Montgomery Street in the 1920s

by Nat Bodian


I remember growing up in Newark's Third Ward on Montgomery Street in the 1920s. The street ran eight blocks, east to west, from 683 High Street to 101 Belmont Avenue.

At the foot of Montgomery Street, at 683 High Street, was the original St. Barnabas Hospital, with its main entrance on Montgomery Street. It was only a block over from the original Beth Israel Hospital on West Kinney Street.

We lived over a candy store, at No. 29, in a wood frame house near Quitman Street, a block up from High Street. A lot of the candy store business came from hospital visitors. I understand that the people who bought the store paid $300 for it with stock and fixtures.

A block up from Quitman was a branch store of an early grocery chain, The Eagle, at No. 41 (Eagle Grocery Company). It sold butter in chunks cut from a wooden tub, and sugar and many other items in weighted brown bags of one, two or five pounds. It was also a place where nickel candy bars sold 3 for 10 cents. The manager's name was Bill Kutcher.

Between Monmouth and the next street up, Somerset Street, was the neighborhood coal depot and ice dock--The Montgomery Coal Company at No. 54, run by Max Lomachinsky.

On summer days I would trot over to the ice dock with my home-made wagon (an orange crate nailed over a piece of 2 X 4 on a skate) and buy a 10 cent piece of ice for the family ice box. No one had refrigerators then.

At the ice dock, after I handed Mr. Lomachinsky my dime, he would lead me to the insulated ice storage room where he would scratch across a half-portion strip of a 300-pound block of ice with an ice pick. He would then use the ice pick to separate my piece of ice from the strip, and with a pair of tongs lift it, carry it out, and place it in my wagon.

On the next corner, at 57 Somerset Street, was the Wilderotter & Sons dry goods establishment, which in later years would move to Springfield Avenue and then expand into a large appliance chain. Insofar as I can recall, being well under 10 years of age, Wilderotters was the only owner of a motor vehicle on Montgomery Street, an open-back delivery truck.

Up another block was Montgomery Street School at No. 90, which drew children from the neighborhood. In the 1920s, it already had a substantial black population, white students apparently favoring Monmouth Street School, less than 2 blocks away and nearly all white.

After Barclay, going up Montgomery was Broome Street with Katz's kosher butcher shop just in from the corner, at No. 87. The corner was frequented by varied black women apparently trying to sell their bodily wares to male passers by.

One more block up at 101/102, was Prince Street, the daily shopping hub for Newark's large Jewish population (approximately 50,000). Its wood block paved street, some eight blocks long, was lined on both curbs with wooden push carts selling everything for the Jewish home maker at bargain prices. Back of the curbs were stores with large sidewalk outdoor displays covered over by huge awnings.

Going up Montgomery another block to Charlton Street, on the left-hand side of the street was Newark's Yiddish theatre, at No. 117, opened in 1925 by the Elvings, a family of actors from the Yiddish theatre, It was called Elvings Metropolitan Theatre.

Opposite Elvings theatre at No. 110, was the Montgomery Public Baths, operated by the City of Newark for neighborhood residents living in coldwater flats, many with outdoor outhouses. Three cents bought a piece of soap and a towel.

Montgomery Street ended one more block up at 101 Belmont, a street of commercial establishments, factories, a large commercial bakery, and the Krueger brewery.

The business on Belmont facing the end of Montgomery Street was the Greenberg Sash and Door Supply Company. It had a store front in front and in the back was a woodworking shop where skilled union carpenters working off blueprints from building contractors built window and door frames and other building parts. My dad was one of those carpenters

Also on Belmont was a movie, The National, near Spruce Street, where I saw my first movie in 1929. I believe it was Douglas Fairbanks in The Man in the Iron Mask.

So many happy memories as a kid of seven or eight, growing up on Montgomery Street in Newark's Third Ward in the 1920s.

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