North Newark

by William McTernan


I was born at Presbyterian Hospital in Newark. In my early years, My mother and father and I moved a lot. Finally, we settled in at 645 Summer Avenue, just across the street from Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. There was a new church under construction. It was 1940 when I started in the first grade at Good Counsel School.

In those days, you didn’t say you were from Newark. You identified with a neighborhood. Neighborhoods were like separate countries. There were Jewish families in Weequahic. Irishmen in Vailsburg, Italians in the Central Ward. North Newark was a mixed bag, mostly Italians and Irishmen with a smattering of Poles and Germans and a few Jews. West of us was Forest Hill, where the rich people lived. Most of us went to Mass at Good Counsel.

The neighborhood. Everything was there, all the staples anyway. Bernie’s candy store on the corner of Summer Avenue and Heller Parkway where the Good Counsel kids hung out. A few doors up Summer Avenue, Marty’s barber shop gave a haircut for a quarter. Next door was the delicatessen. Across the street Roy’s butcher shop hired a boy to deliver orders riding a bike with an enormous basket.

A few blocks west was Mt. Prospect Avenue. There was an assortment of store-front businesses, Arnold’s, the neighborhood drug store; Nebb’s candy store; a National Newark and Essex bank and a pizzeria whose window featured a plaster statue of a mustachioed Italian cook wearing a red bandana and a white chef’s hat. You took your tomato pie home on a metal platter for which you would leave a dime deposit.

On Broadway, there was the Elwood Theater; always a double feature, a newsreel, a cartoon and previews of coming attractions. For kids a Saturday matinee was fifteen cents. Adults could take in an evening show for less than a buck.

For important purchases or special occasions, you went downtown. Within a five-block radius, there were five bus lines running all day long; the 13 the 17 and the 18 on Broadway, the 28 on Summer Avenue and the 27 on Mt. Prospect. Each had its own faraway terminus. One of them went all the way to Olympic Park in Irvington, with its rides and games and an enormous swimming pool with simulated waves.

By the time I was old enough to take the bus on my own, the fare had gone up from a nickel to seven cents. In fifteen minutes, the bus would hiss to a stop at Military Park or Broad and Market. Whatever you wanted you could buy, at Bamberger’s or Ohrbach’s on Market Street, Kresge’s and Hahne’s on Broad Street. Of all of them, I always thought Hahne’s the most....


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