Remembering the way it was

by Kevin Wright


Although I lived in Harrison I have very fond memories of Newark from my early childhood days to my first leave from the army in 1968. Friday evenings would find me riding on the 43 bus and getting off by Kliens. From there it was up the street that took you to the back entrance of McCroy's, but before heading down the steps it was into the button shop that use to be across the street, It was a very small shop but I was always amazed at all the types and colors of buttons and the purchases my mother would make.

Then it was down the stairs to the lunch counter and either Chow Mein or a Club sandwich. And every so often when they would have the balloons up and you paid what the balloon had in it, I would get a banana split. While I ate mom would take care of her shopping and then it was off to Klien's. I remember one holiday season my mm sent me to Klien's very early on a Saturday morning to be first in line so that I could get my sister an Easy Bake Oven.

A stop in Klien's would usually be followed by a stop at Kresges (known as K-Mart these days). Out the back of there and down the street to Bamberger's followed by a stop at Woolworth's. There, if I was really good on a Saturday I would get a treat of one of their Ice Cream Sandwiches. These were made with real waffles with a slab of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream in between.

We would cross Broad Street and Market Street and grab the bus back to Harrison. If it was really cold, sometimes we would run into Chock Full of Nuts until the bus arrived.

I was also a member of some sort of club at the Newark Museum. I even saw Kuka, Fran and Olie there one summer. The bees coming into their hive in the back was really interesting. And during one summer we got to make a book with real snake skins in it.

During my high school days I worked in the mail and stock room for INA in the Mutual Benefit Life Building up on the 15th and 14th floors. During the summer we would go across the street to the park to eat our lunches or buy one of those great hot dogs with everything on it.

It was also during my high school days that my dad started a new ritual of going down to Market and Mulberry Streets on a Saturday morning to visit the butcher shops and grocery markets. He would drag me and my sis along and I still remember the saw dust on the floors and my dad buying a whole baloney for a week of sandwiches for all of us.

High school also saw me visiting the passion pit of the Newark Drive-In and one of my buddies from school actually worked there. I am not sure what he did but he sure met a lot of girls. I too recall the Pic's in the summer and the heaters in the winter there.

I remember riding over to get our senior pictures taken in Newark during the riots. My buddy Joey had a Vespa Motor Scooter and we went sailing past National Guard soldiers riding in Jeeps with machine guns mounted on them. Being young and foolish we didn't even realize what danger we were in.

Christmas of 1968 saw me arriving on the bus at Penn Station. It had been a ride of 3 days and nights from El Paso, TX where I was stationed in the army and this was my first leave. I threw my duffle bag over my shoulder and headed up McCarter Highway towards Harrison. When I got to the Mutual Benefit Life building I stopped in to see that old gang of mine. I was to learn that Al & Joe who I worked with in the mail room had gone into the service as Marines.

The next few years as I was in the army would see me countless times going to Penn Station to take the train back to base. I will always have fond memories of the Newark I knew and keep it close to my heart even if I am on the other side of the US.


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