June 17, 2008
In my search for myself and Hoboken, I have picked up a few travellers who are acting as tour guides to the past. Slezak emailed his friend Dennis, and both of them are filling me in on what it was like to grow up in Hoboken in the 1940’s and 50’s, roughly the same time frame in which I managed to grow up in Lower Alabama.
Both of them are enthusiastic in their descriptions of Abel’s ice cream parlor, the teenagers’ hangout that used to be across from Sacred Heart Academy.
This from Dennis (“The Rabbi”) Maloney:
When we first went into Abel's the soda was 25 cents and it was a big glass. There was no dance floor and it was always packed in the back. People just didn't want to sit in the front on a stool, I guess.
Abel's is where you went to meet girls or girls went to meet boys, whatever! Abel's had those wall jukeboxes at first. Twenty five cents let you play three songs, I think. There was always popular songs on the juke box.
Mr. Abel was a very patient man. He used to run the place with his brother, who later opened a place out in Newark, N.J. I think he had the other place on Market Street. The Hoboken store used to make up this real big ice cream dish that the three of us could never finish, and it cost a reasonable price. I think Mr. Abel got a kick out of seeing us trying to eat all that ice cream and getting sick.
Later on he added the dance floor by removing the wall from the store next door and charged for the dancing. Then he put a limit on the time you could spend in the store, or you could reorder another soda or whatever you were having. He actually hired a bouncer named Eddie the Criminal. This guy was a real nutcase. He thought he was a real big shot!! I would like a nickel for all the times he almost got kicked on his butt by someone. He knew who was impressed with his role and who was not.
Eddie really got married and spent his honeymoon in Abel’s!! Yep, the day he got married, he brought his new found wife to Abel’s for all of us to meet. Told you there were some weird people back then.
Abel’s were the years of the three musketeers. Joseph Coutant, Eddie, and me. We were Mousie, Eddie, and Dennis. Poor Mousie had to get all his teeth pulled out due to a gum desease, but this also had a bright spot. While riding on the bus up to Palisades Park, we would spot some girls to go swimming with and maybe go on rides with, if we got a kiss or two. If Mousie thought they were ugly, he would take out his teeth and smile at them!! Oh! It really was a laugh.
One time on the diving board, he dove into the water and lost his teeth! Don't ask me how he did this. We had to go diving for the darn things and we got them.
We three were from different parts of Hoboken, yet were fast friends. We even dated with another three girls. But I will not go into that!
Even when I went into the Army we kept in touch, once in a great while. It was a treat to get a letter from one of them. One by one we got married and went our separate ways. Eddie Casler has gone now, to meet his Maker, sad to say. Mousie still lives in New Jersey and I called him up and it was just like we saw each other yesterday.
Abel's got a little crowded later on for us teenagers and we used to go to Umlands. Stella, bless her, had the patience of a saint. We wanted to date her daughter Janice, but we knew Stella. Rather do without then offend her. I used to have my lunch at Umlands on school days, high school that is. I had a standing order, two egg sandwichs on a hard roll, a vanilla malted milk, and a piece of coconut custard pie, with vanilla ice cream on top. You have to remember that I worked on a milk truck in the mornings and could burn off all the calories, climbing all those stairs. You had to be quiet doing it and sometimes you got a note in the bottle saying, "No milk today!"
The dancing in Abel's was like trying to fit 100 couples into a shoe. The room was so small. We figured out a way to get the juke box to play records without paying! We used a coat hanger and I will not tell you how we did this.
If you wanted a lot of noise you went to Abel’s, if you wanted quiet you went to Umland’s. There was no dancing in Umland’s but they had music, not the popular kind, but it was passable to us. I think Stella kind of pulled one on us. One night Mousie, Eddie and I were singing and she told us that we ought to sing for people. Sooo, we tried it on Saturday Morning for the Mayor's wife, Mrs, John J. Grogan. She had a talant thing going in the hotel across from the Grand Hotel. I got off early from work that morning. We should have been a comedy act instead!! Sounded like three drunks in a shower!! Sounded good before then, just don't know what happened to us. I still laugh about it!
And this came from the always-colorful Bobby Slezak:
ABEL’S ICE CREAM PARLOR -- Yes indeed, there was an Eddie the criminal, cause he just got out of jail and was working for Mr. Able. He was in his late twenties...a scubby looking guy. (Why, he was so ugly when he was born, the doctor slapped his mother – as RODNEY DANGERFIELD would say.) Dennis is right, when Eddie the Criminal got married all of us in Abel’s chipped in 50 cents each for him and his bride to go on their honeymoon to Palisades Park. You do remember Palisades Park?? 50s singer BOBBY RYDEL sang a jingle about it for a radio commercial.
Abel’s was a favorite place for us kids to meet and have fun..rocking and rolling to the music...NO DRUGS OR DRINKING...just a nice place to DANCE AND ROMANCE...that’s whare I met my wife (FOR LIFE).
Dennis has a better memory than I do. Mr. Abel invented soft ice cream, like you see in a DAIRY QUEEN. It seems he left out an ingredient when making his ice cream and decided to sell it anyway...it was a hit...every one wanted more ...SO HE MADE MORE ...but never got rich with his invention...NO PATENT...that’s another saga of Hoboken’s history.
My two correspondents don't mention the names of those songs on the jukebox, but they probably included, "Rock Around the Clock" and "See Ya Later, Alligator" by Bill Haley and the Comets; "Blueberry Hill" from Fats Domino, "Cryin' in the Chapel" by Joni James, "Rags to Riches" by Tony Bennett, "Earth Angel," "Sherry Baby," "The Great Pretender," and maybe even "Shh-Boom!" There had to have been a couple by Hoboken's Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Roselli in there too.