Downtown Newark Memories

by Kenneth Allan


I have many memories of downtown Newark, and I am just old enough to have seen the last of the glory days, and witnessed first hand downtown's decay in the 70's and 80's.

First, living in Kearny we could be downtown faster than many people who lived in Newark, Kearny is that close. We would drive, or take the 36, 38, 39, 40 or 41 Public Service Bus. Sometimes as a treat my father would drive to the Franklin Avenue stop on the Newark Subway and we would take the old trolley's to Broad Street.

Once downtown, lunch at Hahne & Co was a given, we would have lunch at the Maple Room in the basement, and they had the best Hamburgers!. Hahne's had a second restaurant on the Street Floor, The Pine Room, and although by the 1960's dress codes were no longer in effect, to my parents you did not go to the Pine Room unless dressed up. Hahne's had a great Toy Department in the basement and it featured many imported Toys, they also had Sporting Goods, Electronics, Housewares, and a large Budget Store on that level. Hahne's was always Newark's carriage trade store, and it's famous red boxes at Christmas time were coveted. This is where I would have my annual visits with Santa

S. Klein was always a lower end store, but it was busy! An announcer was always barking out the latest bargains on a PA system, and you could watch this person on the balcony level. Kleins had a fun Toy Department in the basement, and they had a great soda fountain with orange ade and hot dogs right by the Halsey Street entrance

Chase was located where the highly thought of Kresge-Newark was located, and Chase still used a few of the dark paneled open cage elevators and they were fun to ride. Chase had a great logo with Chase in the middle flanked by 2 Lions, and the motto "Quality-Value-Service" below. Two Guys moved into this space later, and it was modeled as a "better" Two Guys, with more clothing departments, and no food market. When the Two Guys in Kearny ran out of something we could usually find it Downtown.

Orbach's was located at the corner of Market and Halsey, and this is where I would usually be dragged to go back to school shopping. Orbach's also lacked a Toy Department, so as a kid it was my least favorite store!

Bamberger's was Newark's largest department store and it was always hyper busy. It installed automatic elevators that included "automatic" announcements as to what was on each floor, and instructions on what cars would serve the lower levels (Bam's had 2 of them). Their Toy Department, Santa Land and train display were all on the 4th floor making things very easy. There were always special events and demonstrations going on at Bam's. When my sister was planning on getting married we all attended a Bridal Show on the 10th floor in the private Downtowner Club. For this event they used the old open cage elevators complete with uniformed operators. The Downtowner Club was at one time a public restaurant, back when Bamberger's was a more opulent store.

Later when I was attending Seton Hall Prep school, I worked at Bamberger's from 1977 to 1980, by this time the store was only open 2 evenings a week and only till 8:00 (other days till 5:45). My first job was exciting, but it was also sad as it was clear that Bamberger's was slowly giving up on the downtown store. By 1979 evenings hours were cut (except at Christmas), and they started to convert more selling space to office space. Further the company was focusing events and the like at the Garden State Plaza store in Paramus. Still this first job of mine provided me with experience and Memories that will last a lifetime.


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