I had started with the Star Ledger in l937 (It was the tabloid Ledger then) as the high school correspondent for Central High School, just up the hill from the Ledger. In those years the Ledger had a correspondent in each of the city's high schools who would phone in the scores of various athletic events as they took place at the schools or by them.
I was brought in by Paul Brienza who was the correspondent for Barringer High. (He went on to bigger and better things in life including director of public relations for Seton Hall College and, I believe also later on pres. of the National Association of Home Builders).
We high school kid correspondents were funneled through the Newark Ledger (later Star-Ledger) sponsored sports office based in the Proctor Theatre Building. It was then called the Metropolitan News Service. 1 (I still have my MNS Press Card).
Enamored of the newspaper business, and being just 'up the hill' at Central High from the Ledger, I made it my business to not only seek out opportunities to be in contact with the Ledger, but also to bring my 'stories' in personally when the office opened at 6 PM.
Once in, I hung around the entire evening, ran copy over to the Ledger building, and became closely acquainted with the news office staffers, Sid Dorfman, Frank Judge and Les Malamut. Also over at the Ledger building, I got to know the sports editor Joe Donovan and sports department staffers, Bobby Dwor, Jim Ogle, and Willie Klein. I also became friendly with the keepers of the Ledger 'morgue' (library), William Hunter Maxwell and his assistant and son, Emerson (who had graduated from Central High).
As I began to hang around the news office evenings, and schedules were made up for the following day's scheduled sporting events, there were weak spots in coverage where the Ledger had no one to send so I would volunteer and began picking up many stray assignments.
By 1940, I had been covering varied sports events on a steady basis including Saturday night polo at the Essex Troop Armory on Sussex Avenue,, Sunday night professional basketball games of the Hebrew Club at the High St 'Y', Sunday morning bike races of both the Bay View Wheelmen and the Alpine Wheelmen at the Weequahic Park Track, amateur boxing tournaments (AAU, Golden Glove, Diamond Belt) at the Newark Athletic Club, midget auto racing at the Nutley Veledrome, professional wrestling at the Laurel Garden, the Saturday trotting races of the NJ Road Horse Association at Weequahic Park, and much more. 2
One autumn Friday in 1940, Sid Dorfman asked me what I knew about 'squash'. "Never heard of it, I told him, what is it? Never mind, he answered--you'll find out. I want you to go over to the Essex Club on Park Place. They're having a big squash racquets tournament over the weekend and I want you to cover it. (Essex Club A club for young Newark men prominent in the city's business and social life).
Having never turned down an assignment, no matter how challenging, I went. At the Essex Club, I explained to the tournament chairman I was covering for the Ledger but knew nothing about the game. He assigned a member to sit with me through the tournament and explain every play and explain the meanings of the victories as there were intense rivalries involved in the tournament.
Sunday night, when I returned to the Dorf Feature Service (the Met News Service was now the Dorf Feature Service) I asked Sid Dorfman, as was my custom after an assignment "How much do you want?"
The usual answer was something like 2, 3 or 4 paragraphs and summaries (or no summaries) or whatever space had been allocated for that event on the night's schedule.
Sid told me "Just sit down and write."
Apparently the schedule was light and they needed copy to fill space.
I must have typed 7 or 8 pages before I got finished--the longest story I had ever written at the Ledger.
I wondered how much of it would be left after they got finished with it at the Ledger.
Next morning I picked up a Star-Ledger and went right to the sports section for what I feared might be bad news.
Not only was my story the lead article, bit they had printed my entire story. Then it suddenly hit me. There at the top was my very first Star-Ledger by-line "By Nat Bodian."
I was on a cloud that entire day, as I walked the streets of downtown Newark that day my feet never touched the ground. It was probably the most exhilarating day of my life.
© 1998-2004 Old Newark WebMaster. All rights