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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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Monthly Archives: July 2011
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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
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Thoughts pounded, rushed forward and surged in Harry’s mind as the Bee Gee’s screamed out of the speakers of the car stereo: Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive. As if the cassette … Continue reading
It was one hour before sun-up on the 2nd day of the 2nd month. Somewhere a ways off, a radio played a Frank Sinatra song. The Warden was about to order one of the guards to cut the sound. After … Continue reading
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In the late 70s, Barney’s — the candy store on the corner of Summit and Zabriskie — was the place for the unemployed and the ill-employed of the Jersey City Heights to hangout. Kevin, the son of Barney the owner, … Continue reading
Charley Walsh just didn’t have any luck. The only good thing about his last job — a messenger on Wall Street — was that it lasted long enough for him to be able to collect an unemployment check; but that … 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
During my second year of college, I shared an apartment in a Washington DC suburb with two other students. Early into the spring semester, one roommate broke up with his girl friend. He became extremely depressed and stopped attending classes. … Continue reading