When I think back to my early childhood
days on that Montgomery Street block bounded by Quitman and Monmouth
Streets in Newark's old Third Ward, I am reminded of the variety
of street vendors who made stops on that block on a regular basis.
The most frequent was the ice man, for those who could afford
home delivery. People who patronized the ice man would be given
a square card, about 12 inches by 12 inches with a different number
facing up on each edge. Daily, the householder would put the card
against the front window with a number standing up -- a "15"
told the iceman to bring up a 15 cent piece of ice, a "25"
meant a 25 cent piece of ice, etc. and deposit it in the ice box.
Another street regular was the little man pushing a pushcart laden
with bananas, his cart covered with quilts--perhaps to protect his
bananas from the sun's rays.
He would come by with a chant that I still recall: ba-nan-ahs...
ripe ba-nan-nahs.... if you no got thee mun-nee you no get the bun-nee....ripe
As I recall, he sold them by the dozen, something like 10 cents,
15 cents, and 20 cents a dozen, depending on size.
Another regular was the junk man, driving a horse and wagon. I
don't recall his chant, but he would buy up old and broken pieces
of furniture, scrap metal, and odds and ends giving a few pennies
for each purchase.
Another street regular was the knife sharpener. He would push
a cart with handles like on a wheelbarrow with a huge sharpening
stone wheel and would sharpen knives and scissors. He used a little
clapper against a ball to attract attention, as I recall.
In the fall, I remember the sweet potato man, pushing a hand cart
with hot sweet potatoes. For a penny, three cents, or a nickel,
you could buy warmed up sweet potatoes of varying sizes.
Also, in the fall of every year, we were visited by a farmer who
grew apples and sold them off the back of a horse and wagon. His
wagon was loaded high with baskets, probably half bushels, of winesap
apple--his only variety, and you bought the basket and apples for
In the summer, as kids of 6, 7 or 8, we were periodically visited
by a truck with a rickety merry-go-round on its back which had about
six seats. For a penny, you could get a short ride on the merry-go-round
on a colorfully painted horse.
Also, in the summer, our block was visited by a magazine man.
He would attract small children by displaying a variety of toys
and prizes on the top of his car trunk which he said could be won
by selling magazines. Different numbers or magazines sold earned
different prizes. I think we also got a small commission for each
magazine sold. I tried one year, selling Ladies Home Journals. There
weren't many buyers in my poor neighborhood. I don't recall winning
any of the prizes.
Children of the 1920s from other Newark neighborhoods may have
different recollections of street vendors, but for us 6, 7 and 8
year olds, our Montgomery Street block was our own little world,
and these vendors were part of our world.