Marion Osifsky doesn’t remember the early morning rain on Jan. 9, 1946 that forced customers to carry umbrellas when they stood on the long line outside of Barney Stock Hosiery Shops at 499 Broadway, but she remembers how cold it was, and how hard it was to get a pair of nylon stockings.
The moment is documented in time by a photograph that has become part of Bayonne’s history, showing hundreds of people lining up along the sidewalk on Broadway.
Barney Stock, father of the current owner, Mel Stock, owned six garment stores in Hudson County, including in Union City, Jersey City, and Bayonne. He decided to offer one pair of nylons on a first-come, first-served basis to customers.
“My father was personal friends with several hosiery manufactures in North Carolina,” Mel Stock said.
The store opened its doors at 6 a.m. to find the line going down the block and around the corner.
“It was like soap in those days. There was always a shortage.” – Marion Osifsky
On that day, as many as 500 people waited in the cold.
Nylons, according to 88-year-old Mary Karpinski – then Mary Gentile – who served as one of the sales girls that day, last up to six months, far longer than rayon, from which most stockings were made at the time.
In something of a tradition, Barney Stock holds a contest every couple of decades, offering gifts to people who were on the line that day.
Mel Stock has the original photograph with numbers over the people’s heads, and during these yearly contests, people have come forward to claim their prizes. The store held this contest once in 1962, again in 1987, again in December 2002, and most recently this month to bring out people who waited that cold day.
Mel collects the pictures of the people who come back, such as the boy who appeared prominently in the original picture. In 1987, Josephine Connolly came forward. She appeared in the photo with her son, Richard, who in 1987 had just turned 43.
This year, as in the past, Mel Stock placed an advertisement in the Bayonne Community News with a picture of that day in 1946 asking, “Were you on this line?”
Mary Karpinski – then Mary Gentile – was sales girl at the time, and described Barney Stock as “a very honest man.” Fluent in Italian, she translated for the store’s Italian customers. She remembers she and her mother first meeting Barney on Avenue C to ask about a job. Barney looked her over and then told her to report to the store to learn the stock.
She worked 54-hour work weeks, and stayed with him for 20 years before taking off to have a child, only to return again later after her son started school. She says she still lives in Bayonne.
“I wouldn’t live any place else,” she said.
Marion Osifsky, who stood on line in 1946, was the lone person on the line to come back this year. She remembers how cold it was, and that she sent the stockings to her sister.
“I stood on line because you couldn’t get them. It was like soap in those days; there was always a shortage. The nylon was going to make parachutes,” she said.
She said while on the line, she wondered if there would be any nylon stockings left when she got to the front.
“I was relieved when I knew I was getting one,” she said.
At the time, the black market offered similar stockings at $5 per pair. At Barney Stock, the list price was $1.25 to $1.35 per pair.
Barney Stock, who said he liked having people come back, died in 1997. His son Mel has kept up the tradition, offering the same picture contest in 2002 and again this year.
Mel recalled the day because he was in grammar school at the time. Since this was on a Saturday, when he usually helped out, he was there. He served hot chocolate to the people waiting on line. He also remembers teachers pulling him aside in school when they found out about the offer, but they could not get on line because they had to work.
“They asked me if my father could set aside a pair,” Mel recalled. “I’ll have you know this did not affect my grades in the least.”
Barney Stock ran three stores in Bayonne, including one on Avenue C, which offered clothing for men and women. Mel used to come in on Saturday and Sunday to price merchandise, straighten up, and perform other chores.
Mel Stock said his father emigrated from Poland in the early 1920s and worked at his uncle’s store on Avenue C for several years before starting a store of his own a few blocks away.
Barney helped deal with many of the other Polish immigrants his uncle could not speak with, and at night Barney went to school to learn English.
“After he learned English, he wanted to open a store of his own,” Mel said.
Barney Stock made the decision to start his own business after the start of the Depression, and was warned by his uncle and the local bank not to take the risk. The bank didn’t want to give him the loan at first, but Barney threatened to take out his savings and seek another bank that would loan him the money. The bank relented. Polish customers that he had served in his uncle’s store flocked to his new store.
Eventually, Mel opened shops in such prime business locations as Bergenline Avenue in Union City, Journal Square in Jersey City, and of course, on Broadway and Avenue C in Bayonne.
As time passes, fewer and fewer people answer the advertisement as to who was on that line. Some have moved out of town, some have died, but the moment has become a symbol of a post-World War II Bayonne and the hunger of its residents to get on with life here.