Various Newark Memories

by Quint Villanueva


I just returned from DC where I participated in the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. I went there via NJ where I spent several days with my sisters touring the greater Newark area.

I took the opportunity of driving through my old neighborhoods to see if the houses I grew up in were still there...nada. Blessed Sacrament Church is still there, the Jewish Temple across the street from it is now a protestant church, Baptist I think, and it is operating just fine, it seems. My old neighborhood on So. 11th is an unrecognizable disaster, as is most of the Clinton Hill section.

I drove down So Orange Ave, past St Antonitus, around past the Dominican Sisters cloistered convent on 13th Ave. I ventured downtown, through Broad and Market and was pleased to see that some of the old buildings were still in pretty nice condition - the City Hall was beautiful - and I found McGovern's! The last time I was in McGovern's was on St. Patty's day, 1957, after the parade and it hasn't changed one bit from what I can remember. Thank goodness something is still there from the old days. I had a long talk with Bill Scully, the owner, who knew a host of cops that I worked with years ago. Scully just sold the place and is retiring. He is a real gentleman.

I visited the art museum...wonderful! Anyway, I thought I might run into someone from this website just by chance while I was downtown, no luck. If I had more time I would have contacted Jule but it'll have to wait until next time. Anyway, McGovern's was great, Museum Great and it was all in all a nice tour through my home town

CIRCA 1945.

The Police and Fire Athletic League was launched in Newark. Fire House Stations and Police Precinct Stations sponsored neighborhood baseball teams, uniforms and all! It was the first time many of us played in an organized baseball league on a real diamond, usually we played in a dirt field or empty lot, used large rocks for bases and an old, used ball, taped over with electrical tape or Johnson & Johnson adhesive tape for a baseball. Our coaches were policemen and firefighters...great coaches, friends and role models who probably prevented many of us from going down the wrong path and getting into serious "trouble".

The Greatest Show On Earth

Who remembers when the three ring circus would come to town, pitch their tents and put on the Greatest Show On Earth. As I recall, they used to set up in a field down around the railroad tracks, not sure of the location. In later years the circus would set up the tents in Elmer's Field in Irvington. We used to sneak under the Big Top to see the three ring show...and there were the sideshows too, remember? Does the circus still come to Newark or is that all history now?

Blue Star banners and War Bond rallies

Most of you may not know what I am referring to, so let me explain. During World War II, when a young man or woman was serving in the military, the family would hang a small white banner with a blue star in its center, usually suspended from the lock of the front window of their home, which could be seen by passersby. The size of the banner was not more than 5x8 inches. If more than one family member was in the service, than a star representing each person in the service, would be on the banner. There were many homes in many neighborhoods in Newark that proudly displayed these banners. If a serviceman was killed in action, the family would then display a similar banner with a gold star instead of blue, signifying a son or daughter who made the supreme scarifice. To this day there exists an organization known as the Gold Star Mothers of America whose members have lost children in any of the wars or military actions since and including WW II.

National Guard Armory

Does anyone remember the National Guard armory on 16th Avenue and Littleton Ave or Camden Street circa 1937? As I recall it was the meeting place for a cavalry unit composed of black soldiers. I was very, very young at the time but seeing those spit and polish soldiers left an indelible impression in my memory. The soldiers wore military jodhphurs and wrap around leggings. As I recall, some had knee high riding boots that were polished to a mirror like shine. All the soldiers wore campaign (Smokey the Bear) hats. Obviously, a very impressionable sight for a five or six year old to see as I can still recall the scene.

Remember the Drum and Bugle Corps?

When I was pre-teenager I was a member of the Robert Treat Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, sponsored by an American Legion post that was located on North Broadway. We practiced once a week and proudly marched down Broad Street in every holiday parade. I alternated between being a bugler and a flag bearer, which, I think, prepared me for my stint in marine corps. There were other drum and bugle corps around the Essex County area. Some of the guys from my neighborhood played and marched in the other corps, however, we would practice together in our neighborhood, a couple of drums and a couple of bugles and voila! a jam session. The Robert Treat Cadets also played at many of the WW II dedication ceremonies and war bond rallies where communities dedicated their Blue Star banners, a huge banner containing a number of blue stars, arranged similarly to the stars on the american flag, each star representing a young man or woman who was serving in the military. Too many of those blue stars became gold stars, representing those young americans who made the supreme sacrifice for us.

Horseback Riding

During the late '40's I lived on So 11th St between Avon and Wooldland Avenues. We were then in our teens and my friends and I did a lot of horse back riding, even owned our own quarter horse. We rode through the South Orange Mountains and Livingston every chance we got..and played hookey many times to do it. We wore Levi's long before they became popular and the only place in Newark they were available was at a Red Allen's store on Prince Street. Our favorite music was then called "western or cowboy' music..and the DJ who played it broadcast from the top of the Robert Treat hotel, I believe the station was WAAT. I remember one night my friends and I visited the studio just for kicks and we ended up being interviewed for about an hour, between songs. In those days the big names in country music were, Ernie Tubbs, Little Jimmy Dickens, Homer and Jethro and Hank Williams...and of course Tennesse Ernie Ford who was just beginning to "cross over" to popular music. A couple of the guys I rode with later became mounted policemen in Newark. I am still in touch with some of those old friends and we all still ride horses... and we don't have to play hooky to do it.

Those were some really great days!


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