Remembering The Past: Elizabeth In 1956

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by Diane Norek Harrison

ELIZABETH-This if from 1956 material sent to me by Frank Fay: “Elizabeth had a gang problem in the late 1930s. The police had a solution. Check the last paragraph in attached article.”

There Was a ‘Corner Gang”

“Well intended people talk a lot these days about ‘corner gangs’ A.D. 1956. The only ‘corner gang’ of our intimate acquaintance, and one who know all the batting averages which they discuss with avidly between their own batting practice sessions and before they all disappear into neighboring homes as the ‘shades of night’ are falling.

“However, this isn’t to say that we can’t reach back into the not too far-removed history of Elizabeth and produce a ‘corner gang’ to end all ‘corner gangs.’ Our captain of the gang would have to be the late ‘Mike’ Mulcahy, ‘Come to’ O’Loughlin, Archie Covell, ‘Lin’ McNamara and ‘Hen’ Moser. There, indeed, was a ‘corner gang’ to stroke terror and good manners into all the ‘corner gangs’ that sprang up after they become ‘late.’

“We don’t mean to leave the impression that they gathered on corners or any special corner and made life miserable for folks who passed by. What we mean to say is, they made it miserable for would be gangs that would.

“Comparative youngsters will still recall Police Chief Michael J. Mulcahy, resplendent and reserved in his blue and brass. A stranger would never picture him (actually) dragging a heavyweight prize fighter off to the lock-up without bothering to unsheathe his nightstick-but he did. And he never had to arrest any corner gangs. They disappeared like blackbirds off a lawn when Michael came along.

“And Michael O’Loughlin. They tore down the wooden viaduct over Port Avenue when he patrolled First Street. It became too unhealthy a roosting point for the gangs who were once want to gather there, dropping various items of unrelenting surface on the heads of passerby, notably policemen in their challenging pearl gray helmets. Or maybe Michael-O broke it up plank by plank-over heads’ of the roughnecks.

“Mammoth Archie Covell, rendering his own calypso, which warned, ‘don’t be here when I get back,’ never had to read the chorus. Big, brave men never challenged Archie and ‘gangs on the corner’ were never either big nor brave. More over, if Covell’s back was turned one never knew when the deadly combine of McNamara and Matson would hie into range-and their range was a long and wide.

“‘Hen’ Moser did his best hunting along Broad Street or in the vicinity of the old YMCA field, which was a center of baseball and football at Magnolia Avenue and Walnut Street before the Armory moved in. There, neighbors, was a one-man gang, for whom corner gangs grew to decent manhood in utmost respect.

“So it must be true that we do not have ‘corner gangs’ in this year of 1956. What a pity we have no gang of Mulcahy, O’Loughlin, Covell, McNamara, Matson and Moser to un-gang them. Of course, we might have to surrender a few modern ideals, which don’t appear to be working so well-not nearly as well as the finality in the formula employed by our nomination as a ‘corner gang’ to end all ‘corner gangs’.”

From Mr. Fay: “Perhaps the great-grandchildren of these brave men may still live in the Union County area. Chief Michael J. Mulcahy was my grandfather’s brother.”

My thanks to Mr. Fay for his contribution to my column!

If you have your own memories or past material for Clark, Elizabeth, Linden, Rahway or Roselle you can email dianenorekharrison@juno.com or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media 1139, East Jersey St,. Suite 503, Elizabeth NJ, 07201.

One of the old signs announcing trains out of The Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ) in Jersey City to Elizabeth and Roselle can still be seen at the restored train station at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. The terminal is not in use any longer, but is a tourist attraction where visitors get on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Elllis Island. (Photo by Diane Norek Harrison)


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