Newark's old Third Ward, in the 1920s,
1930s, and 1940s had few automobile owners and its residents favored
places of amusement in the neighborhood that could easily be reached
For we neighborhood kids, the movie houses were the center of
I recall attending all three Third Ward movie houses -- the National
on Belmont Avenue, just off Spruce Street, and on Springfield Avenue
between High and West Streets, the Savoy on one side at number 101
and directly opposite it the Essex, at number 100.
I never attended the Essex, but went once when it was still the
Hill Theatre1 and
carried vaudeville along with its movies. The Savoy was a weekly
habit prior to my tenth year with money earned selling Star Eagles2
on Market Street after school.
But unique among the Third Ward theatres was Elvings Metropolitan
Theatre at No. 117 Montgomery Street, corner of Charlton3
and just one block up from Prince Street. It was the home of Yiddish
plays and operettas.
It opened in 1922 and continued in operation until 1944, providing
Newark's numerous Yiddish-speaking immigrants who had settled in
and around the Third Ward with a place to relax, to forget the cares
of their daily struggle for survival, and to laugh and cry at the
stories of Jewish families like themselves, adapting to life in
The Yiddish theatre had been built by the Elving family, Jewish
actors, and the plays staged there were mostly written by Bernard
and Rose Elving.
Among the performers who had appeared on the Elvings stage and
went on to stardom were Menashe Skulnik and Moishe Oysher.
I recall being taken to Elvings just once in my younger years,
although I grew up just a few blocks down at No. 29 Montgomery Street.
Although I was under ten when I saw my Elvings show, I still recall
the closing line as the final curtain came down.
An aged Jewish father is on his deathbed and his son is kneeling
at his bedside. The father, with his dying breath is saying to his
son; "Yankele, zey a Yid....Yankele, zey a Yid."4
He then expires.
As I remember it, I had never seen so many crying adults.