In the late 1930s, when I
started my newspaper cub-reporting days, Newark was a great newspaper town
boasting four papers. Two were afternoon dailies -- The Newark Evening
News, and the Newark Star-Eagle. Also a seven-day-a-week tabloid, the
Newark Ledger, and a thick weekly -- The Newark Sunday Call.1
In earlier Old Newark memories, I
have dealt with my own journalistic start with the Newark Ledger. I have
also written obituary-type memories of the venerable Newark Evening News and the
esteemed Newark Sunday Call, and of my associations with each.
However, the third Newark daily --
the Newark Star-Eagle -- never touched my life as a young, budding journalist.
Therefore, there was nothing I could write about it.
But now I can. Reviewing a
newspaper article I filed away more than a quarter of a century ago, I
discovered, nestled in it, a brief 1930s recollection of what went on inside the
walls of the Star-Eagle building, written by a former Star-Eagle reporter, Ben
Kluger was a native Newarker, who
grew up in the living quarters behind his father's shoe business on the corner
of Congress and Ferry Street in Newark's "Down Neck" section.
In his recollection, Kluger talks
about losing his job at the Star-Eagle in the late 1930s. In all
likelihood, his job loss took place at the time that the Ledger-owner, Samuel I.
Newhouse, bought the Star-Eagle and moved his Ledger operation from 80 Bank
Street into the Star-Eagle building at 217 Halsey Street. With that move
and the accompanying change from a tabloid to a full-size paper, he renamed his
morning paper the Newark Star-Ledger.
I was already associated with the
Ledger at the time of the Ledger move into the Halsey Street building. I
don't recall knowing of anyone at the renamed Star-Ledger who had been carried
over from the now defunct Star-Eagle, except for my sportswriter idol, Anthony
The Star-Eagle City Room
Here is what reporter Kluger had
to say in his 1977 writing about his days in the 1930s at the Star-Eagle:
"Journalism was still in its
'Front Page' days.2
The City Room at the Newark Star-Eagle was disheveled enough to delight Ben
Hecht or Charles Macarthur and it was people by a colorful cast of characters.
"Frustrated playwrights, amiable
drunks, glib con men, brassy photographers, hot-shot reporters lured by the
mirage of the Pulitzer Prize, or enhanced in their self-esteem by the
reportorial performances of Lee Tracy3
and Clark Gable,4 budding
novelists fresh from Harvard, brash cubs from the gutter, young men on their way
up, old men on their way down.
"Meager salaries gave them a
starveling existence, while the publisher made ostentatious journalistic
philanthropies to Yale.
Working the Newark Beat
"We reporters who worked the
Newark beat were the recorders of Newark's day-by-day events as the decade edged
toward the '40s ... the scandals and the gang shootings ... the fires, the
thefts, the murders ... the political wars with the perennial
combatants--Ellenstein, Byrne, Parnell, Franklin, Duffy, Minisi, Villani,
Keenan, and Brady."
Kluger's Recollection and Star-Eagle Both End
Kluger's Star-Eagle recollection
ended at this point and probably the Star-Eagle's end as well. The
Star-Eagle published its last issue on Saturday, November 18, 1939.
Shortly thereafter, the aging splintered wooden Star-Eagle desks and noisy
manual typewriters were quickly taken over by Ledger newsmen who moved over from
80 Bank Street.
At that time, busy with outside
sports assignments, I didn't get to know too many of the Ledger's seasoned
insiders, but I was given fatherly treatment by Star-Ledger sports editor and
columnist, Joe Donovan. I can attest that this Ledger newsman, at least,
closely resembled the "Front Page" model.
He was known to be physically
tough on people who came in to complain, and I vividly recall the noisy clatter
of his typewriter keys on the roller as he pounded out his daily "Between You
and Me"5 column on his
ancient Underwood with his two forefingers.
And, as a young reporter who had
just returned from a rough assignment, Donovan gave me this advice: "Nat, you're
a newspaper man. You're supposed to be smarter than everybody else."
Years later, when I wrote my own
sports column at a suburban weekly, I modeled it after Donovan's column and
called it "Let's Talk It Over."
Email this memory to a friend.
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