Thanks to Pat Fenton for this fine piece of writing.
I just got back from a wake, Steve. An old friend from Windsor Terrace, Denny Scully passed away. It happened fast, and I heard about it from a message his brother John left on my phone.
The one night wake (Sept 22) was out in Bellmore on Long Island.
I grew up in the late 40’s and 50’s, and into the 60’s in Windsor Terrace. And I still go home again, sometimes writing about it for newspapers, and in a play, Stoopdreamer”, about what that amazingly, special neighborhood was all about to me.
Denny Scully was an important part of my memories of growing up on “The Hill. “ The Scully family lived down on 16th Street near the armory, and during the late 50’s and early 60’s he and his brother John were part of a group that hung out on the corner of 17th Street and 9th Avenue.
Every summer afternoon would turn into a carnival of street sounds, stickball games, dice games against the wall, card games on the metal, cellar doors, the King Kong ride swinging its huge carriage through the summer air, and all the while the large speakers on the front of it blasting out the Everly Brothers singing “Cathy’s Clown.” All of us with slicked back hair, and upturned collars, just happy to be young. It was our time in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, and it seemed like it would last forever. I often wondered what ever happened to all the pretty girls who were part of that world.
Holy Name, the church, the school, Farrell’s Bar, the other Irish bars that were once on 9th Avenue and down on the corners of 10th Avenue, Prospect Park, Jack the Wonder Dairy’s store on the corner of 17th Street, Izzey’s Soda shop a few doors away, the church bazaar’s in the school yard of Holy Name where you could win a new Chrysler on a quarter chance, the movie houses, the Sanders, the Globe, the 16th Street, the Avon, the Prospect, the Minerva, the Venus down on Prospect Avenue, reading comic books in a booth in Al’s luncheonette on Prospect Avenue in a time that seemed so innocent to me.
Gus’s Diner on the corner of 19th Street and 9th Avenue, Frank‘s Pizza across the street, the “Lucky Penny” variety store on the corner of 18th Street, the barber shop next to it with its striped pole out front, the red brick of the buildings, Scarpa’s on the other side, where we brought jelly apples in the fall; all of it once existing undisturbed, like a scene from an Edward Hopper painting, all before Robert Moses ran the Prospect Expressway through there, all bits and pieces of my life, all bits and pieces of who I turned out to be.
This too was Denny Scully’s Windsor Terrace. Later, when we were older, he hung out in Kerrigan’s Bar on 17th Street with us. This was the Windsor Terrace of Alice Murray, Tommy Purdy, Jacky Malone, Bobby Rice, John Scully, Tommy McLaughlin, Richie and Mickey Lang, and so many others like the Craig‘s, the McCarthy’s, the McGill’s, the Burke’s, all of it making up the hub of one of the greatest Irish working-class neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
In memory, where it still lives on, this was the Windsor Terrace of Holy Name Church before Vatican Two, before they tore out all the beautiful marble from the altar and the black, metal railings where you kneeled down for holy communion, before they painted over the murals that depicted the crucifixion in the dark green and red hues of a Renaissance painting, before they tore out all the dark stained, imported wood, it was a time when the crowds that filled the church during seasonal novenas were so big, they had to seat people on the altar.
Yesterday afternoon, I said goodbye to someone who was an important part of my memory of that Windsor Terrace. I was glad to have Bob Rice standing next to me.