Two Generations of History in Newark

by Allan Lacki


Wow, do I have memories about Newark!

My dad, his parents, and all his brothers, uncles and aunts lived in Newark, New Jersey between 1907 and the 1950s. They left their farm in the old country to seek their fortune in Newark. Well, the streets weren’t paved with gold. Instead, they were paved with clay bricks! Do you remember the brick pavement on the back streets of Newark?

My dad grew up in Newark during the 1920s, and worked for a milkman, delivering milk to tenement houses at 3 o’clock in the morning while he was still in grammar school. My dad remembered living in a house with gaslights, and although the family always had indoor plumbing, some of the neighbors still had outhouses in the 1920s.

His older brother, Alex, used to sneak him and his other brothers into the theaters downtown, by opening up the emergency exits while the ushers weren’t looking. They saw Sammy Davis Junior, back when Sammy was a tap-dance kid. To get back uptown, my dad and his brothers would hitch a ride on the back bumper of a trolley car!

Brewery work became a family tradition for a generation or two. My grandpa worked as a boiler operator at Krueger’s, and two of my uncles worked at Ballantine’s. After holding a number of odd jobs, (including a one-day stint at Schickhaus), my dad got a union job at Ballantine Brewery. He worked there from 1953 until it closed in 1972. Then, he transferred over to the Pabst Brewery – the place with the huge brown bottle on the top!

Memories: How about Italian hot dogs at Emily’s and Jimmy Buff’s? Lehrhoff’s bakery on Belmont Avenue? Giordano's Italian bakery on Seventh Avenue? And what about the donut shop on Springfield Avenue? It closed down after the riots, but I remember my dad bringing home jelly donuts from there, and they were great!

Somebody mentioned Mc Crory’s. My mom used to take me there, any time she went shopping downtown. We’d go to Bamberger’s, Hahne’s, Orbach’s, and Klein’s. Then, we’d go to Mc Crory’s for a soda!

Do you remember when underground garage at Military Park collapsed? It happened while it was being constructed, sometime around 1960. I recall that several construction workers got crushed to death.

Big military parades were popular in Newark. I remember seeing tanks in the parades on Broad Street. I also saw President Kennedy's motorcade drive through Broad Street around 1962 or 1963, just a few months before he was assassinated in Dallas.

I remember a big antique car show at Washington Park, across the street from the Newark Museum. The year was 1959 or 1960. My mom has a photo of me, standing in front of a 1906 Cadillac.

My grandma’s tenant was a chef at the Roma restaurant, which was located on one of the side streets downtown. He used to keep his life savings stored in the trunk of his 1953 Pontiac! Auto theft was not a problem in those days.

Yep, I spent a number of years in Newark, myself. I went to Newark College of Engineering throughout the 1970s and got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees there. I spent a lot of time at the great Newark Public Library, the New Jersey Historical Society. And yes, who can forget McGovern’s!


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