30 March 2016

Wally's Confectionery

Confectionery & Novelties

My grandfather, Wallace B. Dixon, was fond of sweets. There was always a dish of candy on the coffee table in the living room of my grandparents' house. There was always soda in the fridge. And after dinner, nearly every night, Gramps had a "dish" of ice cream while he watched TV. The kids in the neighborhood could always count on a hand-out, and I enjoyed free run of the treats as long as I promised to eat all my dinner.

Mary E. Dixon standing in front of her father's candy store, "Wally's Confectionary." Around 1930. Marshall Street, Elizabeth, NJ.
Mary E. Dixon in front of
Wally's Confectionery, c. 1930.
It should come as no surprise that Wally Dixon, for a brief time, owned a real candy store. I've had this photo of my mother standing in front of Wally's Confectionery for a while now. Census records helped me date the photo, at least approximately.

My grandparents married in 1925. By the time the 1930 census rolled around they had two children, Wally (almost 4 years old) and Mary (2 1/2 years old).  They were living at 239 Marshall Street, Elizabeth, NJ in a building that housed two other families.

According to the 1929 Elizabeth City Directory, the family was living at 153 Clark Place, so they hadn't lived on Marshall Street for very long. The 1930 directory gives the Marshall Street address for both the residence and the business, which is listed under "Confectionery and Ice Cream - Retail." The 1931 directory listing is the same. By 1933 Wallace Dixon is no longer listed as a confectioner.

The directories also show that my grandfather was at work at a regular job as well. In 1929 he's working as a soap maker. The residential directories for 1930 and 1931 list him as a confectioner, but the 1930 census shows that he is working as a laborer for an oil company. In 1933 the city directory shows him as a painter at the Standard Oil Company.

Who was minding the store?

The 1930 census gives an additional insight into the workings of Wally's Confectionery.

The top line is for "Wallis" Dixon, the bottom line is for Sophie Dixon.
The top line of this extract from the 1930 census is for my grandfather, listed as "Wallis" Dixon. The second line is the entry for Sophie, his wife. My grandmother was not only keeping watch on her two toddlers, but she was also minding the candy store while her husband was working his "day job."

Timing is everything

On 29 October 1929, the stock market crashed marking the start of the Great Depression. It was probably not the best time to own a fledgling business. It's possible that the short life of Wally's Confectionery was in part due to the larger economic picture. Between 1929 and 1933 the unemployment rate reached nearly 25%. Certainly at a time where money is tight people were spending less on candy and "novelties." It must have been quite a struggle to keep the business afloat, a struggle that they eventually lost.

The 1935 Elizabeth city directory shows that the family had moved to 763 South Broad Street, leaving their home and business on Marshall Street. My grandfather continued working for Standard Oil, in all it's incarnations, until he retired. My grandmother got a job with the Singer Manufacturing Company where she stayed for the rest of her working life.

Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Elizabeth Directory 1929, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1935. Price & Lee, Newark, New Jersey.  

1930 census of United States, Population Schedule schedule, Elizabeth, Union, New Jersey, Year: 1930; Census Place: Elizabeth, Union, New Jersey; Roll: 1385; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0029; Image: 844.0; FHL Microfilm: 2341120. 239 Marshall Street. Dixon: Wallis, Sophie, Wallis Jr., Mary E.; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com).


  1. Enjoyed reading your blog, an excellent example of family genealogy. I have written a pictorial history of Elizabeth that might interest you. The title is "Elizabeth, New Jersey Then and Now", and you can download it free at my website http://colorantshistory.org/ElizabethThenNow.html

  2. Bob! I'm a huge fan of yours. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my blog. I love "Then and Now" and have enjoyed it so much. I wrote a whole blog post about it back in January [ http://rootedinelizabeth.blogspot.com/2016/01/resource-roundup-then-and-now.html ]. I see that I have neglected to include it on my Resources page, and I will remedy that as soon as possible. Thanks again for taking the time to read my little blog, and for your very kind comments.

  3. I read more of your blog today and it's outstanding--easy to read and yet well researched and documented. Thanks for the link to my book.

  4. Thank you, so very much, for all your kind comments!