Busse Park Grill

by Martin Carbone

Click on photo to enlarge:

Busse Park Grill was located on Elizabeth Avenue, directly across from Schleifer Memorial Park (before the park was renamed). I believe they catered primarily to blue-collar workers and truck drivers who worked on and around the Frelinghuysen Avenue industrial area.

The above photo shows Julia and Rudolph (Rudy) who had the diner built for them after seeing a similar diner on a trip to Chicago. They probably opened the diner around 1925. Before that, they operated a small tea-room within a bus station, and Max Diner in Harrison N.J.

They lived in a small two bedroom bungalow on Maple Avenue -- just before the Hillside border. My Mother Helen Busse (Carbone) worked at the diner as a child. She was working there as a waitress when she met my father, Martin F. Carbone who was a truck driver-customer. She was probably 15 and my father was 18. I think they they secretly married within a year. I was born 3 years later.

Julia and Rudy retired around 1943, turning the diner over to their son Henry who had a thriving bookmaking business as his main interest. Henry sold the diner to The Johns Manville Company ('44 or '45?), who moved it to their manufacturing plant in Virginia where it was used to feed the plant's employees during the manufacturing boom stimulated by WW II.

It was closed during the 60's and remained in Virginia where it was being considered for a move to the Smithsonian Institution as a good example of diners of that era. A few years ago (2002?) I was in contact with some collectors of diner information. They sent me photos of the inside and outside of Busse Park Grill where it was still standing in Virginia.

Julia and Rudy were typical hard working immigrants from Germany. Julia (Steinke) Busse was born in Essen, Germany on Feb 6, 1890. Rudy was probably a few years older. Rudy minded the cash register and Julia did the cooking. I think she was famous for her pies and good German cooking. I know I loved her potato soup, potato pancakes and blueberry pie.

A distant relative wrote to me a few years ago --- "My Uncle Frank (Buddy) Nelson worked at the diner when he was a teenager, he ran away from home (Hackensack area) to Aunt Julia's home. She put him to work in the diner. Frank was born in 1920."

Julia and Rudy taught the restaurant business to a nephew, Fred Steinke (b. Oct 10, 1896 d. July 1967 in Irvington, N.J.). Fred opened "Fred's Diner" at the corner of 18th Avenue and Stuyvesant Avenue (circa 1942?) where he prospered for many years. Julia worked at Fred's diner as a waitress for a number of years after she retired from Busse Park Grill.

In 1946 I worked at Fred's Diner as a dishwasher. My grandmother Julia and I worked together during that summer -- she was 56 and I was 14. I threatened a customer one day when he wolf-whistled at my grandmother's legs as she climbed a small ladder to change a sign. He apologized and that ended the incident.


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