I recall Weequahic Park in Newark as a
great sports place, in the era from the mid-1930s up until World
War II. I had been a sports writer for the Newark Ledger/Star-Ledger,
starting around 1937 as a high school correspondent and working
up to a by-line reporter by 1940.
As time evolved in my sports writing career, I graduated into
coverage of more than a dozen different types of amateur and professional
sporting events in Newark, from boxing and wrestling to polo and
squash rackets tournaments, with many of them taking place at Weequahic
Among the sports I covered for the Ledger at Weequahic Park were
track and cross country meets, the
Saturday harness racing programs
of the New Jersey Road Horse Association on the park's half mile
dirt track, and the Sunday morning bicycle racing programs of first
the Bay View Wheelmen and later the Alpine Wheelmen.
I also covered on a number of occasions the New Jersey Canoe Regatta
on the 71 acre
Weequahic Park lake.
Although I did not report on them for the Ledger because the activities
were not competitions, there was also tennis on the park's tennis
courts, and golf on the park's then nine-hole golf course.
In the winter, the Weequahic Park lake would freeze up and would
attract ice skaters from all over the city. I did my first ice skating
on the lake in a brand new pair of Frick and Frack ice skates. Frick
and Frack were stars of a traveling ice extravaganza and the skates
were named after them.
Of the many sports events I covered at Weequahic Park, one stands
out strong in my memory. It was a National Catholic Interscholastic
Track and Field Championship meet on the Weequahic Park race track.
I wasn't aware at the time that I would be facing trouble. When
I approached the meet chairman for the results of the events and
told him I was from the Star-Ledger, he called the Park Police and
had them evict me from the track meet area. I had to go to the Newark
Evening News reporter, Stanley Groupy, later that day to get enough
information to write my Star-Ledger story. I learned that night
that the track meet chairman, a coach at Good Counsel High School
in Newark, had a feud with the Star-Ledger sports editor, Joe Donovan.
That was in the late 1930s.
In 1938, the National Cycling Association's annual
National ChampionshipsNational Championships
were held at the Weequahic Park racetrack on September 5th, with
its Newark affiliate, the Bay View Wheelmen as the
host sponsor .
I handled publicity for the event, which filled up the grandstand1
at the track. I gave the Krueger Brewing Company of Belmont Avenue
an ad on the back cover of the program for the event and they permitted
me to have 2,500 programs printed at their expense at their printer,
the West Side Printing House on West Kinney Street.
In 1940, two Bay View Wheelmen bike riders qualified on the Weequahic
Park race track in the state eliminations and went to Chicago to
represent New Jersey in the U.S. Cycling Olympics, also sponsored
by the National Cycling Association.
The riders were
Jack Throckmorton and Fred Graef. Neither made the finals on
the banked board track of the Humboldt Park Bike Bowl, but Graef
later won the 50-mile Olympic road championship on the streets of
Chicago. I traveled to Chicago in the same car with the two New
Jersey riders, shared a hotel room with them at the Midwest Athletic
Club, and wired a story back to the Star-Ledger when Fred Graef
won the road Olympics.
After most sports events at Weequahic Park, participants would
often refresh themselves at either of two hot dog establishments
just outside the main entrance to Weequahic Park on Meeker Avenue--Millman's
A typical order was "one with the works." That meant
a hot dog with mustard, relish, and sauerkraut. The counterman would
ask you "sweet" or "hot" ? and you would have
your boiled hot dog handed to you on a soft roll coated with a layer
of sweet or hot relish, whichever you requested.
Weequahic Park's paths were a bit uneven for roller skating. However,
for those who liked to roller skate, there -- just off the far side
of Weequahic Park, on Frelinghuysen Avenue -- were two roller rinks,
the "New Dreamland Arena" at 985 Frelinghuysen on the
Newark-Elizabeth border, and across the street on the Elizabeth
side of the border, Twin City Arena.
New Dreamland Arena at 985 Frelinghuysen was considered the
premier roller arena in New Jersey and had a substantial following,
largely family trade, and well behaved skaters. It had professional
organists for music and a crackerjack professional staff to maintain
order and to teach. The staff top professional was Betty Lytle,
billed as "America's Only Silver Medalist."
Weequahic Park in Newark will arouse warm memories for many Newark
old-timers, whether for the many sports events they attended or
participated in, or as a family recreation center for young and