Leonard David Lipner
Looked at from the perspective of 45 years' absence, my Brooklyn has more magic than any place on Earth. I lived there from birth in 1941 until we "fled" in 1954 to a brand new apartment in Queens, to "escape" the growing slumification (and danger) of our neighborhood. We lived at 1212 Lincoln Place, between Troy and Schenectady Avenues, in Crown Heights. It was a block from Eastern Parkway. Ahh, so many memories, and one especially important dream:
- Memory of parades on Eastern Parkway after WWII, full of proud soldiers, tanks, cannons, and lots and lots of cheering crowds.
- Memory of P.S. 167 "The Parkway School," at Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Avenue, with the grey eminence, Mr. August Lodato at the helm. Teachers included Bernice Pinkerton, Ruth Friedman, Elizabeth M. Stitt, Gida M. Parisi, Rosalind K. Bendis, Jean Goldberg, Frances K. Bono, Ida Gradstein, Martha Davidson. Learned to read there, learned that the world was an enormous and fascinating place. My wanderlust appeared.
- School friends too numerous to mention: Arthur Friedman, Ivan Rubin, June Sullivan (who I still have a crush on!), Carol Mary Ivanova Usakowski (ditto!), Hal Arkowitz, Shelly Simon, Larry Litt, Artie Wasserspring, Maxine Savedoff, Howard Hirsch, Jonathan Hirsch, Herbert Rosen, Irwin Schoenblummy roller skating pal, and many many more.
- Friends included Mickey Lapidus (now a psychiatrist in Brooklyn), Kenny Flint, Larry Gertler, Stevie Feingold, Stevie Daniels, Albie, and Bobby. It was either Albie or Bobby whose eye I very nearly took out with a homemade rifle that shot pointed bits of linoleum. I missed, thank God. For him, it turned out to be only a scratch on the cheek, and healed quickly. But for me it was a great stroke of luck, because it taught me the awesome power of weapons, and how one's life can be changed forever in a careless instant!
- Oh, the Utica Theater's Saturday Matinees, with two features, a serial, 10 cartoons, and grumpy matrons all for 10 cents!
- Going to the knish store on St. John's Place afterwards, the one with the entranceway that got narrower as you approached the door, and sent you into orbit with the first smell of those fresh knishes still in the oven!
- The "Mom's Knishes" pushcart near the school, and the kindly old man who ran it.
- Boy Scout Troop 404, with Scoutmaster Ray Bancie. Ray, are you out there?
- After-school Hebrew School at Congregation Shaari Zedek, corner of Kingston Avenue and Park Place, run by Rabbi Israel Schenk. His zeal for making sure we knew the line between "us" and "them"that is, who to care for and who to hateinstantly and permanently ruined my experience as a Jew.
- Mr. Geduld (which means "patience" in Yiddish) in that same school, who embodied his name perfectly, and whom I still admire for that.
- Many memories of good seats at Ebbets Field, the awe of first seeing that expanse of green stretching out from home plate to infinity. On days when I didn't have a ticket, waiting for fly balls to clear the right field fence on Bedford Avenue so we could run after them. Listening to Vin Scully (who will surely live FOREVER) narrate the game, on a candy store radio across the street from the ballfield.
This list of memories is so short, the memories so many. But I have had a dream to share, from a couple of years ago. Others who remember the Brooklyn of that era might like to hear it. There is a painting by Salvador Dali which is available as a poster in many poster shops. Up close, it is a weird museum-like painting, with a woman at a window, some Dutch Masters, and other objectsthe sort of things you might see at the Met. But as you move further away it begins to look more and more like a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Eventually, that's really ALL you see. O.K., in my dream, there is a painting like that. Up close it is obviously a painting of Brooklyn, in some detail: the major avenues, and so on. Prospect Park, at the center, is prominent and brighter than the rest. Now, like the Dali painting, it changes as you move further away. Eventually, it becomes the torso of a pregnant woman near term. (Brooklyn does sort of have a bulbous outline.) Bright and luminous in the center, Prospect Park has become her embryowhich of course is any one of us! The caption is obvious: "I Was Born In Brooklyn."
Comments, more shared reminiscences, old friends: e-mail StoryLen@aol.com.
23 May 1999