Der Grubber Peddler

by Nat Bodian


During the late 1920s, before I reached the age of ten, I lived in the old Third Ward on Montgomery Street, five blocks down the hill form Prince Street, the main shopping street for Newark's large and growing Jewish population.

The Prince Street block, from Spruce Street to Montgomery Street, was lined along the curbs on both sides of the street with pushcarts. The numerous business establishments along that block also had outdoor sidewalk stands where their merchandise was easily accessible to the numerous passing shoppers, mostly Jewish housewives.

My Sunday Morning Treat

I recall eagerly looking forward to walking up to Prince STreet on Sunday mornings to shop with my mother because it usually meant a rewarding visit to "Der Grubber Peddler." (This translated into English as 'The Fat Peddler').

Der Grubber Peddler, the name by which he was known to one and all, had his pushcart along the curb on the west side of Prince STreet, about 50 feet north of Spruce Street.

My excited anticipation of a visit to Der Grubber Peddler was fueled by the strange nature of his Sunday morning offerings: broken toys and damaged houseware and household items -- all unsaleable and considered discardable. We suspected they came from Bamberger's.

I recall one of my mother's great buys which adorned our kitchen shelf for many of my growing-up years. It was a large ceramic cookie jar the size and shape and look of a pussy cat. Its cover, which neatly fit the rounded jar opening, was a clown's head.

My earliest toys were broken wind-up toys, usually with broken springs, or missing parts, and almost always bearing a "made in Japan" imprint.

Money was scarce in our family, and I fondly recall that, with minor exceptions, nearly all the toys of my early childhood originated with Der Grubber Peddler on Prince Street, and gave me many hours of pleasure, each at a cost of a penny, or a few pennies.



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