Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Balloon Man of Cadwalader Park

The Balloon Man of Cadwalader Park

Staff Writer The Trentonian Newspaper

TRENTON — With help from BackTalk readers, The Trentonian has
learned the identity of the forgotten Balloon Man of Cadwalader
Park, who was a favorite of kids of all ages back in the day.
Turns out there were at least three balloon guys, the original
being Manuel Abramowitz, who often was assisted by his brother,
Benjamin, and nephew, Martin Recusin, according to in-law Jack
Krupnick and nephew Don Abramowitz.
Chambersburg resident Krupnick, who is at work on a book about
Abramowitz, said the balloon man is one of the most interesting
characters he’s ever known.
To many BackTalk readers, including the one who used the forum
to asked the public whatever happened to him, the Balloon Man is
an unforgettable figure who still brings smiles to the faces of
old-timers who played in the park.
Few knew his name, however, or that Abramowitz was such a great
athlete that he had been chosen for the 1936 U.S. Olympic team
as both a runner and gymnast. He refused to go to Germany,
however, because the deadly anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime of
Hitler made his orthodox parents too fearful to let him go,
Krupnick said.
Abramowitz, who was born in 1914 and died more than a decade
ago, was the son of Russian immigrants who settled on long-gone
Decatur Street in the South Ward — where the Hughes Justice
Complex is today.
It’s said that Abramowitz got his start as an athlete running
from there to the little People of the Truth synagogue on West
State Street in the West Ward, where he assisted the rabbi. His
skills as a runner were noticed while he was in the Trenton
junior high named for Grace Dunn, who he knew personally.
He didn’t attend high school. In his teenage years he honed
his athletic skills at the Trenton YMCA, which sponsored him
for the trip to Berlin and the Olympics still remembered for
African-American sprinter Jesse Owens showing up the bigoted
Hitler. Three other Trentonians made the U.S. soccer team
that year.

Abramowitz fought with Gen. George Patton at the Battle of the
Bulge during WWII. Krupnick said he returned from Europe a more
sensitive man and devoted himself to helping others and trying
to lead a stress-free life.
That’s where the balloon selling came in. For more than 30 years
Abramowitz was a fixture outside the north entrance to Cadwalader,
the guy holding dozens of balloons of all kinds and shapes who
endeared himself to all the kids and parents who came to the
rides and zoo in the park in the old days.
Few people knew his name, only that he was balloon man, the
gentleman in a rumpled suit and hat at Cadwalader Park every day
except the Jewish sabbath of Saturday. Krupnick said Abramowitz
taught his assistants that there were tricks to selling balloons
and that one of them was looking like a poor man to the customers.

Yet Abramowitz became a rich man selling balloons and he gave lots
of his money to family and charity — all without seeking any
notoriety. After posing for a picture at the park in May 1983,
Abramowitz told The Trentonian photographer he didn’t want his name
used in the newspaper, only that he was the Balloon Man of
Cadwalader Park.

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