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May 2024
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Early Childhood Developments
Filed under: General, Rutherford & NJ
Posted by: Ken @ 9:52 am

We visited Niagara Falls when I was almost three years old. All I can remember about the experience is being very frightened, walking along with my parents in a space that seemed to be under the actual falls. It was rather dark, and a wall of water cascaded down over us. We may have been wearing rubber rain coats and hats, and there was a lot of mist. ..

Ah, Doctor Freud, I do remember living in that apartment over the White Front Market at the corner of Union and Springfield Avenue in Rutherford, New Jersey. I did not know then that we were in the depths of the Great Depression, or that Italy had invaded Ethiopia and Nazis had stepped up their persecution of the Jews, nor did I know about the Dust Bowl, or Babe Ruth leaving the Yankees for the Braves.

It was fun looking out the window overlooking Union Avenue to watch the traffic, including the horse drawn ice wagon. The wagon usually parked on the wrong side of Union Avenue just under the window. Almost every day, the Ice Man used large tongs to carry blocks of ice into the market. Most of it must have been used in the market’s big meat cooler. I can remember the butcher breaking up ice blocks in a basin and pouring the chips into the meat display case.  The horse had side blinders and the Ice Man used a flat iron as a weight to hold the horse’s reins while parked at the curb. I probably looked down at my future spouse, then an infant, as she was wheeled by her mother who shopped at White Front. They would soon move away to  Wood-Ridge, and our paths would not cross until high school and college days.

From the sidewalk to the cornices of the flat roof, the façade of the White Front Market was covered with square white ceramic tiles, and the theme carried into all the interior walls. White Front specialized in nice cuts of beef and had a big white meat case that ran all along its right side.  Its single room seemed large in those days, but probably was only about 60 feet wide by 80 feet deep. In back there was the walk-in cooler with a heavy wooden door. Sides of beef hung in a row on curved spikes along the sides of the cooler. Sawdust covered all the floors. Flypaper hung from the ceilings

We had ice delivered for our wooden ice box, but I think we also had an electric “Frigidaire” (actually a GE) with a big vented cylinder on top for the condenser and fan. When I was a bit older we kids would chase after the ice wagon and the Ice Man often rewarded us with chunks to suck on.

In the apartment there was a big bathtub in which I enjoyed making the water surge back and forth, ever higher and higher, and over unto the floor. Once I got a great wave going, and flooded the cookie section in the market below.

Nabisco had a display that consisted of a rack of boxes set in 3 or 4 rows on an angle. The boxes had glass doors and were filled with stacks of loose cookies and crackers. You could pick out whichever cookies you wanted, put them in a brown paper bag and pay by the pound. My bath water had trickled down through the holes in the linoleum, down through the floorboards and out through the tin paneled ceiling of the market, to drip on the containers.

A few cookies got wet before the owner, Mr. Hugh Hallam (who was also our landlord) knocked on our apartment door. My mother hurriedly mopped up the bathroom and then bundled me up in a bath towel and we ran down to inspect the damage.

There I was in front of the cookie display, scared and sobbing, the center of attention with Hugh and his butcher, Otto Fischer, and a few customers staring at me in the altogether. Mom was profusely apologetic, and I vividly remember kindly Mr. Hallam saying that I had damaged some cookies and I had to eat them. The mixed memory of fear and pleasure of that incident persists, vividly, but in isolation. We lived above White Front Market until I was about three years old. By then, I didn’t know it, but the Nazis had invaded Austria, the Jews were being banished to ghettos, and Joe Louis had knocked out Max Schmeling in the first round.

How exciting… Such interesting stuff! Next I’ll try to remember all about moving to the rent house just down the street.

One Response to “Early Childhood Developments”

  1. Jackie Says:
    Ken - I am the director of the Meadowlands Museum in Rutherford. Our town historian found your posting when he was researching the White Front Market. We would love to talk to you. If you are willing, would you e-mail me? Thanks.

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