Winter And Christmas Memories

Remembering the Past by Diane Norek HarrisonBy Diane Harrison

CLARK-Here is a winter memory from Kimberly Cooper Ramalho: “One fond memory I have of winter in Clark, is one year we had huge snowstorm that kept us out of school for days. My sister, brother and I made tunnels through the snow that we could actually walk through. I have not seen a snow like that ever again but I still secretly wish that one day I will.”

ELIZABETH-From an email: “I remember when I was a kid seeing all the beautiful Christmas lights in the Norwood section.”

Here are some winter memories from reader William Frolich:

“At one time Ursino Lake, which most of us called The Reservoir, was used to supply drinking water to residents of Elizabeth. But, by 1929 the water was too contaminated for that purpose. The lake was private property, and a watchman used to chase off any people who might have wondered on its shores. By about 1935 that was no longer done, and very cold weather that winter froze the lake solid and several inches thick. Skaters came from miles around to glide over its smooth surface and there was room for all of them. Even students from Alexander Hamilton Junior High School were permitted to be there, if their last period of the day was gym, and most of them took advantage of the opportunity.

“There are memories of ice skating on the lake in Warinanco Park, and one winter when the Park Commission had the field next to the lake flooded with water. This water froze also, and it made a good skating surface that no one could fall through and drown, because the water was only a few inches deep.

“There used to be a spot on the Elizabeth River after it passed under Morris Avenue. There were times when we used to ice skate on that river. One winter the floodgate at the dam was opened slightly, and as the water slowly slipped out, the thick layer of ice settled and rested on the lake bottom. This was fine, as there was no way anyone could fall through, but as ice settled, the edges became saucer shaped, making it very easy to get on the ice, but somewhat difficult to climb off.

“Like many things that used to be, the lake is gone now, and although the dam is still there, the body of the lake has been filled in, leaving only a couple of narrow streams of water to flow through in its place. It was fun while it lasted. Those were just a few of the good old days.”

Here are some Christmas memories from Elizabeth from Mr. Frolich:

“Christmas in the good old days”, as seen thought the eyes of a young child.

“In the good old days Christmas did not begin to come into our thoughts until long after Halloween and its fancy costumes and edible delights had been forgotten. Thanksgiving was beginning to make its way into our thinking, and after that holiday was over, our minds could begin to consider the wonders and mysteries of Christmas.

“The downtown are of Elizabeth was showing signs of the coming holiday. Christmas trees were for sale everywhere. Almost every gas station had a row of trees on display, and even some of the small stores had added to their stock in trade. Any empty lot was filled with evergreen trees of all sizes, and some sellers hung up signs advertising that one dollar would buy any tree on the lot.

“Broad Street also had a holiday appearance, with Santa Claus’s helpers dressed in red suits with wide black belts and complete with long white beards, ringing bells as they asked for money to be placed in their nearby small brick chimney. There were three 5&10 cent stores within two blocks, and each one had a fascinating display of toys both in their windows and inside on their counters.

“On the corner of Broad and West Jersey streets, the Georke-Kirsch Department Store filled the corner window with operating electric trains and an animated group of Santa’s elves making toys in his workshop. Further down the street, Levy’s Department Store had a toy section not quite as magnificent as Bamberger’s in Newark, but it was closer to home and we could walk to it. Unfortunately for us children, we did not get to see this splendid display of playthings very often, as we were not allowed far from home without a grownup as an escort.”

I will have more Elizabeth memories from Mr. Frolich in my 2009 columns.

I collect winter and Christmas past information of the area all year, so if you have some, never too early to send for 2009. If you have your own memories or past material for Clark, Elizabeth, Linden or Rahway you can email me at or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media, P.O. Box 1061, Rahway, NJ 07065.

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