Second Thief, Best Thief – An Old Jersey City Saying
The Jersey City Waterfront once was covered with warehouses and piers. Adjacent to these were miles of railroad yards dotted with innumerable sheds and small buildings for use as storage and as workshops for mechanics, machinists, and welders.
During the depression, children from impoverished families would climb onto the roofs of the outlying structures, both to hide and to gain a view of the surrounding area. From up there, they'd watch for workers stealing from the docks, the trains, or the warehouses. The initial crooks would sneak off into the weeds to hide the swag with the idea of retrieving it at the end of the shift. Seeing opportunity made available, the kids would wait a bit for the situation to cool. Then, they'd climb down, grab the goods, and make a getaway through the vacant lots.
Practitioners coined the saying "second thief, best thief" to describe this method of survival.
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Category Archives: The Tunnel Bar
One particularly unusual day at the Tunnel Bar was the Saturday afternoon that a bodybuilder (male) walked in wearing a pink dress. He proceeded to skip around the place. He announced in an exaggerated voice that he was struck by … Continue reading
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Whenever a wino new to the neighborhood bounced in to buy a bottle of Thunderbird, before bagging, I’d carefully cradle the flask in my hand while scrutinizing the label. I’d then say, “My, December 12th . . . That was … Continue reading
Back in the mid-1980s, I was walking to the Tunnel Diner in Jersey City from the 15th Street side. A car came up 14th Street from the direction of the exit of the Holland Tunnel and sped into the diner’s … Continue reading
When working in a dive bar, you’ve always got to be on the alert. A fight might be about to break out. A drunk could be ready to fall and crack his skull. Someone might be stealing something out of … Continue reading
Billy Jansen and Artie called Hoboken home, but they bounced into the Tunnel Bar (just outside of the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City) a couple of times a week. Billy Jansen did roofing and maintenance work for his father, a … Continue reading
Limousine Stan had a good thing going unloading trucks in New York City’s 14th Street meat market – until the IRS put the kibosh on that. In his forties and only 5′ 5″ or so, Stan stacked the heavy cases … Continue reading
There it was. The object of desire. Beige paint almost glowing under the streetlights. Hood only slightly bent out of shape. The sign in the window told the whole story: FOR SALE $200 515 Jersey Ave. Ring Foster bell. “Well … Continue reading
In the early 80s, I managed a dive saloon — the Tunnel Bar — at the corner of 15th and Henderson. Just up the block on 16th Street, there were unused tracks on a railroad bridge that ran over Henderson … Continue reading
The legal opening time for a bar in Jersey City is 6:00 a.m weekdays. The Tunnel Bar – just outside the Holland Tunnel – opened at 5:30 in the morning. Since in 1977 the railroad workers started at 6:00 a.m., … Continue reading
Deep in the heart of darkest December, it was a cold Saturday afternoon. The tavern was empty. The one room was about forty feet long, with maybe eight feet from the bar to the wall. Originally there were two windows. … Continue reading