Looking Back at Life at Monmouth Street School in the 1920's/1930's

by Nat Bodian

Recalling Monmouth Street School, it was the neighborhood school I attended from the mid 1920s to the mid-1930s.

It was built in the post Civil War era, and while perhaps state-of-the-art when first built, it was vastly outdated during the years I attended there.

The various floors were reached via two stairwells -- an UP stairway to the left, and a DOWN stairway to the right. The wooden steps creaked when you stepped on them.

I recall there were eight classrooms on each floor. On the top floor four of them were in a square divided by walls of hinged doors empanelled with blackboards that folded back against the wall.

For auditorium, the four walls of the four rooms would be folded back against the wall and the fixed-in-place classroom seats would become the auditorium seats.

As there were four other classes on the same floor, we sat two-in-a-seat so that the four classes that would normally occupy four rooms took up only two rooms. In this way, the other four classes on the floor doubled up in the two empty rooms.

I recall that the school had no library, no gym, no manual training shop, or no room for domestic science. For manual training shop, we trudged to Charlton Street School about 6 or 7 blocks away.

I recall only about three memorable happenings during my years as a student at Monmouth Street School.

One was assembling in the 'Auditorium' weekly during certain periods for the "Music Appreciation Hour" being broadcast over NBC radio by Walter Damrosch, conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

He would open each Music Appreciation radio session with "Good morning, my dear children," in his richly-sounding slightly German-accented voice.

Another 'Auditorium' happening rich in my memory was a visit and performance by a tribe of Hopi Indians from a village in Arizona, performing in native costume. For all of us, these were the first live Indians any of us had ever seen.

The third happening was joining the Knothole Gang at the school. As a Knothole Gang member, on certain days of the baseball season, we would be bussed from the front of Monmouth Street School to the Newark Bears (Ruppert) Stadium on Wilson Avenue to watch the Newark Bears baseball games. For me it was the first and only times I ever witnessed any professional baseball games, even though in later life I worked as a sports writer and sports editor.

I have one other fond memory of Monmouth Street School. It was the first time in my life that I was ever made to feel important. It happened when I strapped my metal patrol boys badge on my right arm and stood duty at the corner of Monmouth and Montgomery Streets as a police patrol boy.

I recall that all the kids at Monmouth with me were well behaved and that there were no bad incidents up until the time of my graduation in 1935. I wonder how many kids that went through the Newark School System in the later years, and especially in the second half of the 20th century can look back at only good memories of their school.


Email this memory to a friend.
Enter recipient's e-mail: