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Greatest Adventure

Life Story Club Contributor

Feb 24, 2020

I got fascinated. I just thought, “What, what do these stamps mean?” And then I began to find out about people collecting stamps, and I remember going to an exhibit in a smaller place in Manhattan. And I got interested in the stamp collecting, because the stamps carried information about the country or the leaders and it was something that opened up the whole world.

I remember getting stamps from different parts of the world. From England. I look forward to the mail many times, and I would get letters. My family members living in Ireland send us mail and I see the stamps on them that told something about the country or the people, so it was a whole flight of discovery.

I found out that they had books of stamps, and I began collecting them, and there was a couple of places around the neighborhood that sold these packets of stamps, just every kind, and they were wonderful. You’d go through the packets and you’d see different stamps of France, or South America, or whatever, the whole world. That opened up to me interest in everything going on and then the United States was issuing stamps because the president was a stamp collector. FDR.

And he was quite a stamp collector. He really started to get the post office to issue all these wonderful stamps about different authors, musicians, the famous Americans. And they were right before the World War. And then I really got enamored with radio, because that was fascinating, to turn the dial, and on the news comes. At four and six it was such a wonderful world of discovery. The radio, the newspapers, the magazines, it was just endless, endless discovery. So then going out with my mother and my father. My father would take me to the baseball games, and it was just, the world was right there. And that’s what I hope I’ve instilled in my sons, just go out, and there’s the world. Embrace it, with all its heartache and headache, and a lot of beauty.

I have two sons, and two daughters. One was adopted, and one was born. They became travelers. They used to ride the subway train. They’d say, “Oh, we’re going to check the map for you.” And they would look and see where, what train we were on. Was it the A train, the B train. It was on the east side of the city, or the west side. I instilled a love of going places and the mystery of discovery.

It was a wonderful time and I’d go, I’d relive it all over again, god willing. See the world through the other person’s eyes, and the wonder. To go to the roof on the house that we lived on 8th Avenue, and see the planes.

Discovering Brooklyn was an exciting adventure every day. New York is a place of discovery, whether it’s down a certain street, or a certain neighborhood, there’s a lot to discover, and because of all the people that have come here from all over the world. It’s just endless, it’s just out there.

And it’s ever changing. But there’s history and there’s change. Both are living side by side. They’re living side by side. The old neighborhoods, whether it be Park Slope, where the houses go back to the 1880s, 1870s, 1860s, to the Civil War. And then you have Downtown Brooklyn, there are places that go back to the American Revolution.

Luckily there were some people that had served during the Civil War. I found that they were very interesting. And it’s interesting, they were also, most of them were stamp collectors too. Because in collecting stamps, you’re discovering… well, the countries, the geography, the history. Because other countries also put out stamps, whether it’s the king, or president, and the stamps will show whatever you like.

People Watching on the Streets of Brooklyn

Life Story Club Contributor

Feb 10, 2020

Well, life is strange in the essence of it. When you’re out going about. While I started to walk around and still catch the wind and go out on my own and do different things. Always running into some very interesting people. I looked forward to that. I would’ve seen them walking my block or I would see them some place else. I knew they must know something. But I don’t know what.

I always found that the wondrous thing. Being out on the streets on my own and not being taken from here to the school or back to the house but just out there. You know, seeing people, oh well I’ve seen them so many times and I just wonder, what was that man or who was that women. And sometimes they’d look at me and smile and that would be all that I would want to know more overtime. So when I started selling Christmas cards door to door I got to know a lot of people.

And I found a world of interesting persons. Of all ages, very young and very old. And I walk these streets of Brooklyn and you know, I see houses where I was welcomed in. That was one of the fun of selling the Christmas cards, to be welcomed in. And then you learn so much just there who has twins. There was a man, he was up in years he was probably close to 90, but he had been in World War I and had seen what had happened in the world after that. And I would go to the house and sit there and I’d talk with him. Those encounters, were the things that I found most valuable, if not more so than when I would sell the Christmas cards in the box.

But that was the fun of it. I’d tell my mother, “I’m only going four blocks, in this direction. I’m going to go to all the houses I can and see if they need Christmas cards”. You know, I used to bring boxes and boxes and ones where they could select them out, that’s the thing, do it in the store. So I would help, help my travels later on, you know get a few extra quarters or something for whatever I wanted. A special card, there’s 21 cards in the box, and I had to return the dollar. Well that’s five cents, I got 10 cents from the card. I was doing very well.

And I had a lot of fun doing that as a kid. Especially sitting on the living room of a much older person. This man who had served in First World War. I have many stories about his wife. And that’s why I’m always so intrigued with peoples’ lives, what they went through during very tough times. Whenever I heard the word depression I know it had to do with having hard times, without work, without the money to buy food. Tough times that’s what really cut through them in the depths of the depression

I was born in ’34, I came at a time when things were really rough and tough. But my father worked railway express during the day or during the night and then got a job in the Stock Exchange. They were more selling than buying stock at the time because it was you know, the economy was very bad. And then FDR came in and sort of stabilized things. I got to know his voice. Over the years I became a fan of radio, you know, that nice big radio set in the living room. I would try to get news. The news of the day. Outside or inside, always, there was something happening. Something happening somewhere. And the thing is we worked through these happenings. To me that was so precious. It was so nice that they were talking with a kid. I was only a 10 or 11 year old kid. I would travel on my own. I would slip down with the subway train and take the train to the next station. I would want to see what was up there.

My mother said, “You can go out but don’t go away”. Well, this will be the end of it finally. Brooklyn was an interesting place to me. Especially that neighborhood. Just people in houses. It was different.

Most Joyful Day

Life Story Club Contributor

Jan 27, 2020

My little brother came home from the hospital after he was born. That’s a moment of great joy. To see him, to be able to hold him in the crib. To my mind, one of the highlights of my life.

My brother’s name is Thomas. I’m much older. I loved to play with him. Singing, playing. A little baby is really a big thing. The hope. Makes things better here and there. He was a little baby. You could tell certainly that when he saw you, he’d see you come into the room, and he’d come up to the crib. I’d pick him up and hug him, kiss him. Those moments you treasure. You need them, only in times they happen.

I took him out all the time. I’d say, “Come on, let’s go.” Walking out the door with him. We’d hop on a carriage and I’d be out the door with him. We’d go to the overpass to watch the trains, where you see the trains coming and going. That was our treat for the day. We’d get a candy bar and we’d share it.


Life Story Club Contributor

Jan 13, 2020

Well, playing certain sports. It gave me a sense that I could do things and it helped me along first with the one or two kids and then with a team of them.

And, you know, they look forward and I… When kids see you doing and working with them, in a way playing, it’s so much easier to reach them. And even when like they, they maybe do something that’s not right or something that doesn’t work, you go to them and say, you know, “I have a lot of confidence in you,” and they look at you. And they, you know, they’re silent. Or they… All the activities, especially teaching, you’re developing a relationship, as I was a young adult at the time. And they look to you and you assure them they can come to you, even like confide in you. You feel something’s bothering you, let me know. You know, do I have the answer? I may not have, but I’ll see what I can do to help you.

And that was how it was always. That’s how I looked at teaching. It was not just the subject matter which was very important, whether it was history or learning how to do the times tables or you can begin to do other parts of math as well as adding and subtracting. So it was many… I was learning at the same time. I looked at every day teaching as a way to learn and to expand one’s view and kind of encompassing. You know, and looking at the young teacher, how it important it was to give them hope and a sense that they had the wherewithal to do good.

I said, “You could be so much better. You can do it. Don’t sell- don’t let anything… You don’t feel right, come and tell me and we’ll talk. We’ll see what can be done.” You know and I would always say, “You’re great, you’re doing good.” And I said, “Where did you get so terrific?” I felt any way that I could encourage them and that they would look forward to coming. That they were eager to want to be in the room.

And I mean I would tell them stories, and it’s all, it’s a wonderful world. That’s how I approached the whole thing. I looked forward every day. Possibilities, the chance to do, and for them to see how they could do. It’s always giving what you know, but also the will and the power and the sense of their being able. So, it’s such a part that, I just had to give them the courage. That was the most… My important mission was to give them encouragement that they could do very well. And they responded.

Well I started out teaching when I was still in college. I was 19, 20. And I taught at a Sunday School too, before. I mean, just, you know, the Bible and our beliefs. Teaching is sharing what you have. Your hopes and dreams. Hopefully that they see what the possibilities are for the world. The world is so great out there. There’s so many things to do. So many places to go, to see. Encourage, every day to encourage them and have them become excited. That’s how I looked at it.

Just do the right thing in the class. Encourage. You know, and never discourage; always encourage. And they go to say though, I tell them, “Look. I make a lot of mistakes. Don’t worry about it. Just change, see how you can do.”

Favorite Family Tradition

Life Story Club Contributor

Dec 9, 2019

It really revolved around Christmas. From going out and getting the tree and the evenings of decorating the tree, and then having some fun, electric trains being put around the tree, and decorating the hallways and everything. There was such excitement and anticipation of the day itself, the buildup to the moment of Christmas Eve and then Christmas morning.

So it was really… It was something as a kid… When I got to be four and five and understand what was happening around me, that was a big, big… There was nothing bigger in my mind than celebrating Christmas and having family come over and having a big and a nice dinner and just lots of good things and people being close to one another, closeness.

We lived on 8th Avenue up on the top floor, and I could always look out the window and see the spires of the church on 7th Avenue or look down the road, look down to Union Street and see the trolley car going up and down the road. Yeah I used to… with the little boxes next to the windows I would sit there and peer out and watch what was going on on the avenue.

But there was a lot of good things. My mother was always going out to the store to get this and that. Every day it was non-stop. My little brother was in the stroller, Johnny in the stroller, and we would… I would go up and down the aisles and get what we were looking for and come back and… There was period when… about the first two weeks in December, it was so intense with all the things that were coming and happening. Family was coming to visit. We had family in Connecticut and family in New Jersey and they would be coming in, so it was such a great reunion time for everyone. And there were a lot kids in the families. My uncle, they have four boys, and my aunt has a couple kids. So there was just this intensity of so much to do and such things are happening. The doing and happening was intense, and I enjoyed that kind of a…

Also, it carried with me in terms of living life in that way, every day going downstairs with my mother, hopping in the carriage and going down to 7th Avenue to get the goodies for the house and do this and do that. It was like non-stop activity. My childhood was going and doing. And it carried up.

7th Avenue had a lot of spots where there were trees in the fronts of the stores. And there were some independent folks that got a spot outside some store and put up the ropes to hold the trees up. But 7th Avenue, in those days, there was lots of trees. My father was really a tree lover in the old days in Flatbush. His family, first when they came, lived out in Flatbush. They would get as big a tree. My mother said they would have to dig a hole in the ceiling to get this tree. I remember I think one Christmas the tree was so big we took off the top and that was another tree we gave to somebody. We put the star on the top with the angel and we had two trees, and there were two trees.

Another couple times my brother was sick, we’d get a Christmas tree to put in his room so he had a tree because he was not able to get up out of bed. A couple times we had probably two or three trees in the house.

So there was always… it was lots of excitement, a lot to do, a lot of places to go. I really liked to explore 7th Avenue as a kid because all the stores, they were all different. I would look in the windows. There was a candy store… I couldn’t recall the name, but there were such things to see. The store windows and the thrall of the windows. I just loved the neighborhood.

And when we moved to Flatbush it was such a change, that I eventually as a young adult moved back to 8th Avenue. Oh yeah, I came back. Yeah, I came back. I had memories from the time I was two or three years old to the time I was 12 or 13 or 14 and then we went to Flatbush. Because the apartment was too small. It was a brownstone on the top. We were looking for a house, but it was hard because we were towards the end of World War II, and so when I finished college I came back to Park Slope, bought a house on 8th Avenue.

Came back, yeah. The park was the playground every time. In the morning I had breakfast, I’d go downstairs, hop in the carriage. And when my brother came, Johnny, I’d be tugging along with my mother next to his carriage, and we’d go up to the park and just have a great time, just running everywhere and anywhere.

Looking out of the window on the fifth floor, we were on the top floor, and sometimes my mother allowed me to go alone, and I think now I’d get worried, but to see some things I’d go up and sit up and just take a blanket or something and go up and sit there and just sort of… I loved to watch the planes flying overhead.

Young Trouble

Life Story Club Contributor

Dec 2, 2019

Well, I sort of try to stay out of the trouble, but I got into trouble anyway.

It’s a carefree life, especially when we moved from Flatbush to here because we have a park right around the corner and I was without a day unless it was pouring rain or a snow storm. My mother and my little brother, we took off to the park and that was a big playground. Do anything and everything you wanted. It was a wonderland in it’s own way.

And that’s my memories of, you know, early childhood, was Prospect Park and my mother taking me up there and the kids from the neighborhood being there. Oh, it was really… It was much different from Flatbush, when they were downstairs in front of the apartment house we lived in for a while but didn’t have the freedom or the free-for-all that the park provided.

And then there was the zoo and there were other things to see. You were always exploring. It was like a big, unbelievable…Well that was the great thing about it. I always used to walk the block. It was on Eighth Avenue and Union, just make a turn at the corner. You’re in the park. Yeah. Couldn’t get any closer.

Oh, the merry-go-round. Yeah, there was a merry-go-round. From my childhood. I don’t remember if they had the Olmsted House. I remember just openness.The openness. The fact that you grew up where there were apartment buildings around there and suddenly you’re like transposed to this place where it’s just open. You could run everywhere, north, south, east and west. And that was the excitement of going there. Just being in that openness and being able to run around and not have to worry about this or that.

No I never got in trouble in the park, not that I remember. I try to stay away from trouble. No running away, just running in the park. That was as far as I would run, in the park. Cause I wanted to get home too. It was nothing like home and turning the radio and listening to the radio at night. I was a big radio fan. Well, they’re all in, you know, serial programs that were, that you know, you sort of follow them like when the comic strips…The Lone Ranger was on. Yeah. And there were others. Radio was a great outlet. Ideas and…listening to, sometimes like hearing the president of the United States was interesting. It was FDR then.

Dec 2, 2019

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My neighborhood

Life Story Club Contributor

November 18, 2019

It’s wonderful that you’re recording it. So the next generation and the generation after that will understand what the neighborhood was like back then, and what it is now and then they’re part of the whole fabric of history, that’s so important. History of here, where you live, the people you live with and their lives and your lives coming together in a very special, unique way. That’s the beauty of our city, our borough, especially Brooklyn, where there’s so many nationalities living together in harmony. If there’s one example of how the world could live together from religious faith, races, nationalities, income levels, from rich to poor, to everything in the middle. They lived together. The children played together. They go to the stores, they go to the temple, churches, people living here, visitors. We have the United Nations. I mean that.

I always, as a kid, wondered. I lived, probably about five or four years old, on eighth Avenue between President and Union State. I would look out the window at the Coney Island Avenue, not the Coney Island, but the union street trolley car going up and down the hill. I was on the top floor of the five-story brownstone, and we had the front family. We have the front part of the top four, and I could look out, and at certain times I snipped, snuck up to the roof, I wasn’t supposed to go up there.

I could see the skyline of New York. I could see the Statue of Liberty on clear days and the Empire State Building. We were on the hill when you went down Junior steep going down and when you came back up, we were going up the hill. as a boy of four or five, my mother was very lenient with me. She trusted me to, you know, go, but stay. And I, you know, I would go downstairs, I would play outside of the brownstone and on good, clear days, my mother would take me all the way up to the park and I would jump my legs off. My, my memories of living on Eighth Avenue between Union Street and President street, still in mind that Sunday back there…so vivid and then we came to Flatbush, which is another interesting different experience.

Differences in people and the ways of life and everything else, I was there and I was really a learning extremely well. All those people ways and living and realizing their lives. And so it was a childhood that was very, very been wonderful for me.

My memories are so vivid of those days on Eighth Avenue, looking out, catching the trolley car on Union Street, going up the hill for the trolley car, going down the hill to Fifth Avenue and mother would take me shopping on Fifth Avenue all the time. That was the place to go. To get the macaroni. To get the pizza. All of the places that we would go shopping. Sometimes I’d go on the back of the store and see what they had, “Oh, what about these?”

So we live on Eighth Avenue for about five years in the brownstone and then my little brother Johnny came along and so the top floor was not big enough for us. Then we got my, my father was from Flatbush originally and he knew Flatbush and Flatbush was a place to go next, close to the park. We lived on Rugby Road and East Eight King Street . We moved around a lot. At times, moved around, you know, another brother came after Johnny, and then another sister came, so we became a big family and then we came back to Flatbush and living began on Rugby Road. But there were so many good memories from the parishes that were part of the same roads that lead off… Holy innocence, going in there for Sunday mass, a couple of years in the parochial schools…and filled with memories.

I mean you’ve turned the street into a playground, you’d make the street a playground… sidewalks. There was a time when they began to close up some of the side streets for the kids to go out – a block closing. I remember in the late, late 1930s they used to have block closing so kids could play, you know, and then the people would move their cars, maybe a baseball would get out cycle or two before class… But no, the place was filled with kids, and I used to bring my kids into my house and we would build tassels. And it was just a time filled with…

May I ask you what your, I’m interested in what your cultural background is? Are you like Irish-Catholic or Italian-Catholic?

Well my mother came from Ireland and she had come plus a couple of years before I was born and my father’s family have lived in New York City for a long time. They were long time New Yorkers. So it’s an interesting, he had experienced remembering the Dodgers coming to Brooklyn and things like that. And so it was history of both sides. The history on the side of my mother, I remember she’d come here, her sister had come before and there was a couple of brothers, and soon as they could because famine times, it was famine times, very tough in Ireland. And the young people, sad to say, had to come and say goodbye, and sometimes start crying because it was seeing your mother the last time in five or six years. In those days we were running a GWA flight, the flight to Ireland. That’s why as soon as I finished college, I took my mother, we went to Ireland to be able to see if the grandmothers were still there. Some of the other family had passed away because they were there during World War II.

On those days I remember the parade going up Union Street and the parade along Eight Avenue and they knew something was coming. And then in 1937, 38, 39 the fifth floor window. We had the fun floor apartment on the fifth floor. It was terrific. You could look out the window, and you could see down Seventh Avenue down to Eighth Avenue and then you go to the roof, and you could see the city.

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