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Newark Life

Newark History Museum salutes Minster’s Jewelers and good old rock and roll

Apr 29, 2019 10:46AM ● By J. Chambless

The neon sign for Minster’s from the Newark Shopping Center.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer 

 The Newark History Museum reopened for its 2019 season last month, with the addition of two new exhibits – one on Newark musicians, and one on Minster’s Jewelers. 

The jewelry store, formerly in the Newark Shopping Center, was an institution that spanned the days when the shopping center was the pinnacle of shopping in Delaware, to 2017, when longtime owner Marilyn Minster passed away and the store closed.  

The store was the center’s longest-running tenant, and Minster herself started working there in 1945, when she was 15. Dominating the room at the museum is the store sign, mounted on the wall. It’s still an impressive sight, despite damage to the trim and neon. In the display case below, you’ll see a 1955 architectural drawing for the store’s proposed interior, and a vintage photograph of the sales floor that will spark a lot of memories for people who bought prized gifts, engagement rings or wedding rings there over the decades. 

There’s a shell necklace designed by Minster herself, as well as a watercolor, showing her artistic talents that weren’t part of the day-to-day work at the store.  

In another room is a salute to the many bands and musicians who have gotten their start in Newark. Filling two display cases and the wall above them, the exhibit is only a brief skim through the town’s thriving music scene, going back to the earliest days with The Pilt Down Five, a group of nattily attired gents who had a “WAMS Wax to Watch” single in 1964 titled “32 Ford.” There’s a copy of the single in the display case. 

You’ll also find a photo of the Fairwinds – looking sharp in their matching white suit jackets in 1971 – along with bands and artists you’ll be more familiar with, such as the Sin City Band (several records are on view), Larry Tucker, and the groovily named Snakegrinder and the Shredded Fieldmice, whose LP (presumably the only one they produced) is on display. 

There’s a photo and concert flyer for the MIB’s, who were part of the 1980s musical boom that also brought out Bad Sneakers, along with the Commotions, and Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, who started with house parties on the “Skid Row” housing strip and ended up with a major-label contract. 

There’s a very 1980s fringed T-shirt for the very 1980s hair metal band Ravage, who had the spandex outfits to prove their credibility, judging by their photo. The biggest Newark-influenced act is well represented, of course, and there’s a signed photo by George Thorgood and the Destroyers prominently displayed. 

On the preview day for the new season in April, a large crowd turned out to peek into the display cases and discuss who knew who back in the day. And, this being Newark, everybody pretty much knew everybody. 

There are other recent additions to the museum, including the Abbott’s Shoe Repair sign and a huge display of leather belt bits and pieces that must have hung in the shop. There are also plenty of photos documenting 100 years of Main Street, offering plenty of chances to compare then and now. 

There are artifacts from the Newark New Century Club, a Jimmy’s Diner jukebox, and plenty of other little things that will flash you back. The depth of the museum’s holdings is impressive, and while the place itself is very low-key and charges no admission, the wealth of memories you’ll turn up during a visit is well worth making a trip and strolling down memory lane. 

The Newark History Museum (429 S. College Ave.) is open Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Donations are welcome. Call 302-224-2408 or find the museum on Facebook. 

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com

 

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