I read the Old Newark memories with a great
deal of fondness for my native city. I grew up on Mt Prospect ave,
between Montclair and Coeyman Street. My parents were Irish immigrants
who came to Newark in the early 1950s, met at an Irish American
Club function, married and had 10 children in 13 years. We lived
in a three-bedroom brick row house. The neighborhood was mostly
Italian with a minority of Irish, Cuban American, and Puerto Rican
We didn’t have much, but we knew we weren’t poor because
we didn’t live in the projects.
I now live in a suburb of Portland Maine, where you have to get
in the car and drive in order to buy a bottle of milk. It is at
these times of driving everywhere that I think most fondly of Newark
and the block I grew up on. One could spend their whole life on
my block and never have to get in a car.
First a description of Mt. Prospect is in order. Mt. Prospect was
a wide avenue, paved with brick, and many of the side streets were
paved in cobblestone. It was a beautiful tree lined avenue from
Verona all the way to about Second Avenue, or maybe even Bloomfield
Avenue. Utility poles were above ground making natural safe zones
for the game of Tag.
On the side of the street I grew up on, there was a small grocery
store, I think called Carino’s. Every kid who went into the
store received a slice of bologna from Mr. Carino, or whoever was
working behind the meat counter. We bought “chopped meat”
there, never hamburger. Next to the grocery store was a tailor/
tux rental place, which I don’t think I ever entered. But
you could rent a tux there and get married around the block at the
“Italian” church, Immaculate Conception. We played baseball
and lots of other games in the parking lot of the church. Thankfully,
we never, to my knowledge, broke a church window and the priests
were most accommodating to us city kids. Right at the corner of
Montclair and Mt. Prospect was a bar and grill, named Hopkins Tavern.
There was a furrier business in the home of Mr. Colello (sp?) (I
think), and his brother had a shoe repair business on the corner
of Coeyman and Mt. Prospect. We would get used rubber shoe heels
from him to pitch when we played hopscotch. There was also a beauty
parlor in one of the row houses down towards Coeyman Street. There
I got my hair done (set, teased and sprayed) for the Our Lady of
Good Counsel 8th grade graduation dance!
The other side of the street had every other conceivable business
one could need or want to survive. Liss Drug Store was on the corner
of Montclair and Mt. Prospect. Candy bars there were $0.05 or six
Directly across the street, also on the corner of Montclair and
Mt. Prospect was a toy store which carried a large selection of
Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and The Hardy Boys books. At one time
I owned every one of the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. Near
the toy store was a dry cleaners. And further down the street was
a fish store, which I remember going to every Friday to buy fresh
fish for dinner.
Old Mrs. Waldron (I think) owned a penny candy store, where you
could gorge on a nickel. Further down the street was a liquor store
owned by a nice family from Nutley. I received many beautiful hand-me-downs
from that family. Nearby was Pepe’s (Italian) Deli - where
you could buy the best cold cuts, hard rolls and fresh vegetables.
Pepe’s is owned today by Chris Virginio who grew up on the
block in the 1960s. Chris, I’m told, also owns the liquor
store as well. Congratulations, Chris!
I almost forgot the German bakery, I think it was called Schweikert’s,
where people would line up on Sundays for their pastries, especially
the “crumb buns,” the likes of which I’ve never
been able to find since I left Newark. I’m told that the owner,
Mr. Glatzel had a flour allergy!
There was also a hardware store named Weber’s. I remember
my dad sending each of my brothers, in turn, on April Fool’s
day to the hardware store to buy a “glass hammer!”
By now you are undoubtedly saying “but they couldn’t
buy clothes or shores on the block.” That’s true, but
just one block down on Mt. Prospect near Verona avenue was Mintz’s
a shoe and clothing store. Although I didn’t appreciate it
then (foodie that I am now), there were two other stores of importance:
an Italian coffee roaster, Juvelis, (I can still remember smelling
the coffee as we walked by) and a shop that sold homemade ravioli,
which Mrs. Calcagno, and many other Italian mothers and grandmothers
in the neighborhood frequented. There was also a perfume factory
where many of the girls had summer jobs. Oh yes, we had interesting
It was the most wonderful neighborhood to grow up in. Next to Mintz’s
there was a trampoline store where for $0.25 you could bounce on
the trampolines for some specified period of time. Branch Brook
Park was nearby with tennis in the summer, Dead Man’s Hill
for sledding in the winter, and many teenage nights spent on “the
Bridge.” The cherry blossoms of Branch Brook Park rivaled
those in Washington D.C.
In the summer we worked and/or hung out at the Ridge Street School,
where I honed my table tennis game and the boys their basketball
games. When we were younger (pre riots) we walked, yes, walked (although
sometimes we took the #27 bus) to the 77 steps to swim at the Boy’s
Club. In the fall there was football in the street, gangs of youths
playing touch football on an “island” on Heller Parkway
just west of Highland Avenue. To catch the ball on a single bounce
off the hood of a parked Buick was a completion. Three completions
- a first down!
Stickball in the street -- On hot and sticky summer nights -- playing
stickball on Ridge Street with a sawed-off broom handle and a Wiffle
ball from Nebb’s – and if the wind was right –
getting hit with the sickly sweet smell of malted barley and hops
from the Pabst or Ballantine breweries.
For the men and boys -getting a haircut at Vinny’s, the barber
on Mt. Prospect, (between Elwood and Heller Pkwy) took three times
as long as it should have due to phone calls Vinny had to take in
the back from his other customers as part of his second job as Vinny
the Bookie. Vinny would ‘go away’ every now and then
for about 6 months to a year.
There’s the memory of the “junkman” coming around
weekly in horse drawn wagon – picking up junk and sharpening
kitchen knives. You could hear him coming a block away. And of course,
the “egg” man and the milk man who delivered fresh farm
products to us city folks.
Most of us who went to OLGC grammar school went to Catholic High
Schools: OLGC, Essex Catholic, EOCH, and a smattering to Mt. St.
Dominic’s, the Hall, and St. Benedict’s Prep (It was
a very sad day when “Benedict’s” closed in 1972!
And of course, most of the other schools subsequently closed down,
and Benedicts is open again. How ironic!
I’m not sure how many people are still around Newark –
I left in 1975, and though I love my adopted state of Maine, and
the beautiful Town of Cape Elizabeth, I’ll always love the
Forest Hill section of Newark, NJ. Special thanks go to Peter and
Stephen Sisa and Phil Mattarazzo who have shared memories which
have gone into this revision.
I’m sorry if I’ve messed up names etc. I’m 51
now and have been gone for 31 years. So I welcome correction and