A Stroll Down Bloomfield Avenue by
50
(52 Stories)

Prompted By Shopping Local

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I look back with fondness to the three-block street on Bloomfield Avenue where we did a lot of our shopping when I was a child, in Verona, New Jersey. (Full disclosure, this photo is more recent and not the exact spot, but does represent the look I remember.) My mother drove us there and parallel parked our 1957 Plymouth station wagon (to this day I don’t know how a 5’1″ person handled that car) where she could find a space.

United Cigar, run by the Cohen family, was packed with cigars and cigarettes, all types of magazine, and oh, the candy!

Our first stop often was the general store, the name of which I can’t exactly remember. I’m recalling something like “Hanes.” (Jersey folks, any recollections of the name?) This store sold many items, including basic clothing and underwear, which we often bought. We then would go to a small shop called United Cigar, run by the Cohen family. It was packed with, of course, cigars and cigarettes, but also all types of magazine.

And oh, the candy! We weren’t allowed treats very often, but occasionally I got bubble gum cigars, Necco wafers, wax lips, pixie sticks, and those strange wax bottles full of sugar syrup. The Cohen’s daughter, Enid, gave me piano lessons when I was 10, and, given my utter lack of musical talent, I still feel sorry for her. Such a small world wouldn’t exist today.

By the time I was in 9th grade, the Bonds ice cream shop opened across the street from United Cigar. Their unique marketing trick was a concoction called an Awful Awful. I don’t know exactly what was in it, but if you drank three you got the next one free. The glass didn’t look that big, so, despite my major milk allergy, I convinced my mother to try it. The Awful Awful was the richest drink I’ve ever had, and we managed to get through just half the glass between the two of us!

Also at about this time, farther to the west of Verona, something new came into existence–the Willowbrook Mall. It was one of the first malls in the nation, and I wasn’t particularly fond of it. None of my classmates wanted to hang out there, thank goodness. I haven’t been back to Bloomfield Avenue since the 1970s, so I don’t know its fate, but I hope the little shops there still exist.

Online shopping is amazingly convenient, and I do it. However, I still try to shop locally when possible, especially in the last quarter of the year, when malls become really annoying because of the Christmas (and recently Hanukah) season. For the last 10 or 15 years, I have headed to the town of Los Altos, which has downtown-style streets, and manage to get unique and delightful gifts. It brings me back to the fun times of Bloomfield Avenue.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: been there, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I totally relate to your amazement at your 5’1″ mother parallel parking your Plymouth station wagon, Marion. I am shorter and insist on driving a smaller car, myself, as I do have difficulty seeing the ends of the car. I’m so grateful now with the sensors on the front and rear bumpers!

    I can feel your fondness in the description of the three blocks on which you shopped and how pleasant it was to go with your mother and family on those outings…and the candy! Perhaps places like this still exist in small-town America, but not many and on-line shopping is certainly dooming bricks and mortar. It is hard to compete with the convenience and variety. At least we have our memories.

  2. Suzy says:

    Marian, you and I had the same childhood, except I could walk to most stores instead of driving in the family Plymouth. There WAS a store called Hahne’s (with an H in the middle) which is probably what you are thinking of for basic clothing and underwear, although I would call it a small department store rather than a general store. We went to their flagship store in Newark which was 5 stories, but they must have had a smaller one in Verona.

    I also loved those same candies you describe, especially the wax lips and the wax bottles with syrup inside. And OMG, the Awful Awfuls at Bond’s! Not only did you get the 4th one free, you got a big button that said “I was a pig at Bond’s”! I never achieved that status, but I knew some people who did.

    And I vividly remember going to the Willowbrook Mall when it opened in the late ’60s. Thanks for bringing back all these great memories!

    • Marian says:

      We did have the same childhood, Suzy, amazing. Thanks for filling in Hahnes. I didn’t know about the Newark store. Yes, two big guys from my high school met the Awful Awful challenge. My stomach aches to think about it.

  3. Waittt a minute. Awful Awfuls? That, too, is from my youth but not from a Bonds. In our town the establishment was Wittig’s – a stand alone ice cream shop with great burgers as well. And they had the same promotion: if you drank three – at one sitting – you got a fourth. There was no take out so it was to be enjoyed (?) there. A neighbor, who was a couple years older, managed to do it one Saturday. He was sick for a week thereafter. Might say he had an Awful Awful week. I am aware of another unrelated chain in Rhode Island, Newport Creamery that offered Awful Awfuls, at least at one time. Don’t know if they had a similar promotion.

  4. Awful Awful addendum (that’s the addendum is about Awful Awful, not a judgment on this post). A quick search reveals that Bond’s filed for trademark protection in 1948. Newport Creamery bought or licensed the intellectual property so there use was subsequent and derivative. Don’t know where my Wittig’s fits in. And apparently the Friendly’s chain may have described its Fribble as an Awful Awful at one point.

  5. Oh the candy! Brought back memories of the 5&10 stores and our grubby hands in our pockets clutching the coins of our weekly allowance. Thanks for sharing this story!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Marian, I too remember that candy and a time when there were stores that only sold things like wax lips, candy buttons (anyone remember those?), and the so politically incorrect candy cigarettes. Hahne’s is likely the equivalent of my Main Junior Department Store. Thanks for a trip down memory lane.

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