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My Grandfather's home on Girard Place

By Ray Miller

 

        My Grandfather, Joseph Okin's last home was at 84 Girard Place in Newark.  The building was of three story all brick construction (a more costly building than more conventional wood) and had a matching detached garage at the rear.  This was reached by a paved driveway from which cars could also be diverted and parked on the rear lawn .

        The house was entered into a small vestibule connected to the living room at the right.  In addition, at the rear of it was a stairway to a landing leading back down to the kitchen or up to the second floor.  Beyond the living room was a small "sun parlor" in which was positioned a piano.  To the rear, behind the living room was a conventional dining room in which meals were often served to ten or twelve or more people by Ruzza, the kitchen's major domo who produced wonderful and fragrant meals.

        The second floor contained four bedrooms and a narrow stairway to the third floor.

        In sum, the house was neither ostentatious, grandiose, or pretentious, merely "comfortable".. and none of us (the grandchildren) had any impressions of it being something "special".

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        Recently, I received the following e-mail from a contemporary who in the 1930-40's lived on Hobson Street which was located almost directly across Hawthorne Ave from Girard Place:

        Girard Place was an enclave unto itself.

        Doctors, A Music Teacher and small business owners lived there.  The high priced cars parked in front of the houses told the story.

        The houses were grand and overshadowed the places that surrounded the street.  Even the street lights were different.  When I moved to Los Angeles in the early 80's I encountered the same streetlights in parts of Beverly Hills.

        I used to walk up Girard place to get to Clinton Avenue and made a left turn on Clinton to get to the Roosevelt Theater.

        Now it looks like a combat zone.

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        And coincidently, on July 29th I heard from Nita Randell who, with her parents and sister Joan, lived with Joseph Okin on Girard Place for a time after the death of my grandmother Selda in 1942:

        "I was always told the story that Girard Place was very exclusive - that when Grandpa built the house around 1924 there were private police guards patrolling both ends of the street, protecting the inhabitants - not the Girard Place I knew, but whenever I said where I lived my friends would say, "Oh, Girard Place" - like it was something special."

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        And none of us (the grandchildren) ever had any impressions of Girard Place having been something "special"!!!!!!!!
 

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