Saturday, June 2, 2007

Modell's

As a kid I was carted off to Arnold Constables and Packards by my mother. Then there were the forays to Main Street and Grants and Woolworths. Later when they built the Paramus malls we would go there.



But Dad's favorite store was Modell's. It was the sort of place where a man could feel like he was getting a bargain. It was a big, weirdly shaped store at the bottom of Kaplan Avenue, south of the Hackensack line in Lodi. Many of the departments were independently run so there was a flea market atmosphere to the place.



The grocery store took your purchases and put them on a conveyor belt which you then retrieved by driving to the pick up station on your way out of the store. If you were so inclined, you could get a haircut for ninety nine cents.



The floor was always dirty and for a kid, it was great fun to streak your shoes against the coated sugar and grease of the floor. They had a record store which wasn't half bad. It was here that I purchased my first record for 77 cents. A copy of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" with the original Beatles singles cover.



Outside the store were empty box cars, where an adventurous kid could play. One Wayne Manley, a kid a year younger than me, played there after getting a haircut. The box car turned over and crushed him to death.



The next day the news spread all over the school. For some reason my teacher gave me an errand that involved sending me down to the third grade classroom. The classroom of death. Cautiously, I entered the classroom where the late haircut boy had been enrolled. The kids all looked sad but some of the boys were smirking.



We all learned our lessons. Kids shouldn't play in boxcars.



A month later I came to school on a different route because I wanted to see where Frankie's Market had burned down. "Christ" the Junior leader said, "I though you was....Wayne Manley"

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too have fond memories of Modells. I remember the boxes they put the bags of groceries in, they were numbered and color coded as well. Also in the basement of the building there was a small movie theatre where they showed scratchy black and white movies. Most were cartoons, but I remember some silent live action films as well. This was a place where parents could park their kids while they did their shopping. I also remember seeing Edward G. Robinson Pipe tobacco in the smoke shop.

Mister Mustache said...

I almost forgot. I went there once and I remember the old movies. Thanks for refreshing my memories

antmanbee said...

I remember when Frankies Market burned down. I lived on Sidney St...way before Kennedy Park. Saw the flames from my window. Went to St Francis de Sales on Union Street.
Sidney Street was dirt road back then.
Big empty lot between my house and a couple of houses where black families lived.
Stamato Brothers kept some of their equipment on empty lot.
Just past the houses where Black families lived was the Golden Key Bar.
Palisades Park put little picture of "Pal" under matchbook striker of some of the matchbooks.
If you found a Pal you got a couple of free rides.

Used to be commercial on WABC after midnight
Dennison Clothiers...route 22 Union NJ....
some bad poetry to go with
hello hello I'm Dennison ...Joe
and don't you know
I sell clothes
etc

Modells...on hill between Saddle Brook and Hackensack...

Anonymous said...

ma sjekke:)

Anonymous said...

I was a 3rd-grade classmate of Wayne Manley at Fanny Meyers school. I befriended the transfer student and like others in the class (Mrs. Greenberg), I was miffed that they wouldn't tell us any details about what happened to him, they wouldn't even let us see the newspaper, so to this day, I know almost nothing about what actually occurred (the rumor was that stone from the mill next to Modells that filled the boxcar fell over, not the car itself.) So, were you in 2nd grade at the time (Miss Balestrino?)

Mister Mustache said...

I had dear Miss Balestrino in the 2nd grade but by the time of the event I was in the fourth grade with Miss Stevens.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Mustache et al from Fanny Hiller's school. In the early 1960's I was in the 5th grade there (Mrs. Romney's class) when Wayne Manley moved into Hackensack. I was in the Junior Leaders squad (glorified crossing guards with white reflective shoulder belts) when Wayne came to my assigned post on Summit Avenue on his way home from school one day. He asked me where I got my hair cut (I actually had some hair way back then) because he was new in town and did not know where the barber shops were. I told him about the cheap haircuts available at Modell's Shopper's World. A few days later he was found dead....crushed by falling gravel in an open boxcar on the railroad siding just off Modell's property. I learned later that his parents told the police that he had gone to Modell's for a haircut and that he was supposed to come right home afterwards. Of course he never made it and I always felt a little guilty about directing him to Modell's in the first place. A few years later I moved to neighboring Paramus and attended Paramus High School. While there I wrote an essay for Mr. Boyce's English class about Wayne Manley's death and my very peripheral involvement in the sad situation. It was meant to be cathartic. It didn't really turn out that way.

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