Building a Family Business

By the time of her husband's death in 1902, Sarah was already running a successful grocery business. She determined to have a great variety of products to attract more customers and in 1908 the Dowd Grocery added a Meat Market and Butcher to the store. Sarah would wake John at 5:00 am to saddle up their horse "Laddie" to the cart and ride down into Newark to the large meat market there. John would return with the days meat supply in time for the morning shoppers. A meat freezer was added n the back of the store and Jake Krueger [or Koogal] was hired as a butcher. Of Sarah's sons, at least Charlie also learned how to cut up the meat. John and Charlie Dowd worked as clerks at the store while Marie assisted Ms Gillespie, Sarah's trusted bookkeeper and head cashier. The store became "very widely known".

While all of the children helped out at the store, John, Charlie and Marie seem to have spent more time there in the early years. Older brother Edward worked outside the store as a carpenter, perhaps preferring handy work over the grocery business. He worked for at least two years as a carpenter at the Edison laboratory just across the street from the store. Eddie married Ella Jacobus on November 25th, 1903 and they started a family right away. Ella was the daughter of Samuel Jacobus and Ellen McCormick of #428 Scotland Street, Orange. [to include information on the Jacobus family]

Tom Dowd also did not work exclusively for the family business. It is recounted in the family that Tom began working at Edison's as a "typewriter" from the time he was eight years old This is probably not true since the Dowd's did not even move to West Orange until Tom was twelve years old, just before his last year of school. It must have been incredibly exciting living just across the street from Edison's world famous laboratory complex. Between 1895 and 1903 famous visitors visited Edison's small movie studio, "the Black Maria" to be filmed in the mini, ninety second films. Tom himself is said to have appeared in one of these early movies with other neighborhood children. In order to show motion - the children were given direction to flap their arms about and move around for the camera. One of the boys was given a bucket of water to throw on the others. It is also told in the family that Tom appeared as an extra in Edison's movie, The Great Train Robbery - the first movie with a plot, filmed in 1904. It is certainly plausible that Tom, enchanted by Edison's, went there to find work, possibly after school or after leaving school altogether. Starting out as a typewriter, Tom eventually became a bookkeeper at Edison's between 1904 and 1909.

Also working as a bookkeeper at Edison's was a young man, Al Young, who became Tom's best friend. Al had gotten the job at Edison's through his older brother, A.C. Young, who was Edison's comptroller and close aide. Marie Dowd would joke later that Tom and Al never really worked at Edison's; they played - often engaging in water pistol fights in the office. Each day Tom would bring Al home for lunch, across the street to the Dowd store. During these lunches Al became acquainted with Tom's pretty sister Marie and they too became close friends.

By 1910 Tom had left Edison's and was working full time as a clerk in the Dowd's busy store. Since the beginning, one of the unique features of the Dowd's grocery was home delivery. Laddie, the horse and the Dowd's delivery cart were a familiar sight across Orange and West Orange. Each of the boys had their delivery districts, Charlie the St. Cloud Area, and Tom's included White Street. The boys would deliver the order of goods to the back door of their customer's home. It was on these deliveries that John, Charlie and Tom all met their wives.

On John's deliveries he met Cecilia Boucher. "Cel" (pronounced - seal) was from Massachusetts but had been staying with family friends in West Orange. Cel was born in Massachusets in 1892 to Canadian born parents [to include information about their marriage and the Boucher family]. They were married and moved into a home at #61 Mt. Vernon and later to #43 Watson Avenue.

Tom's delivery stops included the Edward Dillon home on White Street. Tom may have also known the Dillons from St. John's church where Mr. Dillon was sexton. Recently, the Dillons had acquired a nanny for their five young children. The nanny was Margaret Foley, an orphan herself from Paterson, New Jersey. One morning Thomas delivered the groceries to the Dillons home as usual. He climbed the porch steps and knocked at the door. Margaret, a pretty, nineteen year old brunette, opened, and as the story goes, Tom was so taken with her beauty that he took a step back and fell right off the porch. Tom recovered of course and he and Margaret became close.

Charlie's route took him to the wealthy Llewelyn Park home of A.W. Elmquist on Edsonia Terrace. Here he became acquainted with Mrs. Elmquists' niece, Myrtle Mullins and they began dating. Myrtle's family would forever refer to Charlie as "the grocer" and although they would come to welcome him in their family, some relatives initially looked down on Myrtle's relationship with a simple grocery boy.




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