I guess it is fitting that the last post in this series of Passaic memories is about Friday night shopping. Nana loved to walk downtown on Friday nights when the weather was nice. The shops were open, but shopping wasn’t her main objective. Downtown was one big social gathering on Friday night. You might say everyone who was anyone (that covers pretty much the whole population) meandered downtown to visit with friends.
The yellow pin is my house and the red pin at 68 Lexington Avenue was in the heart of the shopping area. After dinner, Nana and I would head east on Summer Street and then walk south along Lexington Avenue, often arm in arm, until we reached the first store, which was Manny, Moe and Jack’s Pep Boys auto parts store at 75 Lexington Avenue. Of course, we never went in there, but from that point on, there was lots of window shopping.
To understand our walking path, another aerial view will help.
Main, Central and Lexington Avenues were the major roads crossing Passaic to the Clifton border on the north. See where 6 Lexington Avenue is in the bottom right corner? That is the bottom of a double V of street intersections. Heading northwest from that intersection, up one side of the V is Main Avenue. Heading due north up the right side of the V is Lexington Avenue. Now look carefully as you head north on Lexington Avenue. Another V is within the larger V and splits off from Lexington Avenue. That street, also heading mostly northwest is Central Avenue. Keep in mind that my block of Summer Street was bordered by Central and Lexington Avenues. 6 Lexington was near the very beginning of Lexington Avenue. If you walked south past #6, the addresses became Main Avenue. Therefore, as we window shopped along the east side of the street, small shops were on Lexington, but by the time we reached S.S. Kresge and McCrory’s, even though we were physically on the same street, the street name changed to Main Avenue. The west side of the street was home to banks, opticians, movie theaters and other non-window shopping types of businesses.
Here is a view of downtown in the early 1960’s. I know it is after fall 1963 because that is when the railroad track that went down the middle of the street was removed and the space was turned into public parking. This is the far end of the shopping area as McCrory’s was usually our last stop before we headed back home.
As we headed south along Lexington and then Main Avenue, we crossed Monroe, Market and Jefferson Streets, all filled with small family owned businesses and restaurants.
After passing Pep Boys, we son reached Thom McAn’s shoe store at 48 Lexington Avenue, the place where Mom invariably first stopped when I needed new shoes. It wasn’t a big store, but they certainly had a lot of shoes from which to choose. Today, Lexington Electronics is there, but only the address number 50 is used today. Thom McAn’s was in the shop space on the right.
Ginsburg’s children’s store at 26 Lexington Avenue, always had beautiful clothes in the display window, but I never remember anyone buying any of them for me. They were likely too expensive unless on sale. However, each year, we did go there to make one necessary purchase – my blue bloomer gym suit, which was required for gym class at #10 for grades 4-6.
Bargain Man is housed there today. It just doesn’t have the same feel as the old shops.
After Ginsburg’s came Nadler’s Department Store as 8 Lexington Avenue. One year, my mother had saved up my Christmas and birthday money, which totaled $35. We went shopping at Nadler’s for some new clothes for me and I fell in love with a pinkish-tan suede jacket with short fringes on it. My mother must have also liked it and it was on sale for the astronomical price of $10.00. Mom said I could buy it, but that I would have to give up one of my weeks that coming summer at the Y day camp (which apparently cost about the same amount of money.) I readily agreed, we bought the jacket and I wore it everywhere until it didn’t fit anymore.
When Google went around filming Lexington Avenue, Nadler’s old spot was still a children’s department store, but it, too, was going out of business.
Right next door was Record City, today an ice cream shop. Record City drew many shoppers to their window displays, not for records, but for those new-fangled tiny things called transistor radios. They came in lots of colors and you could actually walk around with them outside, listening to your favorite radio station. I had my heart set on one that had the unattainable price of $6.98. These new radios were made in Japan and were ridiculed for their overall poor quality. Little did we know how that reputation was going to change.
Although I loved walking downtown with Nana on Friday nights, one thing was very frustrating for me. All of Nana’s friends were also out walking and every hundred feet or so, we ran into one or more of them. Then Nana had to stop and talk for about five minutes, but the chatter was always in Slovak, which I didn’t understand. I didn’t mind that she visited with friends, but the constant stopping and talking cut into time in S.S. Kresge’s and McCrory’s, which always had tantalizing items for sale.
Christmas time was especially fun, as I saved up to buy gifts for my family. My goal was to spend no more than one dollar on each gift. One year, I found a beautiful little lace hanky for my other grandmother for 75 cents and I snapped it up. Nana sifted through the boxes of Christmas cards that she would be needing (the ones that I addressed) and we always ended up carrying a couple of bags of cards back home.
Sadly, Kresge’s and McCrory’s have been replaced with the sub-divided space for Rainbow and Fabco Shoes and Magic Sneaker.
The last stop on this memory tour is Jefferson Street, which is between Kresge’s and McCrory’s. There were two shops that I remember. The first was the Dumont Record Shop at 197 Jefferson Street, which carried all the latest hits, but also had a great supply of oldies. I was beginning to listen to popular music by 1961 so I was in awe of this shop, even though I didn’t buy records there until some years later.
181 Jefferson Street was a favorite stop on the shopping tour because it was the home of the Jefferson Bake Shop, which sold the most delectable home style treats, with everything from pastries to cookies to pies. Nana wasn’t big on sweets, so it was always a treat when she bought me a cookie.
Surprisingly, this store is still a bakery, but I can’t imagine that their desserts are as good as the Jefferson Bake Shop.
After about three hours of window shopping and visiting with friends, Nana and I would head back home, reaching 49 Summer Street sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 pm. Then it was off to bed for me.
I hope you have enjoyed my tour of memories of Passaic. It was a wonderful place in which to grow up.