Backstory: Jack Falat worked as a Bell Telephone lineman based in Rutherford, NJ throughout the 1970s. He was also a skilled and avid photographer, and took pictures of interesting scenes and subjects throughout the local area. His job enabled him to get to places that were usually off-limits to the general public. His flickr photos and website are a treasure-trove of fascinating images that show us the quaint aspects of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas that once were so familiar, but are now disappearing with each passing year. For this post, I’m focusing on the car-related ones, with a few notable others included.
Patricia Cream one of the first woman pole climbing Bell System installers. 1958 Buick Century & 1960 Valiant Suburban Wagon. Willow Street. East Rutherford, New Jersey. Bell Telephone System parking lot. Circa 1981.
“Jumpin’ Jack”–Installer Repairman.
Paterson, NJ. 1953 Chevrolet Panel Delivery. Artistic Decorating Painting & Papering, phone LA5-6566. In front of 781 East 19th Street. Helmut W. Fehmer, 773 East 19th Street.
67 E. Central Avenue, Pearl River NY, circa 1984. (Note: A ’57 Dodge would have been a rare sight, even in 1984!)
Scranton, PA. E. Robinson’s Sons Ice House and Brewery. (Gone) 434-455 North 7th Street. Circa 1975.
Seaside Heights, NJ. Liquor Store. (Gone) West Central & Grant Avenue, circa 1975.
Fiat 600. Minetta Street & Minetta Lane, New York City, circa 1976.
Emil Whitey Tabor’s Red & White Tavern. 29 Wall Street. Passaic, New Jersey. 1977 billboards plastered over turn-of-the-century “Fletcher’s Castoria” painted sign.
Abandoned car, West Side Highway northbound, 11th Avenue at 19th Street, New York City, circa 1976.
110 W. 45th St., New York City, circa 1975. (Car has Jersey plates).
“Come!” (To Man’s Country.) Greenwich Village Cigars, 110 7th Avenue South, New York City, circa 1976.
Lincoln Tunnel tollbooths, Weehawken NJ, 1976. (I can’t identify the car in the left lane ahead of the Oldsmobile).
I remember when much of Newark NJ looked like this. 1151-1149-1147 Broad Street, circa 1975.
What replaced those old Victorians may be newer and cleaner, but utterly lacking in artistic character. The whole city is becoming “suburbanized” this way. (Source: Google Street Views).
Essex Storage Warehouse, 950 McCarter Highway, Newark NJ, circa 1976. Also gone.
This beautiful church sat on a hill and dominated the skyline of Boonton NJ for over 100 years . . .
. . . By the time Jack Falat got there in 1976–nothing but rubble! How could the town and its citizens allow this to happen?
Oldest curbside classic. The train station in Boonton still remains (just a few blocks from me), but I’ve never seen this horse-drawn wagon before!
Suffern, NY circa 1975.
22 Lafayette Avenue, Suffern, 1975.
Shafer Annex Building. Station Depot Square Restaurant. 16 Park Avenue, Rutherford, New Jersey. Circa 1975.
George A. Tice was another New Jersey photographer who was inspired by “gritty” urban scenes. This is Paterson NJ, August 1969. (Click image for greater detail).
“Junkyard Cars” by George Tice.
Tice’s “Hamilton Avenue” (Paterson NJ), April 1971.
I found Tice’s book of photos in the local library when I was in middle school. His work and others’ inspired me to take some similar-type photos of my own. Here are a few color photos from my own collection:
High St. (MLK Blvd.) & Sussex Ave., Newark NJ, 1987.
Old Westinghouse Factory (gone), Newark NJ, 1987.
Kastner Mansion, 176 Clinton Avenue, Newark. Burned in 2019.
. . . Not to be confused with the Krueger Mansion at 601 High St./MLK, which is still largely intact. (Photo by Diane Deaton Street)
Hotel Parkhurst, 11-13 Lincoln Park, Newark.
550 & 548 Springfield Ave., Newark, circa 2000.
Falls View Diner, Paterson NJ, 1986.
Paterson NJ, 1986.
Clinton NJ, 1992.
My backyard, early 1970s.
George Washington Bridge, early 1970s.
All I can tell you is this: If there’s a building, car, scene, person, or anything else that has a special aesthetic or emotional quality, I would suggest that you make the effort to take a good picture now, because the winds of change are always blowing, and everything is being overgrown by the weeds of time. Most of the once-familiar scenes in these photos (which are only a few decades old) have changed dramatically. I salute Jack Falat, George Tice, and others like them who thought to photograph what others ignored, and saw beauty and value in the authentic, gritty places that are now becoming harder to find.
I could look at these photos all day – terrific post! And I’m too observant for my own good so noticed vehicles newer than 1976 as captioned in Lincoln Tunnel pic
The downsized Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight would have debuted in the fall of 1976.
The downsized Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the far right lane looks as though it has the wraparound taillights, which would make it a 1979 model, which would not have been available until the fall of 1978. The smaller Monte Carlo did not debut until the 1978 model year, which means that this photo could not have been taken before late 1977.
I’m with Shep – these are a fascinating look into a world that has either disappeared or is on the way there.
I agree with Shep above that I could look at these type of pictures all day – even though I’ve never been to any of the places pictured here. It’s always fascinating to see how so many facets of everyday life have slipped by without us realizing it.
Your comment regarding the razed Boonton church (“how could the town and its citizens allow this to happen?”) is certainly true. Where I live in Northern Virginia, most of the area was built up in the 1950s and later, so there’s precious little left of earlier times. But cities and counties consistently bow to developers to demolish our own history; I can think of a few examples from just this past year. It would have been easy to preserve a handful of interesting and historic structures, but our city has actually gone out of its way to approve things like townhouse developments that would destroy structures like this. Truly maddening.
Well, off my soapbox. I loved these pictures. As a thank-you to Mr. Falat, I figured I’d include this everyday-type picture below (of our local power company from 1984) – a type of place that he was undoubtedly quite familiar with.
Here in Canada, we faced the same music as well. Montreal during its urban renewal projects demolished an area known as “faubourg à mélasse” for the current CBC/Radio-Canada building.
In Thetford Mines, a mining town in the Eastern Townships not far from the Chaudiere river valley. The church of the parish of St-Maurice was demolished and the whole area was relocated due to the expansion of the mining activities. Same for the town of Asbestos now known as “Val-des-Sources.
Certainly looks like a Peugeot 404
If it is a Peugeot 404, I think Paul was seriously kidding about not recognizing the car. ;o)
Of course it’s a 404. But it wasn’t my post, eh?
Sorry Paul… I just now realized that this was a caption below the photo, thus perhaps not your text.
“Lincoln Tunnel tollbooths, Weehawken NJ, 1976. (I can’t identify the car in the left lane ahead of the Oldsmobile).”
I honestly thought your were kidding with us. My bad.
Ok, I’m a complete idiot today! (Face-Palm)
This was Poindexter’s post and not yours.
So sorry about that.
Newark is a special tragedy. In the ’50s Newark was a high-tech haven, with income 20% above national average and dozens of major electronics firms engaged in manufacturing and research. The name of Newark had the same resonance that Palo Alto has now.
It’s long past due to bring this kind of manufacturing back to North America. We are seeing the effects of wanting everything as cheap as possible. If an electronic device is made in North America instead of Asia, it might cost $30 more. Half of that would be transferred to the customer, there rest to the factory owner.
Paying a living wage to McDonald’s workers would raise the cost of a full meal deal $0.80.
I would be happy to pay an extra $1.00 for a T-shirt if I knew unionised, North American workers made it.
A person’s work is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and that depends on the market for what they have to offer. Burger flippers tend not to be the best and brightest. However in my area even Wal-Mart is advertising their starting wage is $16/hour, with another $1.50 for night crew.
I am one who still engages in manufacturing for a living, not getting wealthy and still would prefer to pay more for a quality American product.
Go to Jalopyjournal and look for the thread “vintage shots from days gone by”. part 1 has 6700 pages, part 2 is now up to 1100 pages. All the shots are supposed to have automotive content and be pre-1965. It’s my daily morning coffee visit. Hot rod heavy but that’s my thing anyways, but many of these shots look exactly like their content. I have no connection to the website and I hope this post does not violate rules here.
One more thing — the New Jersey Bell van from the background of the third picture. I’d forgotten about this color scheme of Bell’s vans: distinctive for sure, but the ubiquity of these vans at the time made them slip through the cracks in my memory, until now.
There was a Bell Telephone warehouse down the street from where I grew up near Philadelphia, so I used to see dozens of these vans every day (I guess the Bell system companies all used the same fleet color scheme). I remember the Bell vans in my town were all Fords, and it seemed like Bell kept their vehicles for a long time, because I remember a lot of 1970s-era vans there even in the mid-80s.
That lower color looks like the result of a contest to find the ugliest possible tone of gray/green
The phone company always seemed to go for uniformity with a touch of distinctiveness. I remember the dark green trucks with utility box short beds, having the unique sloped rear panel. Then we all got the vans painted like the one pictured here. Now AT&T goes for various white vehicles, but with multi-colored reflective strips on the rear, always slightly unsymmetrical and a bit jarring to the senses (probably purposely so).
That abandoned camaro – was NY really that bad?
Yes. I first went there in ’81. Saw lots of abandoned cars along the way. Hard core pornography on newstands in the streets. Many other things.
That photo of the burned out Camaro reminds me of the automotive equivalent of the Black Dahlia murder. Beautiful car destroyed and abandoned in a crummy empty spot.
I visited New York City (Manhattan) in the spring of 1975 with my family. Even as a a teenager I thought it was very dirty and gritty. My wife and I took our daughters to Manhattan during December 2016…the transformation was quite vivid.
Yes, it was depending on what area of the city you were in. I posted my photos I took in 1980 of mostly lower Manhattan from the Empire State on down and looks pretty clean. However, when first driving across the GW Bridge to go visit my grandparents in Parkchester the view from the highway was of burned out and abandoned 8-10 story tenement buildings. Kind of looked like Berlin after a bombing raid and that was only what I saw from the road. I can only imagine what the streets looked like and no wonder my grandparents were scared to death when I said I wanted to walk the streets and shoot pictures.
Yes it was.
The pre-Giuliani years were really bad. I couldn’t believe how he lead NYC to turn itself around. Then we had Bloomberg and he was also good. Now – ugh.
I remember what I used to call an “army of hookers” parading around in their underwear between Times Square and the Hudson. Girls stumbling around on drugs, walking up to the cars trying to get across Manhattan. I’d sit there in a taxi because it wasn’t safe to walk to Javits. These poor zombie hookers would smash themselves against our car windows and try to get a little business on a Sunday morning after their late night Saturdays.
NYC was a hell-hole. Hope it never returns to those days, but I got my fears.
It certainly was in the 1960’s ~ far worse than your imagination in fact .
Looking at these photos takes me back to the 1960’s, I loved all those Victorian houses, shops and apartment buildings, too bad they’re mostly all gone now .
I remember wandering around the southie in the early 1960’s many brick tenements were simply collapsed and left to rot, folks living in the cold water walk up flats next door…
Yes, all very beautiful but I’m so glad I didn’t stay there .
Pops bought a house @ 390 Wellington Av. in Rochester, NY in….. ’65 ? . it was a grand old dame in a seriously crappy neighborhood .
I wonder what it looks like now .
Yes it was by the mid 70s. I was there. I left in 1970. But it was an alive city with so much to offer. You had to know people and know where to go to get the most out of it. I got to see it during a great era in the late 50s through 1960s. I don’t have any nostalgic reasons to go back now. I would have to think hard if I know anyone there anymore. It’s any entirely different city now.
Artistic Decorating’s ’53 Chevy’s had an interesting history, there were side windows cut into it and then painted over.
Those row houses that were knocked down to build the gas station would probably be worth more today, each, than the gas station is.
I wonder what “Man’s Country” at 28 W 15 st was? It’s clearly based on Marlboro’s ads, and the slogan sounds like a radio station’s, but the specific street address belies that. Probably a peep show of some sort.
Cleaning the snow and ice off of the Fiat with a wire brush makes me cringe.
Why, because when he’s done it won’t start anyway?
Funny, I just watched “French Connection” last night, so the gritty NYC scenes really resonate–my own first visit to Times Square was at a very rough time.
nlpnt: quick Googling shows “Man’s Country” to have been a well-known Greenwich Village bath house, unsurprisingly.
Bell System: Interesting to see his first female pole-climbing installer. Mid-1970s, Bell was working not to slot job applicants into “traditionally-male/female” slots; I ended up in clerical for a while (mostly women) but met some of the early women installers. Getting a little off-topic here, but I remember one who was hesitant to go out in public in, say, a tank top, because people would see the (inevitable) bruises and then stare at her husband, fearing the worst. Why do I remember this moment’s conversation from 45 years ago?
Time marches on, and I see “1975” is as far back in time now as “2065” is out there in the future…..
poindexter: thanks for these today—great fun!
It’s weird that even the old factories were handsome and well-proportioned, not plain boxes.
My city restored the last of its ante-bellum railroad-repair buildings (the town started as the shops), and it’s the nicest looking building downtown, which admittedly isn’t saying much.
I’d like to have the 1960 Valiant Suburban Wagon if it had a manual trans. Much better looking than the sedan version.
Creative destruction. Buildings, like the cars in that junkyard photo, wear out. And in the case of a building, the land it’s sitting on becomes more valuable for a different purpose.
As a Methodist myself, I would speculate that the church was demolished because there weren’t enough Methodists in that part of Boonton any more.
Many congregations struggle with grand old buildings that are too big for their current attendance. Even without that, old buildings are often not well-suited to present wants and expectations, and can be a nightmare to keep in repair, in any case. That church looks like it might have been a frame building and you can imagine the issues it probably had after so many years.
On the topic of the cars — it doesn’t seem like any of them had obvious rust issues. Wasn’t that unusual?
I live in Loudoun County, VA and it’s not the weeds of time overgrowing everything, it’s data centers. Nothing is too valuable to be spared if it’s in the way of the giant boxes that spring up at a rapid pace.
The “unidentified car” stuck me as a Willys Aero, but some details seem different.
Look at that picture of The West Side Highway. I am 77 years old. I remember traveling on that insane piece of engineering may a time. Did you all notice that it is three lanes wide. THREE LANES – EACH 8-FEET IN WIDTH, plus sharp curves as it somewhat conformed to Manhattan’s west side waterfront. Now, imagine single axle tractor-trailers flying around those curves and even on the straightaways. They, too, are eight-feet wide as we know. it get better: Entrance to The West Side Highway was as depicted, a portal in the center of the roadways. Yes, folks, you drove up to enter into the left lane where the speediest of the speed-deemers were speeding, You had no entrance lane on the highway. WHAT FUN! WHAT ACCIDENTS! How my mother navigated those entrances and those narrow high-speed lanes is beyond me.
I had read about this piece of infrastructure recently, apparently it was as shoddily constructed and maintained as it was engineered as a chunk of it collapsed and permanently shut it down for decades until it was finally demolished, which is presumably how a Camaro carcass can lay in the middle of the thing unnoticed. Similar fate as the old elevated portion of Chicago’s Ogden Avenue. In all the reading I did on it there weren’t any anecdotal accounts to the driving experience on it, sounds like a real experience! Very few pictures of the structure either for such a photogenic city.
Oh yes, The West Side Highway was a treat to drive, wasn’t it? And you had the added benefit of all those aggressive NYers playing chicken with you. My most vivid memory is watching some guy, with his family in a mid 60s Buick LeSabre or Pontiac Bonneville, trying to back up against traffic in the fast lane. We were going the opposite direction so I didn’t see how it turned out but you should have heard all the horns blaring. I always wondered what the hell he thought he was doing.
These pictures are great!
Thanks for posting them.
I’ve never been to NYC but I’ve always found it interesting and always charismatic in pictures.
From “The French Connection” and “Marathon Man” to “The Equalizer” (tv) to “Person Of Interest” (tv), and even shows filmed elsewhere but based in NYC like “Barney Miller”, NYC is an irreplaceable character all its own.
In real life, I’m too used to having some space to myself and I’m crowd-averse so I wouldn’t be happy living in the Big City. I used to love visiting Chicago (only 20 miles away) and also loved leaving. NYC would probably amplify all that 100X.
I would like to go there once before I die, though.
The remains of the Camaro picture looks like something out of the movie “I Am Legend”, also based in NYC. (after a particularly rough public health situation)
NYC is fun to visit every few years but I wouldn’t want to live there (nor could I afford to, at least in Manhattan.)
I eat posts like this up as with a spoon. The basic premise hammers home the point of why I bring my SLR camera pretty much everywhere I go (where I don’t have to check it). Great post, and thanks for sharing.
The “abandoned car” seems to be the split-bumper version of the 2nd Gen Camaro RS, Z22 option; ’70–’73. Desirable even in ’76.
Probably so desirable that someone stole it–I bet it wasn’t the owner that “abandoned” the car.
Great article and great photos. I grew up in NY in the late 50s-1970. It’s nice to see that the area appreciated for it’s regular, gritty and human scale. This was before the Big Idea “Urban Renewal” juggernaut had completely made over the urban landscape by demolishing and leveling entire districts of old industry and housing stocks and replacing them with expressways, flyovers, trenched roadways, concrete apartment blocks, crappy little green-spaces and all the other soulless apparitions of the best and brightest thinkers from the finest American Universities, think tanks and governmental agencies.
Thank you, I would want to see more of these.
More from Jack Falat: Marty the Seltzer Man and his 1964 Chevy van…
(I hope it’s okay to link this)
“make the effort to take a good picture now, because the winds of change are always blowing, and everything is being overgrown by the weeds of time.”
100%. You don’t have to be a proficient photographer. Just take your smartphone or your point-and-shoot out into the area where you live and do straight on photos of all of the mundane things: restaurants, gas stations, Wal-Marts. 30 years from now, they will be a treasure trove of what life was like in the early 2020s.
Thanx for the second link .
I can’t say I miss New England very much but it was an interesting place and remains so ~ my grand daughter went to…..?Howard? University in NYC about 4 years ago and being young and hip, she loved NYC (lived in Queens) although she came home to So. Cal. as soon as she graduated .
NYC has lots to offer but isn’t for everyone .