New Caldwell Public Library Local History Collection Blog!

Discussion of the new Caldwell Local History Collection at the Caldwell Public Library.

I can't believe that we finally have a blog to celebrate, discuss, add to and learn about local history in the Caldwells.

We hope that everyone will look at the images posted here and tell us what they remember about them—like where they were when the Park Theatre burned down, (You can admit if you skipped school to go to the Woody Allen triple-play there!), or how the Speer Oil Co. fire started.

This is going to be a lot of fun!

—Bruce White, archivist

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jo-Ann Wolsky July 14, 2011 at 12:55 PM
I believe it was Laufer Brothers.
Jo-Ann Wolsky July 14, 2011 at 01:44 PM
This is a blog that I am so looking forward to following ... and contributing my two cents for whatever it may be worth.
I'm really looking forward to hearing folks from the community comment and add to the knowledge base about these images! Thanks for commenting
Forgot to mention that these images were all taken by the late Gene Collerd, staff photographer for the Caldwell Progress as well as a freelancer who photographed the Caldwells and West Essex for some 60 years!
Jo-Ann Wolsky July 14, 2011 at 09:19 PM
Gene Collerd was the best ... he took my wedding photos.
WR Downey July 14, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Bruce, great selection of shots... thanks for sharing them! The photos are a great tribute to Mr. Collerd as well as the Library's collection. It is also a tribute to the volunteer firemen pictured... I could see West Caldwell FD from one of the turnout coats, but I suspect that there were many of the West Essex VFDs represented in all of the pictures.
Kimberley Huff July 15, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Love these Pic's. What yr were they taken?
Barbara Davison July 15, 2011 at 12:47 AM
I was in school when the oil tanks exploded. We didn't know what had happened but heard the noise and saw the fire and smoke and the nuns at Mt. St. Dominic had us all say prayers. If I remember correctly, the oil got into the pond at the park and it didn't freeze over that year. I was coming out of church at St. Al's when the smoke was everywhere. I saw so many movies at the Park theater. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Planet of the Apes, and I think Mary Poppins were some of the movies I saw.
Christine Corliss July 15, 2011 at 04:23 AM
I love the idea that I will be able to learn more about the history of my town through neighbors and friends! Thanks to all sharing their memories!
Regan Ray July 15, 2011 at 11:26 AM
Jo-Ann, It was Laufer Brothers, one of the brothers name was Albert, can't remember the other. Ray
Teresa Akersten (Editor) July 15, 2011 at 12:37 PM
Thank you to Richard Gibbs for contributing a scan of the back cover of the 11th Annual program of the Kiwanis Kapers from 1939, which shows an ad for Speer & Son Coal-Fuel Oil Co (image is attached with others above). Many of us can't imagine that a railroad track crossed over Roseland Avenue, but this image gives a very clear depiction of what it was like.
The railroad tracks, originally built as the Caldwell Rail Road, connected what was then called the Greenwood Lake Railroad at Great Notch (now a NJ Transit train station). The first train to run on the line left Caldwell for Great Notch on Monday, August 3, 1891. In Caldwell, the train station stood where Gelotti's is located, complete with a passenger waiting room and ticket counter, a baggage holding building and a large water tank to fill up the steam locomotives used at that time. There were stations along the way from Caldwell to Great Notch including Overbrook Hospital in Cedar Grove and another at the Pompton Turnpike overpass. The line was eventually extended southwest from Caldwell to Morristown; the Roseland RR connected with the Morristown & Erie and Lackawanna Railroads there. The tracks meandered southwest stopping at stations such as Essex Fells, Roseland, Whippany, etc.. Passenger service ended in the 1960's; although short freight trains used the line into the 70's, the line was abandoned in 1976. More can be learned about the railroad and the history of Caldwell in a book titled A Puritan Heritage by Lynn G. Lockward
What year would it have been that you witneSsed the fire?
Richard Berg-Andersson August 07, 2011 at 09:53 PM
I actually attended the Woody Allen triple play which began at Midnight on Saturday July 13, 1974 (in the wee hours of what we teenagers would've considered to be "Friday night"). I had driven, with five of my friends, up to Caldwell from Madison and had no idea, till very recently, that the theater burned down the very next day! (I learned about this from a classmate in junior high school who had moved to Caldwell before high school and actually was an employee of the Park at the time of the fire)
ALLANKOHN August 11, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Evelyn Rosenthal-Rosenkranz August 11, 2011 at 03:23 PM
I worked in the Park theater selling tickets when I was in H.S. My friend Shirley Fox and I did alternating shifts and had a blast. Skippd a few afternoons to see tne movies. I graduated HS in 1951 when the HS was on Academy rd I lived on Prospect St across from thr burnt out hotel Monomenock Inn. Anyone remember that fire???
DMT August 12, 2011 at 08:15 PM
I can remember the Speer fire my Dad was on the Essex Fells Fire Dept at the time. The fire at the Park theater I had been sunning at Crane's pool and responded to the fire call with the West Essex First Aid Squad it was a very hot day and a very hot fire. Many of us remember playing golf with Gene Collard, he was one great guy!
DMT August 12, 2011 at 08:17 PM
But what was next to Laufer Brothers?
barbara caccavella August 16, 2011 at 06:41 PM
I lived in No. Caldwell, graduated GCHS class of 1960. As far as I can remember Laufer Bros. shoe store was closer to the HS. It was next to a small diner called Specs. I lived in the area from 1956 until 1978. I am still drawn to my home town after all these years. I spent my youth at the Park Movies. Wow, what memories. Barbara Caccavella
DMT August 17, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Come to think about it, there may have been two fires at the Speer site. One in the late forties or early fifties and then the one where the oil tanks exploded. The fire in the forties was more of a lumber yard fire, I can remember standing on Mannheim Road watching my Dad go up the latter to fight the fire.
Ricky Albano February 11, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I it is great to have a place to post collective memories of caldwell. I witnessed the disasterous fire that consumed the Park Theatre and the Stage Door pub. Two facts about this I know is I had aa few of the metal letters from the marquee(sp)... and I think the Park Theatre in Union City is still there. It was a sort of twin to ours... Ricky Albano
E. Breen April 11, 2013 at 09:28 PM
I am looking for a photo of the Kiwanis Kapers in Caldwell around 1957, it had the Police Gazettes featured, and I was in it, Anyone having a photo of that show? B. Breen
John Wright July 12, 2013 at 10:46 PM
Does anyone remember the house that burned down around 1947 located near St. Al's. If I remember a woman died in that fire and supposedly was found in the bathtub.


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