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How a Former Star-Eagle Reporter Described the 1930s at the Paper

By Nat Bodian

 

        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.

        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.


Kluger's Recollection

        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 (Tony) Marenghi.


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."
 

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