Here are just a few memories of the threads that strengthened the fabric of Hoboken in the last century.
My-T-Fine pudding and desserts, Hostess Twinkies and Sno Balls, Tootsie Rolls and Pops… all were made in the once-industrial mile-square powerhouse of Hoboken. Let us not forget a breakfast of Maxwell House coffee or Lipton Tea with a slice of toasted Wonder Bread. All were vital parts of Hoboken’s smokestacks, but gone are the “Good to the Last Drop” signs that once flashed across the Hudson River to the west of Manhattan.
Although the sweet service food and beverage factories in Hoboken have receded over time, their impact remains, different now but still intact because of the work and relationships that arose.
A principal and a player
The tight bonds in the area were also fortified by the strong athletes who emerged early in the last century.
Consider the late David Walsh. Principal of David E. Rue School and basketball coach of Demarest High School in 1921-22 and ’24, Walsh achieved a combined record of 54 and 2, even capturing a state championship. Walsh, a premier basketball official in the Northeast, was elected to the NBA Basketball Hall of Fame as a referee in 1961.
Another notable was Tony Calan who mentored major league baseball players from Hoboken including John “Honey” Romano of the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians and Leo Kiely, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, as well as Bill Kunkel, who played for the New York Yankees. The highlight of Calan’s career was with Yankee legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during the baseball barnstorming era, when major league players would display their skills in the off season exhibition matches for extra money. Tony from Hoboken was selected to play with the legends.
Pop Warner Mighty Mites – 1959 USA Football Champs
The year was 1929, when legendary football coach Glenn Warner developed a league that grew to be the largest football and cheer program in the world. Warner’s vision was to put together a competitive football league for boys ages 10 to 13 (with weight requirements) as a means to keep youth off the streets and build community spirit, akin to baseball’s famous Williamsport Tournament.
The Hoboken team emerged and quickly dominated Pop Warner football in New Jersey. The team’s record was so impressive – undefeated with wide margins of victory – that Hoboken was considered to represent the East Coast as the premier team. Of course, even with their outstanding performance the squad needed a voice to convince key national stakeholders. That someone was Elwood Walker, who knew that although there were a thousand Pop Warner teams in the nation Hoboken could hold its own against even the best of them. His instincts were correct, and the Mighty Mites went west by train to play in the national championship game against the powerhouse team from California.
The attention was undivided and the excitement was electric as each quarter of the game was announced via a citywide PA system back to the city…and Hoboken won!
To attempt to name each and every stellar player would be a disservice to the others, but one athlete stood out: Anthony Amato, who won MVP of the season. Most of the team appeared on national television describing the incredible venture, and stories were written about the individual players in local New Jersey papers. The teams were so talented during the ’59, ’60 and ’61 games (33 wins one loss) that local coaches from Hudson County Catholic Schools scouted the players in order to convince them to attend, offering scholarships to entice them.
These things – the factories, the food, the traditions, the athletes and the games they played and the fans who cheered them on – are a source of precious pride for Hoboken. Although the public recognition may weaken and wilt, it is still true that Walsh, Calan, Mighty Mites, and our industrial foundation were “good to the last drop.”