Janet Klein (Lilly)
Brooklyn is a state of mind. It is a cultural heritage that defines much of who I am. It is "roots"; it is "being"; it is me. I've been in residence in the Phoenix, Arizona area for 30 years, but my identity remains tied to the Brooklyn of the fifties. . . .
934 Carroll Street, just across the street from P.S. 241 (Miss Kane, Miss Kenney, Miss Harris, Mr. Gandley) . . . the schoolyard . . . squash . . . handball . . .
the Botanic Garden(s) . . . Grand Army Plaza . . . sledding down the museum hill . . . the Brooklyn Museum (Stewart's painting of George Washington) . . . strolling down Eastern Parkway on summer evenings . . . the "candy stores" on Franklin Ave. (Rae's Luncheonette, Twin-Els, "Geyser's""Watching all the girls go by") . . . Klein's Pharmacy (my father's drug store) . . . sunbathing on the roof by day and attempting to discern the events at Ebbets Field by night . . . Sterling Tennis Courts . . .
Gluck Sandor's Dance Studio . . . hot dogs at Ben and Sol's . . . movies at the Savoy, the Kameo (yes, it begins with a "K"), the Lincoln . . . shopping with mommy at Loehmanns. Apart from summer camp in the Poconos, my world was contained in a one mile radius that was centered a block away from 1010 President St. until I entered high school.
Erasmus Hall H.S. brought expansion to "my Brooklyn": Mr. McNeill, Miss Corey, Mr. Rubin and, of course, Desi . . . Flatbush Ave. with Garfields, Ellmans, Macy's, Sutter's, Plymouth Shop . . . downtown Brooklyn with A&S, May's, the Paramount, the Albee, the Fox . . . the Brooklyn Ice Palace on Atlantic Ave. . . . the IRT to visit my grandparents on New Lots Ave. . . . the BMT to go to Coney Island (the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, Steeplechase, Luna Park, Nathan's) and Brighton Beach (Bay 2, 15) . . . swimming at the St. George . . . Brooklyn Heights . . . pizza for 15 cents a slice . . . Chinese food . . . Italian food . . . Wolfie's . . . Lundy's . . . Sheepshead Bay . . . Manhattan Beach . . .
With Brooklyn College ('61) the parameters of my world were further enhanced. I've lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Scottsdale. I've traveled to Europe, Russia and much of the United States. But the core of my being remains fixed in "my Brooklyn."
I'd love to hear from anyone from the "old neighborhood." Thanks to all of you for the memories.
9 September 1999
I was born in Greenpoint, family moved soon after to the Bushwick or Ridgewood section, depending who you asked. We lived on Wilson Ave. near Bleeker Street. This would have been around 1943 or 1944. The trolley cars were still running on Wilson Ave. The Myrtle Ave. El train still had the old manually operated gate cars. There was an abundance of shopping. Where we were we had access to Broadway four blocks up. Knickerbocker Ave. one block away. And Myrtle Ave., also a block away, ran all the way up to Richmond Hill.
There were plenty of movies in walking distance, plenty of assorted stores. You could buy anything you needed. There was the Ridgewood Grove Arena. You could go see the boxing matches, I believe they were the Golden Gloves. Every kind of restaurant you could wantChinese, Italian, German, and a whole bunch of diners. My father never had a car, but we didn't need one. There were busses in front of my house, and trains a block away. Plus my dad worked for the Transit Authority (BMT) so the whole family rode free. Dad used to call the bus our green limousine. I think every block had a candy store, and every other block had a fish store. Not on Wilson Ave., but on the side streets all the houses had stoops. The people on the avenue brought out chairs to sit on because we had no stoops. I was young and I asked my father if Santa Claus would bring us one.
Later on in years when I got old enough to play stickball, almost every block had a team. We used to play after dinner, on the side streets, and the neighbors came down, sat on their stoops and rooted for their block to win. I think some of them even bet on us, cause they used to get real mad if we lost. I guess we played all the games that Brooklyn kids played in those days. You know, stickball, punchball, dodge ball, ring olievo, jonny on the pony, and so and so on and so on.
We got a little older, now it was time to drink a little beer, or Thunderbird Wine. Four guys could get high on a quart of Rheingold We had no trouble getting beer because most of us got the beer for our parents, so we chipped in and got us a quart too. About this time the street gangs started, not with guns and knives, that came later with the drugs. We just kept rival gangs out of our neighborhood, or if we had to keep them away from our girls. But as bad as maybe some people thought we were, ladies could walk the streets any hour of the night or day. And not only feel safe but be safe. And no women ever carried their own groceries as long as we were around. It was a time when everyone helped each other however they could be they adults or teenagers.
About this time of my life I joined the navy and set sail I thought for ports far and wide. But lucky me I got stationed on a ship out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We did make trips overseas but short ones. When I was discharged I came back to a different Brooklyn. The people were different, the streets were filthy, and the secure feeling I always had was gone. When people write in and say you can never go back they are right, so keep your fond memories in your dreams. The people are rightyou cant go back.
I don't know if anyone that sees this will remember me, but it would be nice to hear from you if you do.
My name is Alan Mezzapella. I attended P.S. 116 Elementary, Halsey Junior High, no high school but I knew a lot of people that went to P.S. 162 Junior High, and Bushwick High School. If you remember me and would like to talk my e-mail address is LIRR67@WEBTV.NET.
9 September 1999