Thursday, December 01, 2005

Back to Brooklyn

After two years of researching Irish mythology, legend, history and social habits
of the ancients, I am feeling a tug on my other roots firmly planted, not exactly in America, but a sort of country all it's own: Brooklyn.
More specifically Brooklyn of the 1950's and 6o's.

Right now I'm working on a YA book entitled: Public Art and The Butcher Boy
which documents the rise of one artist from the saw dusted floor of his father's butcher shop to semi-local fame (but very little fortune) as a public artist in NYC. (An actual biography of sculptor Rob Ressler whose most recent work is Beacon, a 25' bronze, the 9/11 Memorial for Brooklyn.) Well into chapter one
I now realize, that the story also profiles our beloved borough.

And as we all know-- details are everything. So, if you're from Brooklyn, or simply have an affinity (or passion) for the place, I'd like to hear from you.

Did you grow up (or spend time in) Brooklyn in the 50's or 60's? What neighborhood? What do you recall most vividly?

Thx for sharing!

11 Comments:

At 4:44 PM , Blogger Jude03x said...

I also share a love for brooklyn ,but my expierence was much later in the 90's. Brooklyn is changing so much and it's a bit sad to see. But I still hold onto those memories as well. I still remember going to Brighten Beach with my Mom and Dad and two brothers and surrfing the waves in freezing cold weather. And then going to Nathens and getting the best greasy, hot, hotdogs ever. And when we ate them my brother would always get sprayed w/ hot grease when he bit into it. And of course those fries with the cool forky thingys. I was always amazed with those when I was little. And who could forget the unsafe, junky rides at Coney Island that I was never alowed to ride( well the ones I was allowed to ride creeped me out 'couse the guys who manned it were quite strange*shutter)Well I think I've rambled on enough! lol I'd love to hear more about your book I have a gig I'm late for( band will kill me>_<),Jude

 
At 4:44 PM , Blogger Jude03x said...

I also share a love for brooklyn ,but my expierence was much later in the 90's. Brooklyn is changing so much and it's a bit sad to see. But I still hold onto those memories as well. I still remember going to Brighten Beach with my Mom and Dad and two brothers and surrfing the waves in freezing cold weather. And then going to Nathens and getting the best greasy, hot, hotdogs ever. And when we ate them my brother would always get sprayed w/ hot grease when he bit into it. And of course those fries with the cool forky thingys. I was always amazed with those when I was little. And who could forget the unsafe, junky rides at Coney Island that I was never alowed to ride( well the ones I was allowed to ride creeped me out 'couse the guys who manned it were quite strange*shutter)Well I think I've rambled on enough! lol I'd love to hear more about your book I have a gig I'm late for( band will kill me>_<),Jude

 
At 4:48 PM , Blogger Jude03x said...

I also share a love for brooklyn ,but my expierence was much later in the 90's. Brooklyn is changing so much and it's a bit sad to see. But I still hold onto those memories as well. I still remember going to Brighten Beach with my Mom and Dad and two brothers and surrfing the waves in freezing cold weather. And then going to Nathens and getting the best greasy, hot, hotdogs ever. And when we ate them my brother would always get sprayed w/ hot grease when he bit into it. And of course those fries with the cool forky thingys. I was always amazed with those when I was little. And who could forget the unsafe, junky rides at Coney Island that I was never alowed to ride( well the ones I was allowed to ride creeped me out 'couse the guys who manned it were quite strange*shutter)Well I think I've rambled on enough! lol I'd love to hear more about your book I have a gig I'm late for( band will kill me>_<),Jude

 
At 5:30 PM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...

Jude-- Thx for opening up the blog to younger Brooklynites, well at least those whose memories focus on the 90's. We too spent a lot of time w. our kids on the Boarwalk, especially on hot summer nights when we'd take them after dark to cool off in the waves. (Though we wouldn't let them go out too far. That undertow could be treacherous.) As were the Nathan's franks & fries-- dangerous, but really good. Thanks again! Eben

 
At 6:51 PM , Blogger Jerry said...

I would like to tell you something related to my father's butcher shop on Riverdale Ave. in Brownsville: When we got our first computer perhaps six years ago, I posted a few lines on a "Brooklyn Memories" message board. I mentioned that my father Ben Ressler had a butcher shop on Riverdale that he had purchased from a Mrs. Lubow. More than five years after the fact, last May to be exact, I received a response from one of Mrs. Lubow's granddaughters. She was so exited and eager to exchange information. She sent me photos of her family including one of the butcher shop during the time that her grandparents ran it. One of her aunts, 92 years of age found the original lease dated 1951 that my father and his partner signed with her mother. I have a copy of this lease that was made for me. Last August I was invited by the granddaughter, Amy, to Kutcher's Hotel where the Lubow family has an annual reunion. Amy's father was there as well as several aunts and uncles all in their eighties with the exception of Aunt Ruth who is 92. All of these folks are active and completely involved in life. I cried when Aunt Ruth played the piano so beautifully in the lobby of the hotel. It was an amazing day, I had emotions that I would say were akin to those that would be experienced by one who had just found many family members, not seen in several decades. They were so warm and gracious; Amy's father Jack, eighty-six years old, told me that he remembered my father and said that I resemble him. The last time that he saw Ben was likely fifty years ago! The Lubows also remember my mom Eleanor and her parents from Riverdale Ave.
I will soon continue my story with our move to Hendrix St. in 1957. New Lots Ave. was the "Main Drag there; a wonderful lively place of which my memories are in Technicolor.

Jerry

 
At 1:36 PM , Anonymous Jerry said...

The first place that I remember living in as a small child was on Chester St. in Brownsville, Brooklyn. In fact, this was the place that Robert was brought home to after being born at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital on June 25, 1954. Our father never had or drove a car, so my mother's brother Jack, borrowed another brother's car (a shiny new 1954 Chevrolet model 210) to bring Mom and baby Rob home from the hospital. I went along for the ride and waited outside while my mom and baby brother were being discharged. Uncle Yankel (Jack) bought me a cluster of "Tootsie Roll Pops." I was only three years old but this memory remains vivid.
Around the corner from our apartment on Chester St. and perhaps only several hundred yards away was our father's first butcher shop, located at 174 Riverdale Ave. A "stone's throw" from there was our grandparent's house at 166 Riverdale Ave. Our parents, Ben and Eleanor met in the butcher shop in 1950. This story may remind the reader of the classic movie "Marty" where a young woman falls in love and marries her butcher.
More Later

 
At 1:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes there is nothing quite like a greasy Nathens frank on a cold winter day

 
At 10:01 AM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...

Brighton Beach...
conjuring up Brooklyn always whets the appetite. Can't help salivating for a kasha knish at Mrs. Stahl's, the corner store
under the elevated train tracks.
Anybody know if it's still there?

 
At 4:35 PM , Anonymous Jerry said...

... we moved to Blake Ave. from Hendrix St. circa 1959. While we were living at Hendrix St., Ben was already working in the Blake Ave. shop.His land lady, Lillian Friedman lived above the butcher shop. When she but the building up for sale, Ben immediately gave her a hundred dollar deposit for the purchase, lest he loose his business. The sale of the Hendrix St. house was done in short order and hence our move.
Our time at Blake Ave. was a wonderful one and thus so vivid in our memories. There were so many interesting people, many characters; that were neighbors, customers of the butcher shop or suppliers that would deliver stuff to Ben. I will describe some of them.
Mr. Leibowitz was a handsome, friendly, old man that would frequent the shop. He had a store a couple of blocks away on Blake that he kept open on a part time basis. It was basically a "junk"business selling used baby carriages, bikes, bed frames, lamps, etc. Mr. Lebowitz was the uncle of Steve Leibowitz, a.k.a Steve Lawrence. Wonder if he sold any 45s of Steve and Edie in his store? Sam the fruit man was block away. Dad, Rob and I would go there often, but our visits were not only to buy fruit. Sam would put out folding chairs for us and we would all talk for an hour or more. During this time, Sam would not be disturbed; his wife took care of customers that came in. Because of our extended visits, invariably we would have to use the bathroom. Unusual toilet in Sam's store! It had a long pull chain attached to a tank above the bowl for flushing. Specific instuctions were given on how to grasp the chain before each of our toilet visits. My goodness! , what trivial and foolish details remain as permanent entries in our memories.
Isidore Tack owned the houses on either side of ours. All the buildings on our block consisted of a store, a two room rental behind it, and a full apartment above. Ben referred to Mr. Tack as Yisrool Tack or mostly as "Sool Tack". Mr Tack was an old man without much to do. He would mostly hang out on the block, very often by the butcher.Tack would do errands for Ben and Manny until he had a "falling out" with Ben and then would do errands for Manny only. Sool Tack did not like Rob or me too much, perhaps because we would always climb the wooden fence between our back yard and his. Tack's yard was the nicest on the block, as so we thought; a tall cherry tree and several mature concord grape vines grew there. Exploring Tack's yard was important to us. We found "nooks and crannies" well before Thomas' English Muffins found their's.
Have to run out, I will continue later..............Jerry

 
At 6:02 PM , Anonymous jerry said...

Another person important in Rob's and my childhood during the Blake Ave years was Arnie Verch. Arnie was a handsome man in his 20s that sold beef livers to Ben. He would come in his Chevy Apache truck once a week delivering 3 or 4 livers that were in a cheesecloth netting. Arnie however, would carry the livers by the flesh itself through a hole in the material; thumb and index finger in a firm grasp. We thought that his hands were permanently "blood" red. The story among butchers was that straight out of high school, Arnie stole a truckload of livers and went from butcher to butcher peddling them, thus establishing a clientele. My dear brother and I to this day still question one another as to how one would go about stealing a truck of livers. We heard about Arnie for many years after Blake and what we heard was that he was doing well. "Go know" so lucrative?.....Livers?
Rob and I as well as many other kids on the block would get into all the back yards nearby by climbing on the garage roofs; from one roof to the next on garages which stood close to each other behind the houses. The best climbers in the neighborhood were two brothers that were formerly from a rural area and had recently moved around the corner from us. Paul and Brian along with their mother and little sister came from Montauk Long Island. The boy's mother was often seen tending a small garden in front of the apartment she rented. Our mother Eleanor would talk with her on occasion and she would complain how the "Crabgrass" was taking over her garden. I don't think that we ever knew Paul and Brian's mother's name so we referred to her as the Crabgrass lady. This term was also applied to other people we encountered that we knew were from the countryside. You have noticed of course, that Rob and I have our own private language born of our childhood experiences.

 
At 6:05 PM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...

Jerry--
Your stories are so full of those
colorful details that bring those
memories to life. Keep remembering! eben

 

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