My Life in the Weequahic Section

by Sharyn Koenig


I lived in Newark from the day I was born in Beth Israel Hospital in November, 1955 until the summer of 1969. My grandparents (Sarah & Edward Horwitz) owned the 3-family house at 308 Renner Avenue. They lived on the first floor and we lived on the third; the second was rented out the to Steinberg (?) family. My grandfather also owned and ran a night club at 71 Bloomfield Avenue called Club Harold (named after his first grandchild, my cousin). We moved to 162 Goldsmith Avenue, the third floor apartment of another 3 family house, when I was a toddler. My Goldsmith years are the memories I recall vividly, and treasure.

School Days

I lived 10 houses down from Maple Avenue School, which I attended from kindergarten though 8th grade. I still have my Maple Avenue School ring and all my report cards! And, for some unknown reason, the words to the school song are as fresh in my memory as this morning's breakfast:

All hail to Maple's colors, maroon and gray!

May Maple be a leader, in work and play.

To our alma mater's honor, we will always be true!

Pass the test, beat the rest, we're the best school

We're Maple Avenue!

Since I made the age cutoff –date, I actually started kindergarten in September, 1959 when I was still 4 years old. Dad was not living with us, and Mom had to work to support us. And since we lived so close to the school, I was not allowed to stay there for the lunch hour. So I was a "latch-key kid" -- with a key on a red ribbon around my neck, I came home every day, climbed 3 flights up the back stairs to our rear door where the milkman from PM Dairy had left Mom's order in the silver milk box (remember milk and cream in bottles??) I ate lunch, which Mom made and left in the refrigerator for me, with the company of the little TV in the kitchen. I watched the clock, and left for school again when the "big hand was on the 4 and the little hand was just past the 12".

In kindergarten, I remember walking to school with my "milk money" pinned to my clothes in a tiny manila envelope for the teacher to retrieve!. How can I forget milk and graham crackers – still a great snack today! and my blue and red vinyl nap time mat with my special toy attached so I knew which one was mine??? Some of my teachers were Mrs. Ironson, Mr. Bash and Mr. Charnes for 8th grade. There were 4 8th grade classes, 8-1 (for the "smartest" kids), 8-2, 8-3 and 8-4. When I was in the 4th or 5th grade, I was a "helper" to the kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Cooper, and would help her get the little ones ready to go home by putting on their coats and rain boots ( I thought her idea of using plastic baggies over their shoes so their rain boots would go on easier was ingenious!). And who could forget that ominous figure, Dr. Gann, the principal of the school, who always seemed to be dressed in black with a big black hat??

After school, I occasionally played in the schoolyard with my classmates. I loved to play "knock-hockey". Sometimes after school Mom and I would go to Silver's Bakery (on Chancellor??), with the sawdust on the floor. They had the best rye bread (with the red and black paper label on the crust) and if you could get it warm... even better!! Mom would also buy their 7-layer cake, and I always got a free cookie from the baker-man.

As I got older, Mom would let me "go out" for lunch once or twice a week instead of coming home. She opened 2 charge accounts for me at 2 luncheonettes near Maple Avenue School... one was called Belford's (?) up on Clinton Place. What a grown-up girl I was, sitting at the counter eating my hamburger (25 cents) and sipping an egg cream! I would sometimes get a small brown bag of penny candy (pixie sticks were my favorite) or french fries in a brown bag for the walk back to school.

I was in a brownie and junior Girl Scout troop (# 472??) that met at Maple Avenue. My Mom, Adele Charles, was one of the leaders along with Marion Morris (Wendy, Leslie and Janet's Mom). There are 4 things I wish I had from my childhood, and my Girl Scout sash with all the badges I earned is one of them.

Life on Goldsmith Avenue

There were a few kids at or around my age on my section of Goldsmith between Maple Avenue and Parkview Terrace. I played daily with Sheree and Bobby Marowitz (and their dog, Tuffy), Beth Seigel, Jeffrey and Howard Novich, and Jackie Diamond. Sheree and Bobby lived in what I now know as a one-family dutch colonial, and compared to the little apartment I shared with my Mom, I thought it was a mansion. We all played dodgeball and kickball, and the girls played with our Barbie and Skipper dolls. When we were playing outside and I wanted a different toy that was 3 flights up, I would yell up to Mom, and she would send it down in a basket on a rope from the bedroom window! We also played stoopball with a small pink ball called Penske Pinky. Wow… I guess the name of that ball is in the same brain cell as the words to the Maple Avenue school song!!

Today, my Mom would probably end losing me to DYFS for this, but after dinner she would sometimes send me down to the milk machine on the corner of Goldsmith and Parkview with 55 cents to get a gallon of milk!!!

Summer was the best because it didn't get dark until 8:30 or so and we could play outside until then. I looked forward to the Good Humor man driving by, chasing after his truck calling, "Wait up!!" For my 25 cents, I got my favorite ice cream bar called Chocolate Chip Candy – it had a big piece of chocolate in the middle. Goldsmith Avenue is a hilly street with the slope going down from Maple Avenue towards Parkview. A few of us kids had the bikes with the "banana" seats and we would ride 2 on a seat, back to back, hands up in the air, streaming downhill. I took a big tumble only once, though, and ran home with blood dripping from my mouth (to Mom's horror).

As Sheree and I got a little older, we would go shopping "downtown" by ourselves to the Bergen Avenue shops. This wasn't really downtown Newark, but we thought it was the coolest!! Halloween was always a great time, too, and the lady living next door to Sheree gave out candy apples!

Fabyan Cabana Club

I have a picture of myself on a swing in the playground at Fabyan Cabana Club, near Valley Fair where Route 78 is now. The date on the Polaroid tells me that I was 4 years old. We had a cabana where we could change our clothes. We used to sit and the end by the main entrance, near the playground and by the kiddie pool with the Disney characters painted on the bottom. The main pool was huge, and shaped like a T. Painted on the bottom of the pool was a huge compass, with seahorses at points north, south, east and west. I was petrified to swim over that thing. Then one day my Dad gave me a white styrofoam kickboard, and my fears were gone. With that as my shield, I swam from one end of the pool to the other without ever looking back! My Dad and one of the lifeguards are also credited with getting this 5 year old to jump off the high diving board while both of them waited for me in the water below.

In the early to mid 60's, rock n' roll was going strong, and Fabyan had a concrete patio with a jukebox. All the teens and "tweens" would congregate there listening and dancing to music. This was the first place I ever heard the Doors' hit, "Light My Fire".

The Riots and Moving Out

The year 1967 was a tenuous year with racial tensions running high. Newark felt it big-time as evidenced by the riots in the summer of 1967. I remember driving on Lyons Avenue in Mom's baby blue 1966 Plymouth Valiant, with 4-on-the-floor, traffic being directed by the National Guard with bayonets. It left quite a lasting impression on an 11 year-old. During my 8th grade year, I was beaten-up 3 separate times by 3 different groups of kids. We, I think, had to have been one of the few white families still living in the Weequahic section in 1969. It was in that year that Mom and I moved to Union.


If anyone remembers Club Harold or Fabyan Cabana Club, please e-mail me!! I have not read anything here about these 2 places, and I am interested in your stories, recollections. Thanks


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