It’s a Google World

May 31, 2010

Living through the information revolution, I’ve seen the amazing transformation of many aspects of our lives.  At work, manual typewriters giving way to word processors (remember the Wang) leading to the rise of Microsoft office with Word, Excel & Access.  At home, live primetime TV was first supplemented by VCR tapes recording shows and movies, and now cable, DVR and streaming webcasts make the notion of sitting in front of a TV at a fixed time seem stifling.  The digitizing and indexing of our lives allows amazing access to data.  Perhaps my favorite side effect of this transformation is the sometimes strange linkages that can be found.  I was amused to find in searching Ebay for items related to Trenton, N.J. that there were some other ‘gay’ Trentons, such was a 1950’s and 60’s male beefcake model named John Trenton and in more recent times a male porn star named Trenton Comeaux.

The Crocheting Boy

January 22, 2010

Years ago while doing some other research I stumbled upon this audio clip of a story told by Patton J. Hill, a prominent Trenton African American educator and long-time principal of the Lincoln School (Junior High 5):

CrochetingBoy

(Note: Clicking on the link above opens a new page.  This wav file is 12.6 mg & may take a while to load.)

Recorded in 1976 as part of an oral history project celebrating the bicentennial, this short (2.5 minute) story is an interesting example of the power of gender conformity.  Enforcing sexual identity could even bridge the deep racial dive in the U.S. at that time.

Publications Serving Trenton’s Gay Community

November 19, 2009

Yesterday I heard the sad news that the Washington Blade, one of America’s premier gay newspapers had shut down.  From simple mimeographed newsletters to glossy magazines, numerous publications have informed, inspired and entertained generations of lesbians and gay men.  In the process, they provide an amazing source for exploring our community’s history.

Trenton, like all of New Jersey’s gay community, is currently served by Out In New Jersey, a monthly publication.  In addition, a variety of newspapers and magazines with a national or neighboring-state focus, have provided information for and about gay Trenton.  While New York has been served by several different major publications for varying lengths of time, The Philadelphia Gay News has been in continuous operation since 1975.

Among the stuff I’ve packed away in my attic are some newsletters of early New Jersey gay organizations. This blog has given me a mechanism to share some of these interesting documents.  I inherited from my ex, a group of newsletters from the Gay Awareness Action Committee (GAAC), a Central Jersey gay group from 1972.  From my few years of involvement with the New Jersey Gay Coalition, I have a number of issues of their publication, News Jersey.  I’ve created separate pages on this blog for the documents I’ve scanned.  I hope you’ll enjoy perusing these windows into gay life during an interesting time in our history.

1903 Trenton High School Football Team

October 29, 2009
1903TrentonHighFootballTeam

1903 Football Team Poses in Front of Old Trenton High School

What originally caught my eye in this photo was the background, which is the doorway of the second of the three Trenton Central High Schools (the one that stood on the corner of Greenwood and Chestnut). 

1903THSLayingDown

Recumbent Team Member

Then my eye went to the two team members lying down across the front of their teammates.  There are a lot of fascinating details throughout this photo and many interesting expressions.

 The hands on the hips of the boy on the left just screamed ‘attitude’ to me.  You can also make out the great quilted

1903THSHandsOnHips

Hands on Hips

pants on this football player.  I know that I’m reading way too much into a simple team photo but all together it’s quite an interesting little gem.

A Little Hate Along the Way

October 26, 2009

The husband and I took a walk yesterday, Sunday October 25th.  It was a beautiful day as we did the two bridges loop, crossing into Morrisville on the ‘Trenton Makes, The World Takes’ Bridge and walking along the Delaware River on the levee to the Calhoun Street Bridge.

Looking across the Delaware at the NJ State House

Looking across the Delaware at the NJ State House

When we came back into Trenton and on to West State Street, we were suprised to see the street was blocked to car traffic.  Proceeding down toward the State House, the cause was revealed to be a rally against gay marriage.
Rally2

Anti Gay Marriage Rally in front of NJ State House

A nasty surprise, but the husband commented on the lack of any media presence and today’s Trenton newspapers contained no mention of this event.  Perhaps that’s a sign that these particular bigots aren’t getting their message much attention.

Searching for Club 21

October 23, 2009
Warren21-1956

Since I don’t want to rely solely on my memories, two visits to the Trentoniana Room began my search for what remains in the public record for Club 21.  Initially, I wasn’t positive I had the bar’s name correct since it’s been so many years.  A hand drawn map of lunchtime eating spots I made of downtown Trenton in the 1980’s reassured me about the name and location.

Finding other evidence has proved elusive.  There is no listing for Club 21 in the telephone books for 1978, 79 or 80.  There is also nothing in the alphabetical listing or the yellow pages under taverns (bar was not a category) or restaurant.  With no luck finding the business, I turned to finding out about the address, 21 South Warren Street.  The Cross Reference Directory lists phone number by street address showing the following:

1979 – Covell Chas L

1981 – Anderson Winslow

               Covell Chas L

1983 – Occupant

1984 – No Listing for this address.

The building and several of its neighbors were demolished to make way for NJ National Bank’s Drive-Thru Teller.  Based on the phone listing this appears to have occurred around 1983 or 84.  Making that roughly the time Club 21 went out of business.

There are old tax photos from the late 1930’s and June 16, 1953.  The later photo appears to show a bar or restaurant at this location.  Further research is needed.  Since this was part of the Warren Street City Landmarks District, scanning through the unindexed minutes of the Landmarks Commission is next.  As always, any insights or stories about Club 21 are welcome, please comment here or email queertrenton@gmail.com.

21 South Warren Street in 2009

21 South Warren Street in 2009

Club 21 Memories

October 22, 2009
Club Sandwich

Club Sandwich

Three things come to mind when I recall Club 21: a big grey sweater, the chair on the wall and club sandwiches.  One of the staples of my admittedly poor wardrobe in the late 1970’s, was a big grey button down knit sweater, which I could wear into a bar on a cold night to keep warm without having to keep track of a coat.  It was also a bit of a security blanket in a new, potentially hostile environment. I have this image of myself sitting at the bar in Club 21 in that sweater.  This particular memory may survive because it was my first visit to a gay bar.

The chair on the wall (a ladder back hung at an angle in a corner where the ceiling and two walls met) sticks out as the most outrageous bit of décor in an establishment that I recalled as being ‘over the top’, stuffed with decoration.  Cozy, but definitely gay. Otherwise, I guess Club 21 was a standard urban watering hole.  When you walked into its long narrow space, a bar was on your left lined with bar stools and a back room had tables and chairs.

The third image, club sandwiches, comes from the fact that during the day Club 21 served as a restaurant whose main clientele were NJ state workers, of which I was one.  The club sandwiches probably stick in my mind due to the association with the bar’s name.  There is also a dim memory of some sort of small outdoor dining area in the back but it’s fleeting and probably not reliable.  I’d love to hear anyone else’s memories about Club 21.

Interesting Website:  http://steakhouseorgaybar.com

 

Trenton’s Gay Bars

October 20, 2009
Old Postcard for the Casa Lido Bar
Old Postcard for the Casa Lido Bar

 

In years after I came out in the late 1970’s the focus of most gay life in Trenton were the bars, clubs and discos that catered to our community.  I recall four bars, Casa Lido and Club 21 on South Warren Street downtown, the Wooden Indian on South Broad Street in South Trenton and the Zodiac on South Genesee Street in, what I think was, Franklin Park.  The locations of the first 3 are firm but my memory is shaky on the Zodiac.  Genesee Street seems right but the cross street escapes me and its distance from the city line with Hamilton Township at Cedar Lane eludes me.

These bars served different segments of the gay community with the Wooden Indian having a strong Lesbian slant, Club 21 tilting to older men, Casa Lido having a broader age range with a bit more macho vibe, and the Zodiac serving a younger, dancing clientele.  The Widows Watch on the corner of South Broad and Liberty Streets did at some point attempt to attract gay patronage with ‘gay nights’.  None of these establishments still exist and others took there places for differing periods of time.  Most notably, the Centre Street Pub at the corner of Centre and Cass Streets and Buddy’s Pub which took the site of the Wooden Indian across the street from the Mercer County Administration Building.  When Buddy’s closed its doors the era of Trenton Gay Bars ended with none currently operating in the city or its environs.

I’m planning on doing separate, more detailed posts on each of these establishments and would appreciate any information, photos or stories any of their customers can supply me.  Please email me at queerTrenton@gmail.com.  In particular clues to the location of the Zodiac and a timeframe for the closure for ABC violations of the Casa Lido in the 1980’s would be appreciated. 

Interesting  Website: http://www.bitterqueen.typepad.com/

Kitten on her shoulder

October 20, 2009

GraceMabieWkitten

I love this neat little photo. I’m no expert in old photographs but this one sticks not only because of the casual pose with the kitten climbing on her shoulder, but also the way the image is positioned at an angle. Unfortunately it’s suffered from fading with an area protected by some other object making the discoloration uneven. There’s writing on the back which appears to read Grace E. Mabie, June 1897.

Interesting Website: http://www.ettc.net/njarts/details.cfm?ID=1193

GraceMabieWkittenBack

Howdy

October 19, 2009

I’ve been thinking about doing a blog for some time; partly to give exposure to a project I’ve been playing with on & off for years: getting together a history of gay Trenton, NJ, but also to have some place to share some of the unusual bits and pieces of our past and present that I’ve come across. I was hoping to salvage some of my fading recollections while at the same time gathering those of others and preserving some of what it was like being gay during the decades when what that meant changed radically.

Looking at the definition of queer in an old dictionary in my office, the variety of meanings fit my intentions for this blog.

Queer \’kwi(e)r\ adj [origin unknown]
1a: differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal
b (1): ECCENTRIC, UNCONVENTIONAL
(2): mildly insane : TOUCHED
c: absorbed or interested to an extreme or unreasonable degree : OBSESSED
d: sexually deviate : HOMOSEXUAL

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary – 1973

So queer seems like a good title for this blog because it includes not only gay or in this case ‘homosexual’, but also obsessed, eccentric and, my favorite, touched. When looking at much of our history it’s difficult to label images or incidents or people as gay but you may be able to accurately call them queer.