Images of Main Street


"We didn’t have a car at home so we had to get a bus to church.  My grandparents actually belonged to St. Stan’s but there was no bus to get us there, no transportation so my mother and I sort of switched to Our Lady of Victories.  We would walk down to the corner on Sunday morning, wait for the bus and inevitably, somebody would give us a ride.  I don’t know if we ever got the bus because you knew everyone and everyone was familiar and everybody was like friendly.  You could almost trust the people around you and all.  People would stop and say, “We know you from church.  Can we give you a ride?” It wasn’t like - they see us every week, they knew we were going every week and that was a nice feeling.  When I was first married, a little older, we didn’t have a car at home.  Well my husband had the car; I didn’t have a car so I used to walk with the children.  Everything was walking back then.  Put them in the carriage or in the stroller and you walked downtown and you paid your bill - because I think we paid our gas bill and electric bill at Green Fields - and walked down to pay our water bill or tax bill or whatever you had to pay. And you walked down to the bank because the bank was downtown.  I know one time I was walking and the carriage wheel was squeaking terribly and there were men working up on a telephone pole who came down from the telephone pole and said, “Just wait there.” He got the oil out and he oiled it up for me so that it didn’t squeak.  People knew me; they said “Hi, I saw you walking.  How are you? I didn’t see you last week.  Where were you?”  Even though you didn’t know them, it was a very nice, close knit town.  Everybody was friendly and we did everything locally.  You didn’t have to go anywhere else.  Everything was readily available there.  You didn’t have to run off to the mall and a thousand different ways to get things and like I said, things were delivered to the house so you were close with those people and even anyone who was delivering, you knew those people.  They were almost like family after a while."


-Arlene Hahn 




"Uptown, Greenfield’s Department Store  - if you wanted any kind of merchandise, and you couldn’t get to the store, they would come to your house with things for you to buy.  Which is kind of neat.  Then we had a milkman, Mr. Prusik, he would come twice a week.  And when you would take the lid off the milk there would be that disgusting cream on the top – I have lactose intolerance  - so even then it was blaah.   Then was this guy, the tailor, G.I. Joe, and he used to make the rounds, I don’t know if it was once a week, to pick up your dry-cleaning and then the next week he would bring it back.  So that everything was brought to the home. Because then, there was very little transportation, except for buses, and very few cars.  It was a luxury to have a car.  And for a woman to drive a car, it was almost like unheard of.



And one nice thing we used to do years ago for Halloween they would have, if you were artistic, all of the stores uptown would let you paint Halloween themes on their windows.  Which was very exciting if you were artistic, but I wasn’t.  But it was neat to see.  Again it was kind of a close community thing.  Then uptown there was a five and dime, it was called. Blockoffs, and again it was that Diagon Alley thing, Harry Potter, where you would do in there and they had all kinds of sundries you could buy, you know.  Then again the aura of the deep dark area and that unique smell that all these stores had, so it was an adventure to go in there."



-Helen Skarzynski





"I remember going to the post office to get a Savings Stamp so that I could put them in my book and get a War Bond.  I remember doing that.  I remember practicing going under the desk.  I remember all the stars in the windows.  There was always a little star if you had a serviceman, in the window.  We had one for my brother, some had two.  My father had a hat with a triangle.  I remember the car headlights painted half black.  Your light would shine down.  I remember air raid drills, pulling down the shades.  I remember also the ration books that we had, because I would go to the store to Popowski’s, which was on Main Street a little bit across from the old firehouse, where the beauty salon is now.  It was right on the corner, Syslo’s, the bowling alley now a Chinese restaurant, Kupsch Street and Haag Street. I remember the ration books, gas coupons.  My father had the tag on the window, I think it had an A.   I think it was.  He was the warden, that was for the War, Air Raid Wardens.   When the alarm went off he’d put on his badge, walk up and down the street to make sure everybody had their shades drawn.  That was the Air Raid Warden."



-James Baumann  






"Main Street used to have Garbowski’s Tavern, Tony Kolodziej’s store, Garbowski’s Tavern, a bakery – OK -  were there. Then the bakery left and Mazur the barber came in.  There will be other stories  that you will hear, I guess.  Then Garbowski stopped his tavern, now his granddaughter has a flower shop there.  And then where my father’s store was, it has changed into a lot of things including fixing up dogs and now they are selling sub sandwiches there.



That part of Main Street was... That was Main Street.  The cops walked the beat back and forth and all the shops that there were, were there.  Up on the corner of Dane and Main was a fellow that was the organist of the church who sold cloth because all of the women were making their own clothes then.  It had the three churches on it, it had the business places on it, and down at the far end, the historic end of Main Street, was where the Sayres and Fishers live.  And where the book store is, now a reading center, there is a restaurant which should have been something else before it became a restaurant, and on MacArthur Avenue the big building that was there was where the workers lived.  When my father came here he lived there.  The way that worked is you went to work for Sayre and Fisher, they provided you with a place to live which was a long building.  They provided you with a place to live – they had a store where you went and bought what you needed.  You had a book and when you went there you bought clothing and anything else you needed which was charged to the book,  and your rent was charged to the book, and twice a year – they did not pay you – they used your pay to pay themselves what your costs were to them,  and they gave you the difference.  Which it was the way it was then.  Dad didn’t stay long there.  He left there because he didn’t like – he had a job throwing brick – where after the brick was made you would throw it to another place.   He went to Pennsylvania and worked in the coal mines for a while, but he didn’t like that so he left and went to Connecticut and he worked in a factory that made screws for a while but he didn’t like that.  This is an 18 year old kid that came from Poland.  Then he went down to Baltimore got a job building ships.  In those days when they built ships, the rivets were heated on the ground then tossed to a man who caught them up where they were being applied to the metal.  And one of them missed and landed on my father’s head, and that’s when he quit working there and came back to Sayreville, but he didn’t want to work in Sayre and Fisher so he went to a fellow named – I lost it – had a shop on Quaid Street as you go to the high school and he apprenticed with him to learn the trade of being a butcher and he worked going around town with a truck selling meat to the people, then he left him and started his own shop on Main Street  which is where we started this conversation.  And he got his own truck and went door-to-door selling meat.  In the meanwhile… at that time there was Johnny Hensler which is on Washington Road in Sayreville at the place where they taped (it’s a reddish colored building) they went to tape singers and stuff.  That was - that was Henseler’s market there and Pruoski had a market across the street from where Borough Hall is where Red the Barber is now and Popowski’s had a market where Albin’s eventually were, where there are hairdressers now.  And if you go around Sayreville if you know your way around Sayreville, because there was no knowledgeable means of transportations there was shops everywhere. I was down in South America and in probably the poorest country of South America and I was surprised that it reminded me of Sayreville because every six or so many blocks there was a shop and another little shop and another little shop because people had no transportation so they had to be able to walk to buy whatever they wanted.  I do mean some day to take a tour around Sayreville and mark out some of the shops that still exist.  You can tell where they are because Gills had one on Washington Road I know where that one was in back of the high school.  I know where they were, and I’ve been meaning to take Bailey and take a ride around."



-Edwin Kolodziej




    Established 1975

    425 Main Street, Sayreville, New Jersey 08872



    © 2017 Jason J. Slesinski, Borough Historian

    Sayreville Historical Society


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