Marcal Paper fire: 80 years of New Jersey history gone in an instant

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Like the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Newark, the Marcal Paper Mill was one of only a handful of iconic old factories left in New Jersey.

The mill, which stood in Elmwood Park for 80 years, was destroyed Wednesday by a massive fire.

Generations of New Jerseyans recall seeing the large red Marcal sign that stood on top of the building. It could be viewed most predominately from Interstate 80.

Jeff Freitag grew up around the corner from the factory. His dad drove a truck for Marcal for a while.

RELATED: Immense fire destroys iconic Marcal Paper Mill factory in Elmwood Park 

“My mother would give me coupons, which were on the bottom of the tissue boxes. You would go to the guard gate down on Market Street and you would get a tissue dispenser, which were made out of pastel plastic. They were usually yellow or blue,” he says.

Many longtime Elmwood Park residents have similar stories. Many gathered near the site of the rubble Thursday to reminisce and to say goodbye to the iconic building.

 The company was founded by Sicilian immigrant Nicholas Marcalus in 1932.

Marcal remained until this week what it had been for decades - a stable factory job, right in the neighborhood, for wave after wave of blue-collar workers. Many of them were immigrants themselves.

Mark Sudol was one of many workers from Poland who worked there.

“It’s gone. It’s a shame. It’s a very sad situation for everybody.”

The famous Marcal sign was built in 1948. It went dark in 2009 for five years while the company went through bankruptcy and was sold to Soundview Paper Company. Soundview relit the sign in 2014.

A spokesperson for Soundview said in a statement Thursday that the company is working to get financial support for the workers who are now without a job.

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