Recollection and Star-Eagle Both End
Kluger's Star-Eagle recollection ended at this point and probably
the Star-Eagle's end as well. The Star-Eagle published its last
issue on Saturday, November 18, 1939.
Shortly thereafter, the aging splintered wooden Star-Eagle desks
and noisy manual typewriters were quickly taken over by Ledger newsmen
who moved over from 80 Bank Street.
At that time, busy with outside sports assignments, I didn't get
to know too many of the Ledger's seasoned insiders, but I was given
fatherly treatment by Star-Ledger sports editor and columnist, Joe
Donovan. I can attest that this Ledger newsman, at least, closely
resembled the "Front Page" model.
He was known to be physically tough on people who came in to complain,
and I vividly recall the noisy clatter of his typewriter keys on
the roller as he pounded out his daily "Between You and Me"5
column on his ancient Underwood with his two forefingers.
And, as a young reporter who had just returned from a rough assignment,
Donovan gave me this advice: "Nat, you're a newspaper man.
You're supposed to be smarter than everybody else."
Years later, when I wrote my own sports column at a suburban weekly,
I modeled it after Donovan's column and called it "Let's Talk