Courtesy of Kevin F, UD '90 -- he's on the left!More commonly known as simply “Sam’s,” it’s one of the establishments I’d never heard of, until I started the original DelGrads on MySpace page, that evolved into this site.
I was quickly educated on the legendary Sam, and based just on the descriptions of his bar, I envisioned Sam as being a cross between Moe from The Simpsons, and Mel from Alice…complete with grease-stained white t-shirt. How close was I? See the picture right above.
“Sam’s was on Academy, between Skid Row and the building that GrassRoots is in now in. Sam's and Rosa's Pizza next door were both torn down; it’s now just a small parking lot.
Sam would yell on the loudspeaker, ‘Samburger! Samburger! Cheese fries!’ His beer was always flat, he had Fellini-esque characters working for him, and would announce that ‘The cops are coming! Make sure everyone has their IDs ready!’ Then, he would unlock the back door for the underage students to leave. Sometimes, he would do that just to clear out the place because there would always be a line waiting to get in. Sam had a one-in / one-out policy, so for those of us fresh from the Balloon, the false alarms were welcome.
If you were underage and lived in a dorm, you’d just call Sam's and order an ‘Onion Sub’ for delivery. What was an ‘Onion Sub?’ It was simply two cans of beer wrapped up to look like a hoagie. Genius. Sam's shut down in the Summer of 1988, and Sam was killed the following year in a car accident. I was at the Balloon when I heard the news. I was so devastated that I went home and drank alone on my Skid Row porch. Somewhere, I still have a brick from Sam's that I rescued when the building was being torn down.”
- Kevin F, UD '90
“A real shit-hole of a place. Memorable scene: Sam cooking a cheesesteak, with a lit cigarette hanging from his mouth, ashes falling into the cooking meat. ‘Wid or widout?’ took on a whole new meaning at Sam's!”
- David M, UD Master’s '86
“In the '80s, there was only one place to drink underage: Sam's. To get a drink you had to sing a song. I forget most of it. But it was a praise to him, it ended with ‘...as drunk as I am, all I really need is my big fat Sam.’
If you could sing it, he wouldn't card you. One guy would wait for the beer and the rest would be escorted to the back room, with the game machines. If you put coins in the machines and hung out, your buddy would come back with a pitcher and some cups.”
- David Muddiman
Owner / Engineer of Starground Audio
“Being a UD grad ('80) and a townie to boot, I had known Sam's from a couple of different perspectives. Looking for some part time work in the late ‘70s, I ‘landed’ a delivery job at Sam's, working the weekend shift. With most of the deliveries being on campus, Sam told me not to worry about parking while making a delivery -- he could take care of it.
After my first parking ticket while making a delivery, and little in the way of pay (always cash!), I was quickly in the hole at this job. Naive as I was, I continued to work under Sam’s promise that, ‘Things will get better. You work hard and I will take care of you….’ Yeeeeah. After a couple of weeks of watching his operation, including the ‘Onion Sub,’ cash for pay with no defined hourly rate, and in particular a situation where I was making subs and went to use the mayo but had to break the hardened yellow crust off the top of it first...I decided that this was not the place for me.
On weekend nights there were always long lines at Sam’s, and his place was well known among Newark Police as a place that served beer to underaged students…what bar in Newark didn't back then? The interesting thing, and lesser known, was that he had a pretty active second floor to his business as well. Apartments rented out to college students were frequently active with uninhibited carnal activity, and the residents did not seem to mind who noticed.
One night, however, things got really hot and early in the morning a fire broke out on the second floor. Of course the firehouse was across the street so it should not be much of an issue. And right next store was the ambulance station where firefighters slept over night. So what is a drunken student to do when they see a building on fire in the middle of the night? Call 911? Wrong! Knock on the door where the firefighters are sleeping and hope to wake them up!
Only problem is the firefighters are used to all kinds of mayhem occurring outside of their doors on a regular basis, so someone banging on the door did not alert them to a more serious problem. By the time the alarm was sounded, Sam’s was really rockin’. Fire was blowing out the second floor and Sam would come to blame the firefighters as intentionally letting his business burn...not the case!
After working a short stint at Sam's, I always then went to Rosa’s…”
- Dan, UD ‘80
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