Recalling a Monmouth St. School Student Who Made it Big in The Big Apple

by Nat Bodian

When I attended Monmouth Street School in the Depression-era 1930s, none of the kids that attended school with me at that time seemed likely candidates for future fame or accomplishment. But two of them made it.

Louis Schleifer, who graduated from Monmouth Street School with me in January 1935, eventually made a name for himself by being the first Newarker killed on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor.

We had lived in the same house. A Newark park is named after him.

Other Kid Who Made It Big

But another kid from Monmouth Street School who lived across the block from me at 90 Spruce Street, and trailed me by three years at Monmouth Street School also eventually made it big.

His name was Eddie and when I graduated from Monmouth, he entered the sixth grade.

He was a member of an impoverished family that shared a two-bedroom apartment with another family at 90 Spruce Street in an apartment building, each family paying half of the $45 monthly rental.

The heads of the two families, brothers, had formerly been partners in a failed business.

Eddie and his older brother, Harold, slept together on a fold-out bed set up each night at bedtime in the apartment dining room.

His parents ran the hatcheck concession at the Krueger Auditorium1 on Belmont Avenue, off Springfield Avenue, and near the Krueger Brewery. The 25¢ hatcheck fees were turned in to the Auditorium owner, a relative. The family survived on a fixed $8-per-night payment for operating the concession on those nights when there were weddings, bar mitzvahs, dances, and the like, plus all the tips, which were almost always in dimes.

Eddie and his older brother, Harold both worked the concession along with their father and mother.

Then, into the wee hours of the morning, after returning to their Spruce Street apartment, they would sit up and count and roll the dimes in bank papers. A working night's take for the four was usually $20-$30.

Eddie graduated from Monmouth Street School in January 1938, three years after me, and went on to South Side High School, graduating there in 1941.

After his graduation, Eddie managed to squeeze two years in at City College of New York before being drafted into the Army in World War II. All together, he had lived ten years of his youth in Newark.

How He Achieved His Fame

After his discharge from wartime duty, Eddie got into NYU Law School in 1946 on an accelerated program and passed the bar on his second try in 1949.

During his struggling years as a young New York City lawyer, Eddie got involved in New York City politics.

The rest is history.

Eddie, or Edward I. Koch, through his political activities, ultimately became a New York City Councilman...then served five terms in Congress from 1969 to 1977...and later three terms as Mayor of the City of New York, from 1977 to 1989.

Although years out of Gracie Mansion, the kid from Monmouth Street School in Newark's old Third Ward continues to star in the news as a legal expert, book author, political consultant, radio commentator, and lecturer.

He never married, although for a time in his mayoral years, he was rumored to have a close friendship with a former Miss America, Bess Meyerson.


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