Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reunion, October 1, 2011

I don't believe that they started numbering the reunions. Like, would this one have been the twentieth? At any rate, it is too late to start now. The weather for the day was great and the turnout was excellent. Jimmy Cavanaugh said that he took a quick count during the Mass and came up with about eighty people.
I believe that some people left right after the Mass and consequently I did not get their picture at the get together downstairs. As it is, I did not get everyones picture.
The Mass was said by Father Clavero, who is retiring this year. John Kelleher assisted as the deacon. Remember when we would have a high Mass and there would be eight to ten altar boys and three priests on the altar? Depending on the liturgical  time of year not only determined the color of the priests vestments but also what color the altar boys wore.

I have compiled a bit of a rogues gallery of sorts and I am going to share them with you. If any one is dissappointed with their picture I appologize. It's the camera.

Tony Alva, Pat Dowd, John Scott and Marge Scott
John Croake

Pat Purcell
Kay, Eileen and Margaret

Timmy Cleary, Bill McGooe,? and Mike Sexton
Emma Sakel
50/50 time Jimmy Cavanaugh hold the hat as Jane Reily, Betty McKiernan, Emma Sakell and Marty Chambers look on.
Mr. and Mrs. Marty Chambers
Billy Maher, Mike Sexton, John Scott, and Timmy Cleary

Kay Donahue, Eileen Flynn, Margaret Boylan, John Keegan, Bobby Cunningham, Jackie Murphy, Betty Read and Jackie's nephew.

Bart Mugan

Bobby Cunningham
Tommy Burke

Gene Feeley

John Reynolds
Kathleen Reynolds

Jack Murphy

Mike Sexton
Barbra Rochford

Tommy Rochford and Mike Stack
Mike McCaffery
Buddy Clancy

Donald Rochford
Harry and Betty Anne Read

Bobby Frascotti

Maureen Read and Margie Brennan ( Galligan)

Tom and Maureen Read
        In the background of some of the pictures I could see people whom I could not identify. I know that I missed  Dennis Murray and Pete Reily,  Bob McKenna, Mary Novotny and Tommy Carr.
499 West 135th Street had to be the best represented building, Mike Sexton, Tom Burke, Jack Murphy, Bart Mugan, John Mugan and Tommy Carr.
I think that Google, which runs this blog site has changed some things. It was not as easy putting this blog together but I didn't want to give up and here it is. I hope that you enjoyed it.

Bernie Donovan writes:

Once again, thanks for a lot of memories. Yours is remarkable.

Seems that a lot of neighborhood guys were smart enough to get into Regis. Speaks well of the nuns, and our parents. You lasted two years. I lasted only one and a half. In my first week there, a teacher (I think he was a seminarian) asked me a question. I answered "I ain't got none". The class broke up and the teacher tried not to smile. He asked me to repeat my answer. I did. More laughter. I suddenly realized that some of us from the Hill didn't speak the King's English. I felt I didn't belong there. My mother , bless her soul, wouldn't let me quit. so I got myself thrown out during my second year. My brother Vinny entered Regis the year behind me. He didn't like being there either. He arranged to get thrown out the same day I did, knowing I'd be the one to get whacked up along side the head. I can still remember my poor mother's face when she come home from work to find the two of us in the kitchen. I wish I had do-overs.

In an earlier blog, There was a mention - I think by Buddy Clancy - of a Nellie Miller and her bakery. A girl in our crowd was named Ellen (Nellie) Miller. A great girl with a throaty laugh and a ready smile. She lived in the house above your Dad's store. A great dancer. Unless I had a few drinks in me, I was a leadfoot on the dancefloor. But Nellie would take me out and make me feel l;ike Fred Astair. I often wondered what happened to her. Is she the Nellie who opened a bakery?

Bernie, I believe that the Nellie Miller that I write about is the same as the one that you wrote about. She had a brother named Hughie. The bakery did not last too long.

 Margaret Boylen related this story to me at the reunion.
Margaret's dad was the doorman at the stage door to Lewishon Stadium. For two years in a row Lewis

Armstrong was the star of the July Fourth program. Two years in a row Mr. Armstrong gave Mr. Boylen a crisp one hundred dollar bill as a tip. Margaret said twice in her life she got to see what a hundred dollar bill looked like. I think she may have seen a few more since then.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Down the hill to Broadway

Very few neighborhoods get named after a bar but ours was one of them. Because the bar was at the top of the hill on Amsterdam it would be easy to assume that years ago that hill must have been called Vinegar Hill. Most of us know that is not the case. When New Yorkers are talking about where they are from most of them will cite a particular parish, St. Joes, Our Lady of Lourdes, etc. I'd say most of us don't say Annunciation but instead reference Vinegar Hill. I'm writing this blog under the title Vinegar Hill but I guess I should have titled it Annunciation since I am trying to cover the whole neighborhood. Broadway, from 138th St. down to 126th, was part of Annunciation. Of course if you lived on the hill you had to go down the hill to get to Broadway. Broadway is where we went to get the IRT, either at 137th St or 125th St. It was also where you went to get the Fifth Ave. bus line. on 135th Street.
From 126th St. to 135th St. on the east side of Broadway there was no residences. It was only used car lots and automobile show rooms and abandoned buildings. Curry  Chevrolet and a used car lot off 133rd St. are the only businesses that I recall. The used car lot was actually on the site of the original Manhattan College. Manhattan moved in the early 1900's to their present location up on 242nd St. The only other remnant of Manhattan in the neighborhood was Jasper Oval on Convent Ave. That was named after Brother Jasper and Manhattan sports teams are still referred to as the Jaspers. Curry Chevrolet moved up to Westchester.
At the Southeast corner of Broadway and 135th Street was a very ornate empty white marble building. At the very top of the building is a clue as to what it may have been in its heyday, a movie camera. I stumbled upon this website a couple of weeks ago. Just double click on the blue highlight. It runs a little over four minutes and it is a little boring but at the very end there is the building of which I speak in all of its former glory.www.youtube.com/watch?v=37d-RjVkhtI
On the west side of Broadway going up the hill from 125th Street I don't recall much except a few gas stations until you got to 132nd St. There was a Buick dealer on the north corner and then there was a few apartment buildings along the avenue. On the corner of 133rd Street was Lyons bar and across the street was The Big Four.Down the block on 133rd St. was the garage for the Fifth Ave. Coach Co. Many of the drivers would, on the way to work, stop in and have a couple of beers and balls and then go to work. Many more would stop in after work for a few libations. I hung out at the Big Four for a short spell with Mike Reynolds and Frank Gannon. A guy named Marty was the bartender. From 133rd to 134th there was 2 or 3 apartment houses and there was a house on either corner of 133rd Street. The guys I remember from that area would be John Keegan, Thomas Crimmins, and Tommy Van, who went to Regis with us. If I remember,  they made Tommy leave half way thru his senior year on some technicality. I think he graduated from Cardinal Hayes and went on to be very successful. Also from that area was Albert (Jr) and Andy Rodriquez, Louis Zappata, Frank Gannon, Norman and Vincent Lane, Frankie Donaghy and his sister Anne. There was a Russian kid there, I think his name was Albert. He was in the cub scouts with us and his dad helped make some of the neatest stuff. Mostly I remember he made a paper mache Micky Mouse. It amazed me that you could do that. I think I bought it either from him or at one of the fund raisers.
Getting back to the Big Four and the bus drivers. For years the Fifth Ave. ran double decker buses. If a bus came out of the garage at 133rd St. he had to turn right when he got to Broadway because the subway, which became elevated at 135th St. had a bridge that was too low for the bus to pass. Every now and then a driver would forget that he had a double decker and shear off a good piece of the top of the bus. I often wondered if the driver of the bus wasn't one of the guys who was at the Big Four.  Those double decker buses were great and in the summer they had open air ones that were only used during the summer months. And the fare was only a nickel then.
On the corner of 134th was Acey Oldsmobile. It was just a big corner storefront and there was only room for like 2 cars. Down the block was Cascades Swimming pool. I never went there. Mom would get furious if I hinted at going there because of the polio epidemic. She had no problem with me going to  Palisades but never to Cascades. Remember when the Jehovah Witnesses would have their mass baptisms there, 3 and 400 people at one dunkin?  The Jehovah's would also canvass the neighborhood looking to rent rooms for people coming to their mass rally at Yankee Stadium.
Across the street on 134th was a Mobil gas station and then on the corner of 135th St. was a Pontiac dealer, I think it was Chief Pontiac. I recall they sponsored a team called the Pontiacs. Next to the dealership was the Fifth Ave. Coach starters office. He was the guy who made sure all the buses were on schedule and that the drivers got their reliefs.
Most of the area from 133rd St to 135th St. going toward the viaduct was torn down to make way for a big Mitchell Lama housing project. I think it was called Riverview House. The Mitchell Lama contract is up now and the rents are going for $1500 and up. They say the building is a wreck since the original owner knew he was pulling out when the Mitchel Lama contract expired.
 Across 135th St there was a luncheonette on the corner. That corner was the bus stop for the #4  and #5 Fifth Ave Coach.  There was a guy, a numbers runner, who would stand in the door way of the luncheonette and take your bets. One time there was a crackdown  and he was not there. He had a beagle that was always with him and the dog  was standing on the corner, alone. If you were one of his customers the beagle would lead you to the doorway down the block where the guy was hiding. He was the smartest dog I ever saw. Some of the guys who lived on this part of 135th St were, Michael Paraiso, his step brother Robert Mina, Eli Santiago, Randy Crespo and  Freddie Suriano. Down at the end of 135th St. at Riverside Drive, the building on the south side of the block was rehabbed a couple of years ago. It was turned into a condo and they  were asking one million dollars for a 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit with river view.
Moving along Broadway, up from the corner of 135th was a bar called Tormacks. It had a reputation for serving anyone who had the money in their hand. We checked it out and sure enough, we had an eighth grade graduation party there. The proof I had was a drivers license that I had typed in all the information. It had no official stamp but that didn't seem to matter. He checked some of the other guys and we found out if you said you forgot to take it with you he would tell you to be sure to bring in the next time. I think the oldest guy with us may have been sixteen. Most of the stores in this part of the neighborhood were unknown to us as we had our own stores on Amsterdam. I do remember Brooks bakery between 136th and 137th St. Us foodies always know where the good stuff is. Brooks had the best walnut pound cake. They had good rolls but not as good as Trabolds and they were a penny more. Down from Brooks was a bar and pizza joint called the Stadium. This was another place where age was not too important to get served. I hung out there with Jimmy Magner, Gerry Wenz, Fanny Fallon, and Hughie McVeigh when I was 16. When I turned 17 I went into the service. They never once asked to see my proof. They made a great pizza there. The waiter in the restaurant was Manny and the one guy behind the bar was Frankie. We thought he might be the owner.
One the north corner of 137th Street was the subway station entrance. The store in the corner of the building was a Bickfords Restaurant. It was one of those places where most of the food was cooked in a big commissary and it was put together at the restaurant. Sandwiches and eggs were made at the restaurant. Jerry Magner worked in the Bickfords commissary while he was going to college and one day he was making a big batch of mashed potatoes. When he went to put in the salt the top came off the jar and a good amount of salt was poured onto the potatoes. Jerry figured nobody would notice and off they went to one of the stores. The next day he got reassigned to another part of the kitchen. Bickfords had another store on the corner of Broadway and 145th St. and another one on Dykman St and Broadway. It was always a great stop at 2AM after a night of drinking. They moved out of NY years ago. In the middle of the block was a bar known as the HiLight. After the Liberty turned into a fancy Lechonera it was our last hang out on B"Way. I was hanging out with Jimmy Corcoran, Jimmy Bradley, Bart Mugan and Vinnie Nyholm then. I'm talking the era of 1960- 1962. That was like the end of it at The Hill  as those guys parents all moved up to Inwood. My Mom refused to move and I stayed until 1965. Mom was burned out in 67. Fortunately she was unscathed in the fire but she lost a great collection of photographs from the old neighborhood. Some of the people who lived on that side of Broadway from 135th to 137th Street were the Donovans. That would be Bernie, Vinny, Billy, Evelyn and Geraldine. The Purcells moved to 136th from 134th. Pat and Mary were from my era and there was a couple of older brothers, Joe and Bill(?).  Billy Richmond was there and I think Ellery Pichardo.
There was a old Black guy, John Lewis. He lived down from Bickfords and he always rode a bicycle. John would do janitorial work in my fathers store and once a year he washed the windows in our apartment at 500. He really saved me one time. I had gone down by the docks at 125th Street. Some of the older guys were down there swimming and doesn't a couple of them see me  and pick me up and now they are going to throw me into the river. I get the old and a one and a two and with the three coming up doesn't one of my shoes come flying off my foot and into the river. As an act of mercy they don't throw me in and just let me go. Now I'm on my way home with one shoe on and doesn't John Lewis come riding by on his bicycle. I hollered to him and he took me all the way home on his bike. I forget what I told my mother but I got away with it. I think I was around nine or ten. Up until a few years ago my brother Harry corresponded with John and Harry had him out to his house in Massapequa one time.
When I was in kindergarten at PS 192 there was a girl in my class from that side of B'Way. Her name was Nancy Cummings. Her dad must have been one of the local political hacks as I remember going to a couple of  birthday parties at the Democratic Club on the other side of B'Way and 137th St. One time I saw his name, Tommy Cummings, on an electioneering poster. My mother was always telling me to be nice to Nancy. There was a Jewish kid there too, his name was Sol and his dad owned the luncheonette next to the entrance to the Delmar movie theater. Now Sol I was nice to. I guess you could say that the Delmar was at the north end of our neighborhood. I'd say on any given Saturday morning you would find at least half of the neighborhood at the Delmar. For 25 cents you got at least a double feature and a serial and a newsreel and a cartoon.  Our parents knew where we were for four hours. If you were smoking you could go thru a half a pack of cigarettes and come out with the brown tobacco stains all over your fingers. When you got home you ran into the bathroom and tried to wash it off. We always said lemon juice would take it off but who of us would have lemons in the refrigerator? Later on I found out it didn't work, anyway. From where the Delmar was, across the street was park of sorts from 138th to 137th St. It was triangular and one side was B'Way and the other side was Hamilton Place which ran from 137th St. up to Hamilton Square on 143rd St. and then into Amsterdam Ave. At that junction I remember the Corn Exchange Bank which is where my dad did his banking. Getting back to 137th St and Hamilton Place I recall a horse trough for watering your horse if you had one. It actually worked and there was a few work horses in the neighborhood. Remember Krammer and his vegetable cart and a couple of rag guys that would be hollering "I buy rags"? Zinnzi the junk man down on 126th off B'Way owned them.
On the east side of Hamilton Place was the A and P. By todays standards the store was tiny but it was a goldmine in its era. My Mom would not shop there as well as many Moms on the hill as it was a grueling trip to walk down the hill and then have to trudge all the way home up the hill with your purchases. A lot of the guys would hang out there looking to carry groceries home but that fellow Gene had a lot of people sewed up and rightfully so. It was his livelihood. The A and P was the livelihood for a lot of guys in the neighborhood in that it got them thru school. Next to the A and P on the north side was a chicken store. I think it was Plymouth Rock Poultry. Chickens were like 25 cents a pound and when the guy gutted your chicken if there were any eggs he would leave them with the chicken. On the south side of the A and P heading back toward 136th St. was a big fruit market. There was also the entrance to the stairway up to the neighborhood  pool hall and the Tioga Democratic Club. If you hung out at the pool hall, even if you never touched the stuff, you were branded as being a junkie. I never got involved in politics so the only time I was in the Democratic hall was when I was in kindergarten. Continuing on there was the Liberty Bar and Grill. This is where I hung out before John sold it and it became a Lechonera. It was a wacky place. It still had a 5cent juke box and the only thing John ever cooked was spaghetti. It had an unusual set of characters. Professor Bush, was it Walter and Irene? The mute who would try to get you into a conversation with him. Jimmy Buckly, one of the bartenders would remind you of one of Jackie Gleasons characters. He had the big white apron, tied high at the waste and always a big stogie stuck in his mouth. If you ordered anything other than a beer or a boilermaker or a high ball he would just ignore you like you weren't there and then if you got on his case about it, he would tell you to go across the street with the rest of the A rabs. Around 1961 John sold out to a Spanish guy named Matos. The guy completely transformed the place into a very high class restaurant and never closed down during the transition. Die hards that we were, we just kept going there. Oh, did I mention the little senorita he put behind the bar? Unfortunately, with all the change and niceties that he put in the place failed.
This finishes my ramble thru Broadway. Next up will be just odds and ends of the neighborhood and some more of my reminiscing .
Got some great letters after my last blog.
Bob McKenna writes:

Now you are in my 'hood. Sorry to be long winded . In the last house down the block, you had the Reynolds family....Mike, Kathleen (a nun) Tommy, Mike and Ann. The Briody family including Tommy and Sissy. Sissy married a Skehill . I think Joe Cavanaugh and his sister Pat lived in the next building going up the block. The Faheys also lived there. Edddie and John. John was one of the longest serving cops in nyc and, as mentioned previously, one of his sons is the Publisher/President of National Geographic. Jim O'Donnell (Riley) always had a perch out his window keeping watch on the block. His father was very Scottish and a plumber like Riley. The Martins also lived in the building and I recall they lost a son, Topsy at a very young age. Jackie Martin went to school with my brother Jim. Jack was very smart. Mike the other brother was very cool and had a birthmark white stripe of hair which resembled Johnny Desmond. Unfortunately the incursion of drugs in the fifties found him as a victim. In my building, you had the Meehans, Kathleen, John, Denis and Philip who were fraternal twins. Mr Meehan lived to over 100 and lived in three centuries. He worked well into his eighties. Connie Wenz lived on the first floor and was continually taking pictures in the neighborhood. I tried to obtain the files after he died, unfortunately withhout avail. Anna Connolly and her sister Kay and the "Scotch" Connolllys, John and Agnes also lived in the building. Negro and Eddie Ortiz and Claudio Rivera also had apartments. John and Harry Mustin lived in the building. Harry became a priest and John a cop. Harry has since married and lives in Florida near his brother. Our close friends the Mahers, Dennis, Pete, Billy and Margie also were in the building. Billy and Dennis were both cops. Unfortunately, Dennis and Pete have since passed on.
At the top of the hill there was Tom, George and Emma Sakell. There were two other sisters and unfortunately I can' t remember their names. It must have been a lucky building because Chiro Ruiz and Tommy both married beautiful redheads, Kitty Stack and Nancy Green. Raate and Butchie Bocanegro, Janet and Louis Fuentes and Herbie Santiago rounded out the residents. Notable in the building was Mrs Wringer, who was politically connected and the person to see for a post office job. Mrs Carlson and Uncle Charlie were the supers and Aggie, Vera and Johnnie were the Carlson kids.
More about Lewisohn Stadium. You were right about Marie.........a real screamer, she was Italian....married to Abie, a Jew. They fought continuously. They reported to Leo, who always looked like he was going to have a heart attack. He reported the Mr Klar who, you were right, looked like a capo but in fact was a multimillionaire through his various concession businesses. The Stadium had a great economic effect on the neighborhood. I can remember opening cab doors for nickels and "minding" cars for 50 cents. Like you I worked selling soda. I also remember Mr. Boylan who had the job of guarding the Stage Door. Attendees went to the local bars and I remember one guy ordering a Martini from Tommy Barrett. All that Tommy carried was Wilsons Whiskey.....great Martini !!!!
Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, The Gershwins, Louis Armstrong , Jack Teagarten,
Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Baily, George Shearing etc all appeared also most of the greatest classical performers notably including Van Cliburn on his return from Russia, Ezio Pinza, Mario Lanza and Marion Anderson. They had Gershwin Night, Rogers and Hammerstein Night and Jazz night. The greatest night we would all remember was Harry Belafonte at the height of his career. Sold the place out. Of course one of the most noteworthy performances include this star:
This attached publicity shot must have started with "find me the kid with the dirties knees" This pic was taken as a local shot and was picked up by AP and circulated around the world. My folks heard from some guys overseas in the Army that they had seen it in a local paper. My audience inclludes, Louis Fuentes, Richie Diaz,Duke Frascatti, Joe Torres (Richies cousin) Joe Gonzales and Frankie Nieves. This picture wound up in the window of Willoughbys with the title Street Urchin and my father had thought about a lawsuit. Needless to say my ballet career ended that day!!!

Bob also sent this along:
A rainbow over Vinegar Hill.

Jack Murphy sent this along,
I'm sharing it with all but Jack wanted it sent to the Guy grandkids. I think we will all enjoy it.

I don,t know if you are Artie or Eddie ,s grandson but I can give you a little bit of info.
My name is Jack Murphy what I can tell you about Eddie is not a whole lot or maybe it is ,I don,t remember a time when he didn,t have a great big smile on his face, he had a hearty laugh.
About Artie I can tell you more .
When I was 8 years old my dad died ,I met Artie at a cousins graduation partie a year later ,in those days it was in their apartment pn 131st.He befriended me and told me if I ever wanted to stop in the bar and watch the ballgames and have a soda that I could ,well naturally I did ,he was,kind of like a hero in the neighborhood,I remember it seems like many times that I heard stories of him pulling someone up from the subway tracks who had fallen down there ,of course he was thereafter the bar closed.I remember one time I was in the bar looking at the game and a guy at the end of the bar was swearing ,Atrie told me I had to leave ,when I left I heard him scolding the guy ,I was on the Amsterdam ave side , I walked up to the corner and saw him throw the guy out the side door .My mother used to tell the story about coming home from work ,and going up to the bar to find me ,the other women asked her where she was going and she said up to get her man ,they thoght she had a boyfriend ,when she said it was me ,we all had a good laugh.
He was very nice to a young boy that needed a man to look up to..Later in life I was a truck driver and used to bring acid to the sugar house in Yonkers , I would always stp to see Artie , one weekend when I was ayoung man I was at the bar I was using profanity after 2 or 3 times ,he reminded us how many times we said those words ,needless to say that was all I needed to hear .When they had that reunion to honor him it was the first reunion that I went to ,when I walked into the church and met hi m,I didn,t think he would know me ,but Artie ,said Hi John,I felt pretty good .
I believe that there will be a reunion Mass on October 1
Bernie Donovan writes:

I started hanging out in the Vinegar Hill bar when I was 15. I was in there almost every day until at 23 I married and moved to Washington Heights. There are so many stories but too many to remember. The one I sometimes think of involved an older man called Pete the Scotchman. He would drink too much and then start mouthing off to one and all. One day Artie had enough. He took Pete's arm and started towards the side door. Pete pulled his arm away, straighted his jacket and said "I came in the front door and I'll be thrown out the front door'. Being a gentleman, Artie obliged. Flying out the front door he went.
Bobby Duncan writes:
I had no idea that Louis Fuentes' sister Janet had a great singing voice. By the way, Louis had 3 sisters, the oldest was Mary. I went out with Janet a couple of times. She and her mother moved to the Bronx after Louis died. Herbie Santiago lived in their building. He's been living in Sweetwater FL for over 20 years. Rosemary LaMarch lived in the building next door I believe.

That is Frankie Harkins in Art's photo. James, his brother, had dark hair and was older. He's married and lives and works in Ireland.
Tony Caro writes a very touching note:
Dear Tom

Although I have never met you, I feel a certain bond with you. Most people go to a “Fortune Teller” or “psychic” to predict the future. In your case you were blessed with ability to remember the past.
And it’s with that in mind that I look forward to your blogs. But, first and foremost let me wish you a quick and successful recovery from your recent surgery. Good Luck.
To get back to your blog, it is with a bittersweet taste that I felt with this particular one, Bob McKenna wrote about the Nieves family. That Frank was the last surviving member of his siblings. This is what hit home.
Rosemary (Cuchie) Nieves and I were teen sweethearts, she was 15/16 years old and I was 17. Needless to add, her brothers were very protecting of her. Paying me separate visit to check me out. Boy, was I scared stiff.
So, when I heard the news, it left an empty feeling and a bit sad. Soon after Rosemary and I broke up, the next girl that I met and dated turned out to be my wife and loving mother of our three children. I know that this was over 50 years ago, but it feel like just yesterday.
Thanks again and keep them coming.
God Bless
Tony Caro

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

136th St.from Convent Ave. to Broadway

Only one side of the street had housing. Lewisohn Stadium ran from Convent to Amsterdam on the north side of the street. From Amsterdam to Broadway on the north side was the Hebrew Orphan Asylum or, as I recall, Army Hall. For the most part the people who had apartments facing the street had open space across the street. That was a plus to the value of your apartment. The people who lived in the front apartments facing the Stadium had the added attraction of seeing all the summer entertainment free of charge. Before the advent of air conditioning, Carnagie Hall shut down for the summer and moved their schedule to Lewisohn Stadium. It was known as "The Concert Under the Stars".  I can recall seeing quite a few pillows propped on the window sills that faced the Stadium. Once the music started all the pillows were occupied by onlookers. There was a lot of people peering over from the roof, too.  A bunch of us worked in the Stadium selling stuff, Ice Cream, Soda and  Beer.  We were called hustlers and some of the guys could really hustle. I recall that when I went to get a job there, the lady, Marie said I would need a Social Security number. Back then it wasn't necessary to get your Social Security card until you went out and got a real job. So I just made up a number, one of the guys told me it had to have nine digits,  so that is what I provided. And to think we carry on about all those guys from South of the Border and their phony cards. Marie was like the merchandise boss in that she kept tabs on how much you  sold . The big boss was Mr. Sklar. He always had sunglasses on, never said anything to us and reminded me of one of the Mafia guys.We didn't know about them until years later. There was another guy, I think his name was Sidney. He was Marie's boss and was always giving her a hard time. We got thirteen per cent commission on what we sold. Considering that a bottle of beer sold for thirty five cent and so a case went for eight dollars and forty cents, we made a dollar and nine cents for a case of beer. On top of that you were supposed to be eighteen years old to sell beer. As we walked out of the storeroom Marie would say, "Hey, how old are you?" "Eighteen, Marie, eighteen." We had to wear a hat and  on it was a sign indicating what you were selling and the price. The hustlers always raised the price from thirty five cents to fifty cents. The Guggenheim family were big benefactors of the concerts and Minnie Guggenheim would often attend the concerts. She loved to drink beer and would always give the hustler a five buck tip. What I thought was the toughest sell was the seat cushions for the concrete  grand stands. The cushions were heavy to carry around and they rented for fifteen cents apiece. To make a buck you had to move fifty cushions. If you had a sharp eye there was always a lot of celebrities to be seen. The guys would pass the word, so and so is in section ten. I remember there was a permanent refreshment stand on the 136th St. side of the stadium. A couple by the name of Flo and Katz used to run it. Some of the guys I remember working there were Eddie Seranno, Hermie, Jimmy O'Donnell, (Reily), Leo Rooney and his Dad, Mr. Rooney, Timmy Cleary, Louie Caraisco, Tommy Caraisco. Mr. Rooney was a ticket seller.
The entertainment at the Stadium was terrific and in the mornings anyone in the neighborhood could just walk in and watch the rehearsal for that nights performance. It was amazing to be able to just sit there with all those talented performers.
City College used the field when the concert season was over. The season would run about six to eight weeks during the summer. The rest of the year CCNY used the Stadium for all their varsity events. They had a foot ball team, and a la crosse team. I don't remember baseball but at one time they had one of the best basketball teams in the country.  The guy who coached the la crosse team was an Indian and so of course his name was Chief. These guys played la crosse with the original leather wrapped sticks and the basket at the end was made of rawhide strips. The CCNY team colors were purple and black and they were known as the Beavers. The school cheer? Give a cheer, give a cheer, give a good substantial cheer. Rah, Rah, Rah.
From about 1950, the stage and all the dressing rooms were in a permanent structure  on Convent Ave. Prior to that they would construct this big canvas covered stage and temporary dressing rooms every year. The Stadium opened in 1915 and they tore the whole thing down in 1973. A new part of City College was built there.
I don't remember who lived in what building but I kind of remember who lived on what side of the Avenue. Amsterdam to Convent only had three buildings. Other than the two bars on either corner there was no other businesses there until you got to Broadway. The Reynolds were there, Mike was the oldest and then his sisters, Kathleen and Ann and two brothers, Tom and John. I recall a story, I don't know how true it was but it went like this. Mike had one of these aunts who used to buy raffle tickets and put the names of her nieces and nephews on the tickets. St Judes on Dyckman St. had a big raffle every year and as I heard, Mike won a car. The only problem was that the aunt had the winning ticket, not Mike. The aunt got the car. I hope I am not opening a can of worms, even if it was fifty years ago. Jimmy O'Donnell was there. We always called him Riley and for the longest time I never connected  Riley with O'Donnell. I thought they were two different people. The Meehans were there, and also the Mahers. That would be Margie, Billy, Peter, Dennis and I think I'm missing some. One night I got a call out, on my job, at two in the morning for some equipment at Lederle Labs in Pearl River. As I pull up to the gate the guard says to me, "Read, what the hell are you doing here at this hour?" It was Dennis Maher who had retired from the NYPD and was doing security at Lederle. As I recall there was two John Connolly's there. One of them, a red headed fellow from Ireland and the other John Connolly was definitely there. He was one of the smoothest guys I ever met. He was always just so cool, calm and collected. The McKenna s were there Jimmy, Eileen, John and Bobby. To this day I can still remember what Mrs. McKenna, and Mrs. Reynolds looked like. They were great ladies and they were ageless. Richie Diaz and his brother Tony were there. So were the Fuentes', Louie and his sister.
I forget her name but recall that she had a beautiful singing voice. I recall one time I was walking in that area with Walter Wheatley. Walter had a great voice too. We passed Louie's sister and Walter stopped her and said that he had heard that she had a great voice. He then asked her to sing us a song. She did and I can remember being all goose bumps. She was a natural. Lenny Whelan was there. He was a great basketball player and Margie Maher said she thought he played in the pros. I know for a while he sold trucks for International Harvester and then went to the Bell Systems. We always called him Lenny but he now goes by Jimmy. He married Mary Byrne from 134th St.and they now live on the west coast of Florida. Rosemary Martin was there. Artie Lamarch told me. I think I remember the Martin  name but I didn't know Rosemary when we were growing up. I'm not sure if the Mustins were from that side of 136th St. or 1525 Amsterdam.
On the other side of Amsterdam going down to Broadway there was scads of kids. If only I could remember them all! How about the McGraths. Bart was in my brothers class and Bart was one of the happiest bus drivers I ever knew. He had several brothers  and sisters and they all had a great resemblance to each other. You looked at them and you just knew that they were a McGrath. The Burke's were there, that would be Betty, Jimmy, and Francis (John). I think there was another sister also. Mary McNicholas and her brothers Marty and I believe another brother were there. Jimmy Silva was there.
Jimmy's Mom was a cub scout den mother along with my Mom. Once a month all of us good little cubbies would meet down in what we called "The Home".  It was that building between 135th and 136th on Convent Ave. I think in the end I was expelled from the scouts. Cookie and Chickie Dietrich were there and as I've said before, I never knew their real name. Jimmy McDevitt was there as well as Anna, Harry and John Scott. Two guys whom I relate to 136th Street although I never was sure where they lived are Eddie Serrano and Hermie, can't recall his last name. Eddie is one of the funniest guys ever. The Lynch brothers were there. That would be George, the good looking one, Jimmy, the skinny guy and Jimmy, the little guy. There was a guy on 135th St. that we called Tex, and someone told me at one time that he was a Lynch also. For some reason I think they all moved to California when the Devlins went there.  How about Chiro Ruiz? What an athlete! Speaking of athletes, how about Joe Cavanaugh and also Charlie Ortiz. Was it the Thomaser's or the Thomas's. That would be a father and son. As I  recall they were very active at Annunciation. 135th had a Jack Hayes and so did 136th St. John Mulrane was there also. Bobby McKenna reminded me of Mrs. Norton and her son who were also from 136th St.
I know that I am missing a lot of people but I just can't conjure up the names. At the bottom of the hill on the south side was a restaurant that my dad always referred to as "The Greasy Spoon". That didn't stop him from sending me there to get him something to eat. He never regarded John's, the luncheonette on Amsterdam,  as a place for food. Across from the Greasy Spoon was the White Tower. For years it was boarded up. The story was that some guy was killed there. When it reopened it was very popular. One of the few places that my brother would eat from. I don't believe that in our time they sold french fries, just hamburgers and canned soup. I always had to stop for some clam chowder  after leaving the Liberty. What a great neighborhood! We never lacked for something to do. When my kids would say "I'm bored" I could never understand it. We lived in the greatest of times.
I still have more to come but in the meantime here are some of the comments I have received:
Art Lamarch writes:
Hi Tom,

Glad to hear you are on the mend and hoping you will fully recover. Maybe next season when you are down in FL we will be able to play a little golf, but if not, there is always "Happy Hours" at Guannabana's or the Square Grouper.
Since you have come into my territory (136th St) I can't hold my tongue and have to give you my recollections. First off, Jim and Florence Shino were a wonderful couple. In addition to having the cleaning store , they were also our neighbors in 1532 and they lived in the back, one flight up, and had the little roof outside their apartment. The guys could bring in their suits after the Tioga Dances (Democratic Club) after we all drank too much and got sick on ourselves and he and Flo would not flinch. However, the only time I did see him blow up was on a Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. He came pounding on the door, demanding to see my Dad. There had been a party at my house the night before, hosted by my brother, Al. (Tommy , you might have been there) Since my father was already at work, I woke up Don and Jim had us look out the back window at his roof which was so covered with bags, beer cans cigarette butts that you couldn't see the black tar paper of the roof.Jim demanded it be cleaned up immediately and since we couldn't rouse Al from bed and I was going to church, Don was the one who had to clean up the mess..
The bodega next to McCarthy's was owned by a Puerto Rican conglomerate known as the Rodriguez brothers. I kid about it but they were a very enterprising family. There was Bernard, the oldest who was married to Loida, a very pretty what I thought was Spanish woman. When I got to know the family better I found out she was Indian, east Indian. They met in California while Bernard was serving in the Army which I assumed was during the war. Next came Pablo , heavyset, with a mustache. He ultimately ran the grocery store until he had a stroke in his mid 40's and then had to slow down. Next came Carlos, with the prosthetic right arm. I don't know how he lost it, but I seem to remember it was the right arm only. He eventually ran McCarthy's after they purchased it and the store became known as Hook's. They also purchased Maxie's grocery store in 1960 when Max retired at age 70. Maxie had been in that store since 1926. I was Maxie's last delivery boy and they let me go soon after either because I wasn't family or they didn't want to pay minimum wage which was a $1 an hour. I also believe Bernard (and the family) had some real estate holdings in upper Manhattan.
Sorry to tell you but when I was in NY last summer I was told that Frankie Nieves had recently passed away. He was the last of his siblings, Johnny, Ray and Rosemary (Cootchie) as they had all pre deceased him.
You have good recall. "Moving up the block past the dried fruit factory, in no particular order", you had the order correct, leaving out one store. There was Greenberg the butcher, Maxie's grocery store, Drakett's Plumbing, entrance to 1532, Anton, the barber, Charlie Sing, Chinese laundry and Tallees/AlScott Bar.
As for the tenants of 1532, I don't remember Donald O'Hanlon living in the building, but his family may have lived there before my time (Remember, I'm a first generation baby-boomer). I remember the Smith's, the Harrigan's were our next door neighbors, but the McCaffery's lived in 502 136th St. Also in the building were the Penna's, Julie and Claudia, the Croke's, Jackie and Donald, Carl Kjellsberg ( these guys may be before your time).Some of the younger families were the Sullivan's, Theresa and Tommy, the Gaglione's, Vinny and Cassie and the Feeley's, Gene, Michael and Margaret. As a matter of fact I have a photo of a bunch of us kids on the stoop of 1532, taken around 1950. If I can copy it I will send it to you.
About my Dad's Studebaker. It was either the 1946 3-tone DeSoto or the 1952 Hudson.The 46 DeSoto was originally 2-tone, dark gray on the top and light gray on the sides. I remember my Dad buying some orange primer, saying that the rear fenders were a little rusted and he was going to prime and paint them. I remember him sanding and priming the car in front of Army Hall. He never painted it , so the car remained distinguishable (gray- gray- orange) until the day he junked it years later.
The 52 Hudson was like a tank, big, round and bulbous. The funny story with that car (all my Dad's cars came with funny stories)was my brother Al would not let him sleep one Sunday morning and kept pestering my Dad to borrow the car to go with a bunch of friends to Rockaway. Al didn't have a driver's license but Joe Connaire or one of those guys did and that person would do the driving. Finally my Dad relented , I think just so he could go back to sleep. When the car was returned it had no reverse gear and when the truth came out, it was my brother who drove the car , even tho he didn't know how to drive a standard shift. My Dad, always being resourceful, never let it bother him . For the years he had the car after that incident, he always made sure he parked on a hill so he could roll back or had one of us with him so we could push if he had to go back.
Keep up the good work. You have a lot of us going into the memory bank
P.S. I keep quoting your expression and laughing when people ask how is retirement
"Retirement in Florida is like summer camp for seniors"
Art writes some more:

I found the photo I mentioned in my letter the other day. We are guessing it was taken around 1951-2. Straddling the stoop is Drakett's Plumbing on the left and Anton's Barber Shop on the right, and Mrs Feeley standing in the rear.

Seated left to right is my sister Catherine, Vinny Gaglione, me, Michael Feeley and my cousin Bernadette Duncan from 1512 Amst. We think the kid standing on the right is Frankie Harkin, also from 1512.
Gene Feeley gave me the photo several years ago, taking credit for taking the photo with his "Brownie" camera which was a gift purchased at your father's store.

Bob McKenna writes:
Some updates. Unfortunately, Frankie Nieves passed away last year. I met him at one of the reunions and asked about his siblings,Johnny, Ray and Coochie and he advised that they had all passed away.

Over in 1525 you also had the Gonzalez brothers; Danny, Joey and Mike. I think they all moved to California.
You were right about Scotts.....many stories....reminded me of Cheers. Mrs Norton and her crazy son would break out into screaming arguments during the afternoon in the bar. Some guy we labled as VO Pop sat down at the end, drinking his shots of VO, probably on a modest pension.
A guy used to hang out there who would draw your caricature on a pie plate.....but he would pose you in a coffin!!! When Tommy Barret owned the bar (before John Scott) the only people who would sell him liquor was Wilson Whiskey. (Wilsons Of Course) I remember a guy coming in from Lewisohn Stadium and asking for a Martini and getting it made with Wilsons.

Rosemary Lamarch writes:
Hi Tom,

So glad that your surgery is over. Hopefully, you will heal quickly. I always enjoy your blogs & am amazed at your recall! As I read them things pop into my head - like the name of the funeral home on 131st St & Amst. I remember it being Elizabeth Smith's. The Church, if I recall correctly, between 135th & 136th was called "The Voice in the Desert, Inc.". I'm looking forward to your next one - that should be my block. Thanks for the memories.

Ralph Ramirez writes:
Ralph sent me a file that was a tribute to Danny Boy Murray. I am assuming that Danny Boy was related to John Murray of 135th Street. Danny Boy passed away. Unfortunately, the file had an expiration date and at this writing, it has passed and so I can't pass it on. If you want Ralph's address, email me at tomyread@aol.com  and I will send it to you.

Bob McKenna sent this on:

This is a link to an article in The New York Times a few weeks ago. Just click on it and the article will come up.

That's it for now, more to come.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

AMSTERDAM AVE, FROM 135th St. to 136th St.

My first thought was to do the Amsterdam and 136th St. but I think there is enough reading for just the avenue.
I'll start my Amsterdam trek at the northeast corner of 135th Street. That is where Read's Camera Store was located at 1519 Amsterdam Ave. Dad bought the store in 1942 at the beginning of the war. We were living in Jackson Heights at the time and to eliminate a commute we got a three bedroom apartment across the street at 500. The rent was $50 per month. I was three years old and my brother Harry was four. Business was great during the war. Everything photographic was rationed so whatever he sold it was at a premium. Eastman Kodak would only sell it's products to authorized dealers and he got his share of what they allowed. After the war, rationing was eliminated and discounters were everywhere. E. J. Korvette's and Master's come to mind. They were selling film for half the price that Dad was selling it. He didn't believe in selling on credit. His attitude was photography was a hobby and you shouldn't go into debt for a hobby. Good ethics, bad business. Dad was also a master photo finisher.Bad health and demands for quicker service by the public took its toll on him.  By 1956 the store was finished and so was Dad. He passed away in October. I was already in the service.
Next door to the store was a Puerto Rican Evangelical Church. They had services three or four nights a week and always had musical accompaniment, an out of tune piano, a bass drum and a tambourine. It drove Dad crazy. He had perfect pitch. Next to the church was Pete the shoemaker. He was a nice man and a very good shoemaker. Pete had a great collection of Canaries in the store.Nowadays you have to look far and wide to find a shoemaker but we had two of them. There was Pete and over in 500 W 135th was another. Because he was in our building that is where we took our shoes. I think his last name was Zuinga.
Going up the block was the entrance to 1525 Amsterdam. It was the only building on that side of the avenue with an entrance. It was sandwiched between 499 on 135th and 498? on 136th. Buddy Clancy wrote a great article on 1525 in the April 2002 edition of the Vinegar Hill Gazette. I shall repeat it here.

                                                       THE HOUSE ON THE HILL
                                                          1525 Amsterdam Avenue
                                                                by Buddy Clancy

We all have our memories of Vinear Hill where we grew up with family and friends. What do I remember about living in an apartment in Vinegar Hill?
Well, there was the door with clean crisp curtains and shiny brass knobs leading to the foyer. The inside entrance door was lettered "Ruthette". There was a directory with the names and apartment numbers so you could buzz a particular tenant. Then you had the mailboxes. There were two mail deliveries, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
The buildings were beautiful! There were awnings on the windows and many people had flower boxes. The superintendent mopped the halls and stairs and you could smell the disinfectant. Most apartment buildings were walk ups. You had people above, below and beside you. Apartment #1 had the McCarthy's, who owned the candy store below Guy's bar; McGoldrick's #21, Nyholms #23, Sullivans #33, Owens #34, Nicholsons #42, Cogavins #43, Bergins #44, Clancys #51, Nugents # 52, Smiths # 53, Mustins # 62. If anyone is left out let me know.
There was the smell of food cooking from the various apartments, some good and some not so good.
You had the dumbwaiter in the kitchen and you would be buzzed to put your garbage on the dumbwaiter.
Everyone had a clothesline -  this was before washers and dryers. Clothes were washed with the use of a scrubbing board and brown soap.
This was the time before TV antennas and computers. Your entertainment was going out and playing and there was always something to do and it didn't cost anything. Halloween was a big day with the chalk and the flour in the stockings.
I remember on Thanksgiving in my backyard, you had someone playing he violin or accordion looking for money which people would drop from the windows. (sometimes hot!)
In the courtyard between 499 and my house, you heard many conversations, some yelling and arguing and also laughing. I enjoyed hearing Pete Campbell's beautiful voice as he sang in the apartment in 499.
A lot went on in my backyard, including the man who would come around to sharpen knives and fix umbrellas. It was another world.
Now many people live in their own homes, myself included, but the bottom line is we will never forget what it was like to live in an apartment and all the wonderful people in Vinegar Hill. They were and still are the best!

Moving up the hill there was Baily's plumbing store. I remember Louie Caraisco working for him. From here on up I don't recall the order but I think next door to Baily was where Nellie Miller opened her bakery and frozen custard store. Next store up I recall Epstein's Paints and Supplies. I remember going there to get some benzine for my dad and he had it in a fifty five gallon drum sitting on a cradle. Obviously there weren't too many fire regulations then. He also sold turpentine that way. I think Jim's cleaners moved into what was Epstein's. Jim and his wife were Japanese and I think that even though the war was long over, there was still some resentment toward the Japs. They were lovely people and had a successful business for quite a while. There was a grocery store run by a Spanish fellow who had lost both arms in the war. It was amazing to see how well he could use his prosthetic arms. He was innovative in that he was the first guy in the neighborhood who sold frozen vegetables, Birdseyes. Yes, back in those days, frozen vegetables was a novelty. It was something new. Most of us still had the refrigerators that had a little compartment for 2 ice cube trays and a little space above the trays for maybe 2 boxes of frozen vegetables `or, even better, ice cream. If you didn't use the vegetables or the ice cream within a couple of days you had to chisel them out. They were stuck in that little compartment, frozen solid.
Next to the grocery was Theresa McCarthy's candy store. Theresa was a big girl and a great lady. She always took good care of us. I believe later on she sold the store to the Coffey Brothers.  I think there was a store that sold mirrors and picture frames next to her. Finally on the corner was the Vinegar Hill Tavern. What ever happened to all those trophies that were in the bar? There certainly was a lot of them there but I can't picture anyone keeping them.  I imagine that everyone of us has some kind of a Vinegar Hill story. I never hung out in the Hill since most of the guys my age were across the street in Al Scotts. I recall a certain hierarchy of hanging out. You started out at a candy store and then moved on to a place like John's Luncheonette. John's had a juke box and serious food like french fries. Finally at age 18 (or there abouts) you moved on to one of the bars, Scotts if you were just starting out and Vinegar Hill if you were older. Many of us had places where we practiced for our debuts at Scott's or the Hill. Mine was at the Stadium down on Broadway. I drank there from when I was fifteen until I went into the service at seventeen. We celebrated many an eighteenth birthday at the Stadium. I'm also sure that a lot of underage guys never practiced and went right to Scott's or the Hill to start their drinking escapades.
On the west side of Amsterdam I'll start with the drug store on the corner of 135th St. I've mentioned it before as being owned by Louie Englesburg. Before him I believe the guys name was Stern. If I remember correctly, that name was inlaid in little tiles at the entrance doorway. Moving up the block was Bill's Delicatessen. He actually had two stores, next to each other. The one you never saw was his kitchen, where he made all of the goodies that he sold. Other than the bolognas and hams, Bill cooked or prepared all the stuff himself. That would be the roast beef or turkey, the meat pies and fish cakes and all the salads. He was a great cook. Bill lived in Hackensack New Jersey and used to commute "all the way" every day.  Next to Bill was originally, at least from my time, Joe's candy store. That subsequently became John's Luncheonette. That was owned by John Keskes and his son Chris.  Bernie Donovan had sent in a picture that was taken there and Bernie thought the name of the place was Pop's. Next to that store was Mary's vegetable market. Mary was the sweetest little Italian lady you would ever want to meet. She  always had a smile on her face. Her boys, I remember Joe and John and Sal.They had this great big truck all nicely painted with the name Esposito Brother's Fruits and Vegetables on the side of the truck. I understand that, on the weekends,  they used to take the truck and park it alongside one of the highways up state and sell their wares as if it was their farm down the road.. All the wares came out of the Hunt's Point Market. I think there was an empty store next to the fruit market and then came the entrances to 1524 and 1528.
There was the Nieves family, I remember Johnny and Frankie and I remember a little girl who may have been their sister.Cootchie is the name that comes to mind. Frankie is still in the neighborhood and is still active in local politics. The Espositos lived in the building too. On the top  floor was the Grays. That would be a sister, the oldest, whose name I forget, then John and then Eddie. John was always in some kind of dilemma. One time, and nobody knows how he did it, but in climbing over fence to get into Lewishon stadium John managed to impale his thigh on one of the spikes on the fence. The only way to get him off was to lift him off. He was not a lightweight and he was about ten feet up on this fence. It took a lot of cops and firemen to get him down. And why was he trying to get into the stadium? More than likely to see what he could steal. Joe Perry lived in the building, too. How he got the nickname GeeJoe I'll never know, but it sure did stick with him. GeeJoe was a great athlete and a heck of a nice guy. I can't think of her last name but her first name was Lydia and Bobby Duncan had mentioned her in one of his letters. She live in 1524.
Next door, in 1528 there was the Kirbys, Jimmy and Charlie. Also, there was Edgar and Dorsey Rodriquez and their Mom and Dad. He was a stout fellow and Mrs. Rodriquez was this tiny Little lady. Jenny Clancy grew up in the building before she married Buddy who lived all the way across the street. Her mom used to work in the dried fruit factory that was in the building. The evangelical church that I wrote about moved across the street to where the fruit factory was. One of Mae Sweeney and Dinky Devlin's friends lived there, too. Was it Kay Kellker?  I also remember a fellow there, his name was Gene and he was handicapped. I don't believe he worked for the A&P but he was there six days a week ready to carry your groceries home for you. He lived on his tips and he earned every penny of it.
Moving up the block past the dried fruit factory I remember, in no particular order, a meat market, Greenbaums, a grocery store, Max's ,  a barber shop, Anton's. Anton's was funny. At the end of the haircut he would always trim your sideburns and the back of your neck with the old fashioned straight razor and hot shaving cream. All through the hair cut Antons hands would be trembling (the shakes). Just before he shaved you he would go in the back room, have a little swig of the vino and his hands became steady as a rock.  Maybe there was also a Chinese laundry but I'm not sure. Chinese laundries were all over the place and they all had the same sign outside. It was a rectangle with a red background and white letters. All that it said was "Laundry". Never any name or different color, all the same. Remember the laundry marks they put in the collar of your shirts. It probably drove them crazy if you moved and changed laundries. Somewhere , I think between Max's and the meat market, was the entrance to 1532. Joe Smith was there along with Donold O'Hanlon. Bernie Harrigan and his siblings were there. Jimmy McCaffery, Pete and Mike were also there. So was the Lamarch's. That would be Albie, Donny, Artie and Cathrine. I think Mr. Lamarch at one time had one of those Studebakers that you couldn't tell if it was coming or going. Donold O'Hanlon married Marie Caraisco.
Finally on the corner was Al Scotts Bar. Al was Al Scalzo and Scott was Johnny Scott. That's my recollection but I was never sure if am correct. Al was a court officer and I think he was married to one of the Scott Girls. I remember Anna and Harry and Johnny Scott and Joany Weisberger,who was married to Harry. One time I was on disability after wrecking a car and hung out at Scott's for five or six weeks, day and night. What an experience. Probably could have gotten enough material for a couple of books, all comedies.
That's it for now. Next up will be both sides of 136th Street, that would be Broadway to Amsterdam to Convent Ave.
This months mail brings:

Betty Hughes Keane writes:
hi tommy ! i have been reading ur blog 4 about a year now & really enjoying it ! was so glad 2 c u were heading for- 501 but then disappointed no shout out about my family the hughes. we lived on the 4th flr apt. 43 rear. my father christy,mother kathleen , sibs: snooky ( way b4 the jersey shore snooky) lol she was born 1937 & my father named her 4 the comic "lil snookums" she was christined catherine virginia but never called anything but snooky! next my bros. brendan & kevin (sadly all three deceased) my sis maureen & i live close by in pa. we left 134th st. in 1958 moving to darby pa. most cousins joined us & all live fairly close by. i remember all the names u mentioned . the barretts lived across the hall from us ,grandmother, mrs gray , daughter, madeline ( who my father always said was the most beautiful girl on 134) her 3 children, maureen, bobby & barbara. we have kept in touch with them & saw them last year at a party in ct., above us the tennyseons wth grandaughter, anne. we use to trade comic books on the hall steps with robbie broderick . i remember seeing my first white dressed bride on the stoop b4 going off 2 annunciation! i just cant rember if it was mary orielly or patsy broderick. the skeels also lived in 501 in fact charlie was my godfather. the candy store under neath us bartoleenies, had a grill on which their cat slept , until u ordered a hot dog(limited menu) & she would shussh the cat off & put ur hot dog on!! true story. but the best part: no onethought that strange! lol u mentioned eddie doran( my first cousin, also deceased) knowing sports , indeed he did.! he lived across the street in 500. with his sis. rita(dcsd) kay,rose ,marguerit & suzanne mulvihill. whenever my children &grandchldrn see old pics taken up on the roof (tar beach ) they ask why would we be up on the roof, i said easier 2 go up 1 flight than down & back up 4! please share this info & my email with ur other readers. email :irlnana@yahoo.com. i look 4ward 2 ur nxt blogs . such fun & good memories ! thank u . betty hughes keane

Kathleen McKenna writes:

    Hello Tom - I am Kathleen McKenna from 135th Amsterdam Ave., My brother was "Pepper", My sisters are Winnie & Pat.  I cherish all the memories from "The Hill" and Annunication.. I attended some of the yearly masses' and a dance or two..  I knew your Dad well and remember fondly his camera store Your reminencing is rejuvenating for so many of us... I do remember Tonys' Candy Store on 135th St., Chris's on Amsterdam Ave. McCarthys on 136th. and of course  Henrys between 135 & 134th.  on 136th .  "Tawleys" Bar (I know Im not spelling it right) & Vinegar Hill Bar 136th.  Every Summer of my life we spent in Rockaway 97th St.,  94th. St.& 101st ST.  St.Camilius on Sunday  - Duddeys' Bakery for the bread & buns.  McNultys' Bar was right next to McGuires on 109th.St.,  They had live entertainment for many years Rock N' Roll.. Great!!   Anyway Tom I am so very pleased that you have passed on these wonderful memories/photos...Our Catholic Faith was instilled in us through our Annucation Parish. & "Those Nuns"..    

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


After walking up and down Amsterdam Ave. from 135th St. to 131st St. twice a day for eight years you would think the trip would be etched into our minds. I guess in the morning we were still asleep. On the way back home for lunch we had one thing in mind, food. On the way back to school it was what we were going to do after school and at three o'clock it was: Freedom. Whenever we were released at the corner of 131st and Amsterdam it was as though the chains were off and we were free. Remember Fat Sweeny, the traffic cop on 131st Street who was the our crossing guard. Sweeney used to come into my dad's store, once in a while, and when he did he always took a nap. I think his wife and my mother were girl friends when they were younger. Wasn't it great that we had a lunch at home waiting for us and usually a Mom to go with it? Mom always had one of those soap operas on the radio. The theme song lyric of " There's a small hotel way down a wishing well" is still in my head. I don't remember the name of the program.
I usually walked down the west side of Amsterdam going to school and on the east side going home. Don't ask me why. From 134th St. south there was P and G's on the corner and I'm not sure of the order but there was Brady's grocery, a fruit market, a butcher, another fruit market, Trabold's Bakery, one or two more stores and then Robert's Deli. There may have been another store next to Robert's but the next one I remember was on the corner, Heinick's Department Store. Of course what sticks out in my mind was that is where we went to get our altar boy collars and collar pins. I wonder if such a thing is even made today. What would the Chinese laundry charge to wash and starch a collar today. Remember walking to Mass with your collar wrapped around your arm? Brady's grocery, next to P and G's was one of the real old time groceries. Across the back wall was the old time refrigerator cases that still used ice blocks for cooling. There was all these small refrigerator doors in the wall. It was really unique. Unique? OK go ahead and say it , three times fast, Unique New York, Unique New York, Unique New York. I never knew how two fruit markets could survive almost next door to each other. 1492 was the building entrance next to Brady's. The Connor's lived there, that would be Joan, Tommy who was in my class and then Barbra. Tommy Whitfield was there and I think John McKeveny was there also. Wasn't there a guy, I think his name was Gerimiah McCarthy. I picture this short, chubby guy with this great wavy blond hair. He always had a book under his arm and a cigar in his hand. I recall seeing him with Gerry Magner at Vinegar Hill after the Sunday eleven o'clock Mass.
1488 was the next building down and that is where Trabold's Bakery was. Being a foodie, the bakery was one of my favorite places. Sunday mornings after Mass it was my job to get the rolls. Of course it was a job, on Sunday's the place was mobbed. I  would get eight rolls for a quarter and got a penny change. Mom and Dad and my brother Harry each got a roll and I got the rest. Trabold's had the best of everything. Remember seeing your birthday cake in the window and on special occasions, a wedding cake. I believe that Mr. Trabold did all of the baking. When did he sleep? Mrs. Trabold and her sister Helen were always behind the counter and later on their daughter would help out. After they sold the bakery they moved to Westwood in N.J. The only family other than the Trabold's to live in 1488 that I recall was the Buonocore's. Sonny was two or three years ahead of me and Sissy was in my class. All the time that I was in the service I would write to Sissy. When I got discharged I landed up working for Xerox and Sissy was engaged and working at Western Electric. I went to their wedding but haven't seen them since. Wow! That was fifty years ago. I had it in my head that the LeBlanc's lived in 1488 but someone mentioned that they lived on 131st St. The LeBlanc's that I remember were Charlie and Flossie (Florence). Down from Trabold's was Robert's Deli.
Mom would always insist that if we were going to buy roast beef it had to be from Robert's. Roast beef was expensive, as I recall something like seventy five cents for a quarter of a pound. I forget what day it was but one day a week they also made special meat balls, or I think we called them meat cakes. Robert's also was the only deli around that sold Treat potato chips and always had Silver Cup white bread.
The next building down was, I think, 1478. One of the several Sullivan families was in the building. There was John and a younger and an older sister. There was another guy in the building, his first name was Freddie and what I remember about his was his ears. Evidently he had protruding ears and he had them fixed. I couldn't get over what a difference it made in the guy. \
The building on the corner was 501 W. 133rd St. As I've said before, that is where the Kneafsey boys lived. I'm still hoping to get Eddie's phone number. A distant cousin has been in touch with me and found me on Google in one of my blogs.
I don't have much of a recollection of who was on 133rd St. other than the Dunigans. Eddie was in my class and I recall he had a bunch of sisters. Also on 133rd St. was the Galligans. I don't remember them from when we were kids but met Margie Galligan Brennan about thirty years ago. Margie was my first Irish set dancing teacher. She and Betty Burke (from 136th St.) ran the Bergenfield School of Irish Dancing. One night a week they taught set dancing. I knew Margie's husband, he had Brennans Pub in Bergenfield. Margie has a sister Kay and a brother Ray. Across the street from the Kneafsey's was the Flanagans. I guess it was 500 W. 133rd. Agnes and Elizabeth (identical twins) and at least one brother, Neal. Agnes and Elizabeth were in my class. I was never sure if I knew which was which.
Of course on that side of the hill from 133rd to 131st all the buildings were torn down to make way for the projects. Off the corner of 133rd on Amsterdam I recall Jenny's candy store. Down the hill on 132nd was another pub, was it Gallaghers?  Families that I recall in that area were the Morans. Paddy was in my class and also the Monahans. Eileen was in my class and Bill was one of the upper classmen at Regis.
I think I was in the fourth or fifth  grade when they completed the Safeway store on 131st. St. Prior to the store being built it was just an empty lot. I recall that they had the rear wall of the the store built and a storm came along and blew it down. When the store was finished, I believe it marked the beginning of the end of the neighborhood as we remembered it. All the "mom and pop" stores just couldn't compete. Even the small chains couldn't compete. Peter Reeves had a store across the street and soon after the Safeway opening they closed.
Going up the east side of Amsterdam there was a funeral home on the corner of 131st St. Up from that was the defunct Peter Reeves and I think it became a BarBQ restaurant. The Corcoran's grocery and meat market was there too. They didn't survive too long after the Safeway opening. Up towards 133rd St. on that side of the block was a great fish market. Of course we all ate fish on Friday and the market was always packed on a Friday. My Mom was a great fish cook and we always had haddock or halibut or sole. During lent we always had smelt on Wednesday. They really stunk up the house but I loved them. I love to go fishing and it always kills me to use smelt for bait. Guys don't believe me when I tell them they are great eating.
On that side a Amsterdam from 131st up to 134th you realized that you really lived in Harlem.
From 133rd to 134th they tore those buildings down to make way for a new public school. Other than Bradley's bar on 134th I don't recall any stores in that section. The school they opened was the Fiorello LaGuardia school. Fiorello must have fallen out of favor with the local school board as the school is no longer named after him. It is now the Don Pedro Albizu Campos School, PS 161. If you get a chance Google him. One of the things I remember on 133rd between Amsterdam and Convent was a little post at the top of a basement entrance. On the top of the post was a pad. This guy was the iceman. If you still had an icebox, yes, some people did , this is where you got your ice. You would leave a note on the pad, a  ten cent piece for so and so in apt ? at 500 West . He would deliver the ice to your door. He had this big piece of burlap over his shoulder where he would rest the ice and he wouldn't get wet. The last thing on that side of  Amsterdam before 135th Street was the Milk House. There was this little building which actually cut into the lower field a little. I think it was octagon in shape. During the war you could go there and get free containers of milk. I don't recall if it continued past 1946 but the building stood there for years.
The obvious place for me to cover next is Amsterdam north of 135th and also 136th Street.

Bobbie McKenna writes: Great article.
Unfortunately, Tommy Newell passed away a few years ago. A wild teenager, he had become a very adult husband and stepfather in his later years. There was also a younger sister named Frances. 134th street also was a tough block. You had Denis Brown, Jerry Baker and the Hughes Brothers. I understand that Brendan and Kevin both passed away. Kevin, most recently had been working for the Atlantic City Convention Center. The famous Cape Man also lived on 134th Street. I remember watching Dickie Walsh elude the authorities by jumping the airshafts from one roof to another. The bar on 134th Street also was notable for the Family Entrance. By the way, as successful as Billy Hackett was in Advertising, his son Larry is the Editor in Chief of People Magazine. On that same note, the Publisher of National Geographic is John Fahey Jr., son of John Fahey from 136th St.
Margie Wheatley writes:
Thank you for the update on Vinegar Hill...we always enjoy  reading and recalling such fond memories. I believe Mary Burns married Lenny Whelan..from 136th Street. He played basketball for some professional team..It was great to see you and Maureen in Florida. We were very happy to see Connie and Margaret Smith. Weather improving up north. Good luck with yor surgery. Margie & Walter

John McKeveny and John Sullivan both sent this along. (It is terrific)
Here is a web site of Rockaway as some remember and some won't, but it is fun to look at and will bring a smile to your face. http://www.rockawaymemories.com/IrishTownCover.htm

John Keegan writes:
I enjoy reading it. Mary Cunningham- Mulaney should have Ed Kneafsy phone number. He is her brother in law. Mary Donohue is the princpal at Saint Augustine's in Ossining. She has been there for many years. . As a matter of fact Msgr. Costello who was at Annuciation when we were in grammar school was the pastor at St. Augustine's. Joe Newell lives in Palisades ,NJ 07650 (1 West Palisades Ave.) .201-592-0381. I also have been told that Tom passed away a few years ago. Doanld was married to Kay Ferrick. There old sister Margaret is in a nursing for sometime she fell and I don't remeber what Eileen told me at the reunion but she was dong well.    John
John also sent me this link which goes to Tommy Swift's (134thSt) singing groups website:   Cascadesmusic.com

Tony Caro writes:
Dear Tom
John Scott referred your blog to me, and boy was I pleasantly surprised. I will give you a little background on my years (1942 to 1964) living there (509 W. 134th St)
I read your blog and you mentioned the 501 building. Yes, there was a candy store which were owed by Mr. & Mrs. Bartolini, as kids we knew them only as Mr. & Mrs. Lee, if I recalled blackie was the name of their dog. They had two sons, one was named Johnny, the other I cannot recall. The Bartolini’s also lives on third floor of 509. My parents moved to the area in 1942 when I was born. They migrated to the US from Puerto Rico in the thirties. I have three sisters that alsogrew up on 134th St. The guys I hung with, we were always on the stoop of 500 W. 134th St. Unfortunately, I lost track of them. Some of the names, as follows – Richard D. (521) – John S. (500) – Felix F. (508) Marc L. (508) and Sonny & Frankie R. (508) – Tommy H. (507) and Chico R. (500) – In the early school years I remember going to the “Old Music and Art” High School where the bottom three floors were for elementary grades 1 to 6. Later, on about 1952/53 PS 192 was built in the area of the “Army Hall” were I attended the sixth grade and graduated to PS 43 (129th St and Amsterdam) Thereafter I landed in George Washington High and graduated (By the skin of my teeth) in 1959 – Yes, I remember going to the Annunciation Church, we attended mass on Sunday. The priest was Father Coyne, (Strict) and to my surprise was the pastor at St. Ann’s (12th St – Lower East Side) where he married us in 1963. I also came across him later on in Congers, NY (Rockland) where he
was attending a communion for his niece. In 1963 we moved to the “Bronx” until 1973 when we moved to Rockland County. I have 3 children, 2 girls and a boy, and happily to announce 7 grandchildren.
There so many memories and stories to tell that it would require a “War & Peace” novel to fill. Good thing my long term memories are still with me, it’s the short term that seems to elude me. As I go along, I will submit them to you.
Best regards
Tony Caro

Tony also wrote:
I look forward to receiving the blog. Thanks Just a short note: one of the friends (an Irish lad) brings back a bitter memory, we were playing softball in “Jasper” Oval (Convent Ave around the 139th St. area)
My friend Tom Henry was playing center field and I was playing right field, when a shot was hit in between us, needless to say we collided – results 10 stitches in His lip and 4 in my far head. Taken to the old “Knickerbockers Hospital” for repair, a place that I visited on occasions.
Take Care, Tony

Philip Murphy wrote:
My grandfather, Eddie Guy, owned a bar in Vinegar Hill with his brother Artie. Did you know the family? They were parishioners of Annunciation. Anything you can tell me about them? Thanks!
And I replied:
Hi Phil,
I'd have to say that everyone from my era at Vinegar Hill knew at least one of the Guys. I knew Artie from the bars, all three of them, the one on 136th, the one on 215th and the one down in Rockaway on 105th St. He was older than me by probably ten years. One Christmas season, when I was around ten or eleven, I delivered Christmas trees for Joe Guy. He and a couple of his buddies set up a tree selling site at the corner of 135th and Amsterdam. I lived in that corner building so I just hung around until someone bought a tree and I offered to deliver it. I made some extra Christmas money. I met Eddie a couple of times at the reunions. The Guy family was very popular. If you told someone you were from Vinegar Hill they invariably would say, "Do you know Artie Guy?" or "Did you know the Guys?". I wouldn't hesitate to say that they were legendary. I worked in the north Jersey area and when I passed thru Fair Lawn there was a bar on Rte. 4 ,the name JJ's comes to mind, but it was reportedly owned by one of the Guys. (Ally?) I understand there was a sister, Katherine, but I never met her.
Most of the guys from Artie and Eddie's era are gone now so it's not easy to get some first hand stories. One guy who should have a lot of information is John Scott. He is at jscott1995@verizon.net . John and his brother in law, Al, owned the bar directly across the street from the Vinegar Hill Bar. It was known as Al Scott's. John wrote a book titled "The Boys of Vinegar Hill".
Sorry I don't have more info. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to drop me a line. Tommy Read

MaryJane Heinrich writes:

Precautions re Mammograms and Dental XRays/ A Useful Warning
On Wednesday, Dr. Oz had a show on the fastest growing cancer in women, thyroid cancer. It was a very interesting program and he mentioned that the increase could possibly be related to the use of dental x-rays and mammograms. He demonstrated that on the apron the dentist puts on you for your dental x-rays there is a little flap that can be lifted up and wrapped around your neck. Many dentists don't bother to use it. Also, there is something called a "thyroid guard" for use during mammograms. By coincidence, I had my yearly mammogram yesterday. I felt a little silly, but I asked about the guard and sure enough, the technician had one in a drawer. I asked why it wasn't routinely used. Answer: "I don't know. You have to ask for it." Well, if I hadn't seen the show, how would I have known to ask?