My favorite memories of Brooklyn is Stockton St. during WWII and a long-ago friend Uvall Byrd. Last heard he was a career navy. My favorite place is Park Ave., 817 to be exact. My friends, Pete Santiago (trumpet player), the Wargo brothers and Jr. Saunders and his brother. The part-time work on the seltzer trucks Tony M. would get me. The best job I ever had, working on a horse and wagon rig delivering block ice, 50 lb. bags of coal, or 5 gal. cans of fuel oil to the folks around Park, Ellery, Sumner et al. Retired and living in the Northwest, beautiful but cold. The warmth of families, friends and just all the varied ethnic groups made Brooklyn home!
Last school I went to in NY was Mark Hopkins J.H.S. P.S. 148. If anyone remembers me, my sister Betty (Elizabeth) or my family please write.
25 May 1999
Cari Zimber Forrest
My Brooklyn was a series of stops on the way to becoming an adult.
The first stop was a three room unit in a courtyard apartment building at 1633 Sterling Place when I was five years and in kindergarten. My family had just moved here from Detroit, MI after my father had been laid off from his assembly line job at General Motors. My older sister went to J.H.S. 210 and I went to school at P.S. 191 which was just around the corner from us on Park Place. My fondest memories of those years was the "potatonik & sourmilich" restaurant a few blocks away which became our McDonald's when my Mom (OBM) wanted a quick snack or it was just too hot to cook. Even thinking about the "sourmilich" makes me mouth water, even today. Unfortunately, no yogurt can match the sourness of that treat. The strolls along Pitkin Avenue or Utica Avenue . . . waiting for then-candidate John F. Kennedy's motorcade to snake its way down Eastern Parkway are still vividly etched in my mind. But the neighborhood changed, my father's business partner was assaulted, and a friend murdered and fearing for the safety of the family, we picked up and abandoned the neighborhood, just as thousands of other Jewish families had before and after us.
Our move to 329 Ocean Parkway was like a breath of fresh air. No more crowded apartment . . . we lived in an elegant brownstone and more importantly, my sister and I had our own room! We lived on an elegant boulevard with trees and park benches and people who rode their horses up from Prospect Park along the bridle path in the middle of Ocean Parkway. Flatbush Avenue was just a 15 minute walk away as was my very first visit to a Chinese restaurant! My sister graduated Ditmas J.H.S. 62 and went to Erasmus Hall H.S., where the most famous Brooklynite in our world graduated maybe five years earlier, Barbara Streisand (it was Barbara then, not Barbra, you know!). I settled into first grade at P.S. 179 on Ave. C, a short walk from our house. I remember waiting to catch a glimpse of "Cousin Brucie," a local deejay, who lived diagonally across from us in the big white apartment buildingin fact, it was the tallest building in our neighborhood. I loved everything about my second stop in Brooklyn except the explosions my father had every time he got a parking ticket because he illegally parked after 16 hours of work and circling the block 15 times or more looking for a parking space at 12:30 in the morning. You see, Ocean Parkway was famous for its beautiful pre-war apartment buildings and turn-of-the-century Victorian private homes, most of which came without garages. So after about his 100th parking ticket, my father packed us up and we kissed my beloved Ocean Parkway goodbye, moving to the "country."
My third stop, the "country", was the Futurama development, located in the Flatlands/Georgetowne/Mill Basin area, just outside of Canarsie. We moved into the middle floor of an "illegal" three-family attached row house and there, to my amazement, were a zillion kids my age and a street with virtually no traffic that I could play in. Because of my asthma, my mother had me enrolled in P.S. 251K (two blocks away) rather than P.S. 203 (ten blocks away). My sister refused to leave Erasmus Hall so my mother worked something out for her to stay there until she graduated. I never really thought of that neighborhood as being part of America because there were so many Holocaust survivors in the area, one rarely heard English spoken. It was usually Yiddish (or Polish, if your parents didn't want you to understand what they were saying). You never needed keys or a babysitter because there was always someone's house to go to if you got locked out or your parents had to go away. Everyone was your "aunt" or your "cousin" because from Utica Avenue to Ralph Avenue; from Avenue H to Avenue L, we were one big happy family . . . even the few "Americans" or Italians who lived in the neighborhood! But it became an area that my sister and I grew weary of too soon. When I graduated Roy H. Mann J.H.S. 78K, I swore I would never go to Samuel J. Tilden H.S. with the morons that lived on my block so off I went, by bus and three trains, to Manhattan to attend the High School of Art & Design. In 1969, with my sister working in Manhattan, me going to school in Manhattan and my Dad, who was a taxicab driver by then, cruising Manhattan for fares, we wore my Mother down, coercing her to abandon her nest in Brooklyn and move to "the City."
We got older . . . my sister moved to Israel, married and moved to Belgium. I graduated City College of New York and moved to Chicago with my newly-wed husband. Each subsequent visit to Manhattan made me realize how much I missed Brooklyn. When we finally moved back east (to Connecticut), had our son, Michael, and our car broken into twice while visiting my parents, I broke down and begged my parents to move back to the "old neighborhood."
Before I knew it, I was back on East 55th, showing my infant son all the wonderful places I'd been and people I knew. And the voices I heard were still tinged in Yiddish, but it was the voices of the children of those original owners who stayed and reclaimed the neighborhood as their own. And every time I was a little sad, I walked to Ralph Avenue and got a slice of Connie's Pizza or a brownie from Poppie's Bakery and you know what; the world was right again. You see, just as Dorothy did in the "Wizard of Oz," you can go home and home for me will always be a wonderful place called Brooklyn.
26 May 1999