My Camden Heritage

By Dr. Samuel Zuckerman

As published in the Jewish Community Voice, January 5, 2005.

I am sitting in my den and close my eyes, I see the city as it was in my youth and recall the many people that crossed my path.

I was eligible to go to Kaighns School but my parents didn’t want to separate their two children, so my sister and I were sent to Fetters’ School. My experiences in Fetters left me a lifetime of memories. I was the only Jewish student in my class and the classmates always reminded me that I was a Jew. Later on I was accepted as a fellow student and my friendships exist today.

My parents purchased a small deli on the 500 block of Kaighns Avenue, a predominately Jewish shopping area bound on the west by Broadway, one of Camden’s business streets. I was so thrilled to live here because there were four 5 & 10 stores. There were two movie houses within my walking area and lots of activities. As I look back, I can recall Camden as a very pleasant city to live in.

Starting at Front and Kaighns Avenue, I would take the ferry late afternoons to get fresh smoked fishes for my parents’ deli.

The Camden Cold Storage and Coles Lumber Yards were located on Front Street. The 200 block of Kaighns Avenue had Camden Bag and Paper Co., Kaplan & Shupak Pickle Company, Weiner & Cornfield Wholesale Grocery business, and Rochester Clothing Co., owned by the Levin family, on the north side. On the south side was a bar and the Deaconess Home. This Home had a playground and it was here that the neighborhood’s young boys learned how to play basketball. Years later, where I practiced podiatry, I found out that the churches in Salem contributed to the Deaconess Home.

On the north side of Third and Kaighns was a wholesale owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ragone (who now live in Haddonfield), Denker’s Dry Goods store, Zelnick’s shoe store, Levin’s furniture store, Greenberg’s jewelry store, and Karp’s bar supply store. The south side had Dr. Stimns’s medical office and his drugstore. Soffer’s electrical supply store, Cavallo’s feed store, and a printer’s shop. On this block, George Norcross, Sr.’s grandparents had a bakery. Mr. Norcross was a prominent union official in the City of Camden.

Harry Pinsky had a grocery on the corner of Liberty Street, Mr. Margolit had a grocery on Atlantic Avenue. Bobby Siris’s butcher store was on the same street. The Odlen family had a steel plant and the Cohen family had a roofing business on Atlantic Avenue.

On the north side of Fourth and Kaighns we had Sam and Minnie Butler’s dress store, Ruttenberg’s furniture store, Dr. Yubas’s optometry and optician offices. In this building were offices for Dr. Stanley Hillbroner, a podiatrist, and later on, the first office for my dear schoolmate, Dr. Benjamin Soffer.

There was Grendell Jewelry Store (a partnership between the Greenberg and Mandel families), Quality Drugstore (a chain store operated by Mr. Goldberg), Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Store, Stern’s Men’s Store, Brown’s Ladies Dress Store, and another 5 & 10 store.

On the south side of Fourth and Kaighns there was a corner bar. Next was Emanuel Katz’s real estate office, which later became a wholesale grocery business. Gerber’s Boy’s and Men’s store, Aronberg Plumbing Supply, House of Ruttenberg Store (on top of this store was the South Camden Hebrew Association), Dr. Rubin’s optometric office, Henry’s Plumbing and Building Supplies, Levitsky’s Deli, Goldstein’s Shoe Store,Friedenberg’s Dress Store, a small tobacco store, and Walgreen’s drugstore. Mr. Siris had a kosher butcher store and the Barag family had a wholesale grocery business on this side.

On Broadway between Liberty Street and Kaighns Avenue, we had many stores. Around the corner from Walgreen’s store was Herman’s Sporting Goods store, First National Bank of Camden, Penn Fish Markets and around the corner on Liberty Street was Kravit’s Tailoring store. Further down was Oxman’s Laundry plant. On the south side of Broadway was Ginsburg Brothers Liquor Store, Harry’s Radio and Sporting Goods store, Weinberg’s Record Shop, Pinsky’s Furniture Store, a hat cleaning business and corner saloon. On Liberty Street we had Katz’s Scrap Yard, and the Sietchik Dress Plant. There was a soda water plant and Dora Rose lived on this block. Mrs. Rose was Congressman Charlie Wolverton‘s secretary for many years.

Dr.Reiter had a dental office on the second floor above Ginsberg’s Liquor Store. On the south side of 500 Kaighns, Sarah and William Udell’s chicken store, American Restaurant, Robbins Magazine Shop, Pastoris Shoe Repair store, the medical office of Dr. Meyer Segal, Singer’s Grocery Store, Joe Fine’s Bakery Shop, Aronow’s roofing business and home, K & R Baking Store, Zuckerman’s Deli, Sye’s Dry Cleaning Plant, Leiter’s Shoe Findings, Aronow’s Bar, Bader’s Bar, Segan’s Washer Repair Shop, George Sommer’s Locksmith Shop, Kumove’s Kosher Butcher Shop, Price’s Candy Shop, Herman Wienraub’s Tailoring Shop, Dobin’s Donut Bakery Shop, Copelen’s Furniture Shop and Tom’s Restaurant and Fox’s Fruit Store.

On the north side of the 500 block of Kaighns we had Schulte Cigar Store,and on top was the Milford Beauty Shop owned by Eli Lewis, a barber shop, Andy’s Restaurant, Sklaroff’s Stocking Store, Klein Jewelry Store, Forman’s Hat Shop, Molotsky’s Women’s Store, Louie’s Bargain Store. A small side street called Marion St. was residential. Two of my dearest friends resided there: “Reds” Alfred Pierce, who became the mayor of Camden, and Huck Hunsberger, who was a foreman for PSE&G.

On the corner of Marion and Kaighns we had the little fish and chicken store of Victor Potamkin (who became one of the worlds largest Cadillac dealers), Louies Chinese laundry shop; the Sklars barber shop and Rhodesides grocery store. In the Potamkin store there worked a chicken plucker called Arnold Cream. He became heavyweight champion of the world, Jersey Joe Walcott.

Another small side street called Baring had a mixed population. On the west side was the Levin family, the Cole family, the Yaffa family, Goldstein family, Primas family, Ross family, Soloff family, and the Cabnet family. On the east side was the Morrissey family, Copelen family, the Weiss family, Yeres family, the Barbell family (whose two grandsons practice dentistry in the Cherry Hill area), the Gelman family, Pug Wilson’s family (Pug was a motorcycle policeman in Camden) and the Litow family.

The Primas family is a large family in Camden. One of the Primas clan [Randy Primas –ed.] became the mayor of Camden and Dr. Primas was a practicing physician in Camden. On the corner of Baring and Kaighns was Lundy’s Kosher Butcher Store.

Sixth and Kaighns on the north side had a bar, Camden Glass Shop, Weinberg & Steinberg Used Truck Sales, Camden Fire Station, Talmud Torah housed a religious school and a large coal yard. On the south side, we had Siedel’s Gasoline Service Station, a building that housed a kosher slaughterhouse for chickens, Shane’s Furniture Store, Caplans Furniture Store and Malamed Auto Repair Shop, which later became the Victory Garage. The Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Railroad ran through Seventh and Kaighns. On the north side of Seventh and Kaighns were the Green Goose Bar, small stores, the African-American Elks club, Elkins Dry Cleaning Plant, Lerman’s Men’s Store, Grossman Grocery Store, and the Naden Furniture Store.

On a small side street called Sycamore we had Singer Grocery Store and the Levin Grocery Store. Eighth and Sycamore was the Orthodox Congregation Sons of Israel Synagogue. Rabbi Riff was our beloved spiritual leader. There was one residential house on Kaighns Avenue, a large house for the prominent Tarter family. The Naden Furniture Store was a prominent business in Camden.

On Eighth and Kaighns we had two business establishments, Waples Funeral Parlor and Chinese Restaurant. There were residences including the home of Mrs. Mary Naden, the owner of Naden Furniture Store.

Ninth and Kaighns had one Establishment, Ed Rosen’s Victory Garage. Behind the Victory Garage were several cigar factories. On Tenth and Kaighns the north side had a patent drug and notions store, and Polish bakery. The south side had Rosen’s meat market and a photography studio [Walter Lange’s studio –ed.]. The Artis family had a store and their son became a dentist, a food market owned by Mrs. Feldman, Rubins paperhanging store, the Horwitz family had astore, a restaurant owned by the American Restaurant.

In the 1100 block on the north side we had Plaskys Food Market, a physicians office, a Camden public school, and some residential homes. On the south side we Butlers Drugstore and Dr. Butlers medical offices with entrances on Mount Ephraim Avenue, Wolperts Confectionary Store, and Praissmans Dry Goods Store. This was a long block with several homes.

In the 1200 block of Kaighns on the north side we had Stomel’s Confectionery business, Shane’s Insurance and Auto License and Registration store, and Sol’s Drugstore. This drugstore was a popular hangout for the young Jewish community of Parkside. On the south side was Puro Men’s Store, Cassetts Jewelry Store, Markowitz Kosher Butcher Store, and Bell’s Drugstore. Kaighns Avenue ended at the Airport Circle. On the north side at the circle was Neil Deighan‘s nightclub. On the south side was Central Airport Swimming Pool. Central Airport was a busy aviation terminal in Camden. Philadelphia didn’t have a satisfactory airport. All planes landed in Camden and passengers were transported to Philadelphia by jitney. Next came the section of Camden called Parkside. This was mostly residential and the majority of residents were Jewish. There was a synagogue called Beth El on Park Boulevard. Camden High School was on Park and Baird.

The Kaighns Avenue immigrants who came to America and settled in Camden were hardworking entrepreneurs. These business people raised their families in Camden and now we have second and third generations living in Cherry Hill and in New Jersey. These children and grandchildren are all educated in many occupations. In Florida there is a Camden Club that meets during the months of January arid February. It’s a warm feeling seeing old Camdenites and hearing familiar names. The names I hear bring back pleasant memories of their parents and grandparents. I treasure my roots of Camden.

Some of them are: Rabbi Riff, Judge Mitchell Cohen, Judge Joseph Varbalow, Benjamin Asbell, Dr. Charles Kutner, Dr. Joseph Stein, Dr. Ulysses Wiggins, Judge Benjamin Dzick, Carl Auerbach, George Aaron, Maurice Clyman, Gov. William T. Cahill, Camden Mayor Alfred Pierce, Meyer Adelman, Ellis Goodman, Louis Katz, the Heine family, the Ruttenberg family and Dr. Charles Brim.

If I have omitted some business or prominent names, please excuse my memory. I have spent 73 years in South Jersey and in my adolescent years, the city of Camden was a great place to live in.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.