As a writer, I am always looking for inspiration.
Growing up in Windsor Terrace it’s not hard to find material to write about. And it helps to have other writers to read (both good and bad) to be inspired to write.
Have a look at some outstanding work by our guy Pat Fenton.
Click the link below for a wonderful piece in the Irish Echo on a documentary they are putting together about Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin.
Cool story about Budweiser beer via the New York Daily News. And if you’re talkin’ suds in NYC, gotta mention Farrell’s.
It still sells here, and it’s here to stay,” says John Powers, a bartender at Farrell’s Bar and Grill, the Windsor Terrace watering hole that was once the East Coast’s biggest seller of Budweiser.
The bar’s regulars are wise to Bud’s legacy.
“It’s the best beer in the city,” says Tom Cannizzaro, 49, a plumber in the neighborhood. “It’s a clean, fresh taste — nothing compares.”
In every neighborhood there’s one spot you know as “the hangout.”
That one place you go to take a load off your mind.
It’s that sacred place you find mostly men, but make no mistake you will see the occasional female or two hanging tough. I’ve known a few ladies to drink a few of the guys under the table. They are always welcomed, matter of fact, they are embraced.
I’m talking about the bar. The Saloon. A Gin Mill. The Tavern. Watering hole. Whatever you may call it…it’s all good.
There’s been articles written about them. Movies made and of course commercials shot inside of them. There has also been legendary fights inside and outside of them.
Farrell’s Bar & Grill was the popular spot in our neighborhood. Located on the corner of 16th street and ninth avenue. The official address is 215 Prospect Park West. They first opened the doors in the early 30’s.
At one time, back in the day women were discouraged from standing at the bar, they had to sit at a table located way in the back. Legend has it that the actress Shirley McClain once walked in with the writer Pete Hamill and marched right to the bar and ordered a drink.
I first noticed Farrell’s when I was a young boy. Coming from the 11th street playground over in Prospect Park with my mother on my way home to our five-room, railroad apartment on the corner of Windsor and ninth.
“Ma, what are all those people doing outside?”
As my mother holds my hand crossing the street she says they’re hanging out.
“Can we hangout?” I ask.
“No, we have to go home,” she answers
“Hanging out” was an everyday occurrence for the regulars. Some are leaning against parked cars, some are blocking the sidewalk chatting away as they smoke a cigarette. Look inside the huge window in front you notice a ton of people inside, standing at the bar. Some are looking out the window watching the world go by.
They all have one thing in common; they’re holding a glass filled with booze or a white container of beer.
Ironworkers, firemen, cops, mailmen, housewives, writers, musicians, the suits from Wall Street, a local business owner or two may pop their head in from time to time and the unemployed all are welcomed visitors. Doesn’t matter your occupation. I once saw two teachers from Holy Name stumble out after our lunch hour. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the unemployed, they’re hanging out too.
Jimmy Breslin, The Hamill brothers Pete and Denis have all drank and written about the bar on the corner. Click this link to read about the day Breslin bought the house a drink as told by Danny Mills via Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News.
There’s no music in the joint, just conversation.
“Let’s go to Farrell’s.”
“Meet you at Farrell’s.”
“Gimme a Container…”
The tables in the back are taken by groups of softball players talking about the game they had just played down at East fifth street field. The guys at the bar are looking up at the TV set watching the Yankees, as Pete the bartender yaps about the Mets and there’s a guy in the phone booth off to the right of the bar yelling at his wife who is home coking dinner for the family.
“I’LL BE HOME SOON!” he shouts into the receiver and slams it down. No one notices. It’s too loud. Plus, all the men go through the same shit.
Can’t forget about the guy walking out of the men’s room, pulling up his zipper. Employees are required to wash their hands, why not the patrons?
Head out the side door on 16th street and there’s a small group of guys sitting on the sidewalk playing Acey-Deucey. Each one of them has a container placed on the ground next to them.
A heavy-set girl, probably somewhere around twelve years old is walking back and forth past the group disrupting the game and breaking balls. John, who is not having any luck in the card game is clearly perturbed.
“Hey, stop walking by or you won’t get any cake.”
The group laughs. Keep in mind, if you break chops, expect to get yours broken into pieces too.
A few feet away leaning up against a parked station wagon are two females talking about a hot guy at work.
“Go ahead and ask him out, his divorce is official.”
They both laugh. Hook-ups at Farrell’s are popular too.
Laughs are common at the bar. So is arguing. It’s a spot most go to get away from their problems. A few even drown in their sorrows. Or, like JR Moehringer wrote in his memoir, “The Tender Bar, “Of course many bars in Manhasset, like bars everywhere, were nasty places, full of pickled people marinating in regret.”
It’s a place where you can meet up with your friends and realize your neighbor has the same problems as you. One thing is certain, in Farrell’s, everyone knows your name.
Bobby, a Local 40 Ironworker was down on his luck. He had been unemployed for a few months and had a few mouths to feed at him. Not to mention he was behind with his mortgage payment and he had tuition to pay for two kids; one at Holy Name, the other at Bishop Ford. Work was slow down at the Union Hall. Despite the weather being warm enough, there was no iron being set anywhere in the city.
“Thank God for unemployment,” he said to his buddy Billy as they stood on the corner checking out a female across the street.
“Yo honey, can I buy you a drink?” Jimmy calls out as Bobby punches him in the arm.
Before I hit eighteen, I would hang around the bar and talk sports with the bartenders and the locals. I’d stand outside, and at times walk inside to chat with Hoolie and Gerard.
“REDMAN!” is how Gerard would greet me as I walked through the doors. Some nights, when I couldn’t sleep, or there was a domestic dispute I’d get dressed and walk across the avenue to see Gerard who worked the late shift on Friday nights.
Gerard always placed a glass of coke on the bar for me. I felt like a king as i lifted the glass and slugged my drink like I was one of the fella’s.
“Knicks win tonight?” Gerard asked?
“Nah, they lost again.”
One night at last call, Gerard was about to close shop when someone appeared at the front door. Last call also meant closing time; the front door was locked and the only way in would be through the side door.
“GO AROUND THE SIDE!” Gerard shouted.
A couple of seconds later in walked Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors. It was just a few weeks until Mullin would report to his new team after playing four years at St. John’s University. Mullin was a schoolboy legend by way of St. Thomas Aquinas in Flatbush and later Power Memorial and Xaverian High School.
Mullin, standing six-feet, six inches tall came in the bar, said hi and ordered two containers.
Gerard made small talk while he filled the two white cartons and Mullin was on his way out the side door.
They come from all over the city to visit the mecca of beer drinking.
Beer, Bishop Loughlin, Boots, Citadel, Coney Island Avenue, Grady High School, John Jay, Lefrak, OLPH, Parkside, Prospect Park, Prospect Park Southwest, Quaker Cemetery, Rolling Stones, Stickball, Sympathy for the Devil, Windsor Terrace
It’s a little after six on a cold Friday night in late November. I am sitting alone on the wall made of stone which surrounds Prospect Park. I sit patiently, no make that, I sit anxiously waiting for my friends to arrive. I’m usually the first to show up. After supper I rush out of my apartment and head over to the spot everyone calls “The Parkside.” I rest my feet on the back of the park bench in front of me.
Looking across the street at the tall apartment building we call “Lefrak,” I see people waiting for the B68 bus that begins its route down Prospect Park Southwest to Coney Island Avenue. They are standing in the doorway trying to stay out of the cold.
As a young boy I can remember getting on that exact same bus with my mother and we would go to Brighton Beach. The trip seemed to take forever. Out in front of the Lefrak was the first bus stop, we always got seats in the back of the bus.
Some of my friends who attend Grady High School down in Coney Island take the “Grady Special” every morning from that same exact spot. One morning when I cut class I jumped on board with them and went for the ride. As they went to school I got on the B68 and came back alone.
The temperature is dropping with each passing hour but I don’t care. I have a pair of black gloves on, a green parka, two sweatshirts, a hat and long john’s. I can feel the chill of the cold stone on my ass. The boots on my feet keep me warm along with two pairs tube socks. I love wearing two pairs of socks, it’s extra cushion for my bony feet.
I’m fourteen years old, some of my friends are the same age, some are fifteen and a few are sixteen. We started hanging out here on the wall back in August. We played stickball in the empty parking lot right by the tombs; so one Sunday afternoon after we played a couple of games we rested on the wall outside the park. Down on tenth avenue the older guys from the neighborhood hang out on the park benches. The “tenth avenue” entrance of the park as they call it. Whenever we had track practice or baseball practice for Holy Name this was the spot we met our coach. I had walked by a few times at night and would see close to a hundred people hanging out drinking, listening to music and having a good time. I knew most of them by face, some by name, some I would see playing basketball in the boys schoolyard on Saturday mornings.
As for our spot on the parkside, it was cool. We’d bullshit all night with each other, check out all the people walking by, the cars and of course the busses. We would play five-card poker right on the sidewalk. I think we wanted to be like the older guys and gals down on tenth avenue. Across the street waiting at the red light is a small group of my female friends. There’s Karen,, Mary, Laura C., and the two Maureen’s, H. and D.
“What’s up Fin?” Mary asked.
“Nothing much, how you doin’?”
“Things are good,” she answers as she sucks on a lollipop she bought from Tokyo Joe’s Candy Store and smiles. When Mary opened her mouth, she had the prettiest teeth and her tongue was blue from the lollipop.
The girls hopped up on the wall and took a seat next to me.
“How’s school?” Mary asked.
“It’s OK,” I answer as I quickly change the subject.
Little did my friends know, despite hanging out every night, I stopped going to school.
Pretty soon the rest of our crew shows up. One by one, in groups of two’s and three’s. They come from all over the neighborhood. Seeley Street, Windsor Place, Sherman Street, 16th Street, Howard Place, and Terrace Place.
We had a large group of boys and girls combined but I never took the time to count how many we actually had. Some weekends you’d see a strange face show up to hang out. Some would stay with us for the long haul, some would never show up again. There were some nights it was just maybe three or four of us hanging out. I guess some couldn’t come out because maybe they had homework or something. Maybe they were punished and weren’t allowed out?
Most of us became friends at Holy Name grammar school over on ninth avenue. Some had gone to school with me since first grade. There were a few guys that went to I.S. 88’s, P.S. 154’s and we had one kid from P.S. 10’s. When we graduated from Holy Name it was time to go our separate ways for high school. I went to Power Memorial, some guys went to Grady, Bishop Ford, John Jay, OLPH, Xaverian, LaSalle Academy and one went to Bishop Loughlin.
We didn’t have a name for the group like the “Huns” a group of older guys and girls from the neighborhood. Someone had come up with “The Young Sabres” but that didn’t last too long.
My guys are Jimmy, Speed, Sean, Mickey, Johnny G., Jose, John, and Kevin. We argued often and sometimes fought with each other, but overall, we were great friends.
“Who wants to get a six-pack?” someone shouted.
We all jumped up off the wall and were eager to chip in. Some nights I had money, other nights I was broke.
A few people were assigned to go and pick up the brewskies. Jogging across and dodging cars on the avenue, they made their way across the circle and down 15th street to the Bodega on 8th avenue. There were a few different spots around the neighborhood that never bothered to check I.D. – and if they did, we just waited outside for someone old enough to come along and purchase the beer for us.
It wasn’t long before they were back carrying brown paper bags wrapped up, and tucked under their arms. When you bought beer and wrapped it up in a brown paper bag you smuggled it because you didn’t want anyone to see it.
This was our cue to get off the wall and head into the Park. We looked like an Army marching into enemy territory.
My guy D. from 16th street carries a huge boombox blasting “Sympathy for the Devil,” by the Rolling Stones. When we hang out, we always listen to music and D. is the guy who provides the tunes. As we walked some of us sang along with Mick Jagger.
“Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste. I’ve been around for a long, long year stole many a mans soul and faith. And I was round when jesus christ, had his moment of doubt and pain…”
As we enter the park, Hippie Hill is on the right. Back in the day many of the neighborhood teens hung out here. We walk the path that leads us to the road in the park. No worries about the cars because you’re not allowed to drive in the park after six at night. We cut through the horse corral as we walk deeper into the park. Passing the baseball diamonds I flash back to the 6th grade when we played St. Saviour and Gordy struck me out three times. We make our way over to the bleachers. There were two sets of bleachers where the families and friends of baseball players would sit and watch the game. But at night we took over. It was our “hideout.”
The cans of Budweiser were handed out and we began to drink.
We paired up, we stood in groups, some sat down on the cold concrete.
Here we were, the teenagers of America, the future…hanging out drinking beer and getting drunk.
The cops from the 7-2 were nowhere to be found; they left us alone. We were too deep in the park for anyone to see us.
The Quaker cemetery was back behind us about 100 yards away. There were rumors that Devil Worshippers hung out at night and would sacrifice goats and chickens using some crazy voodoo shit. Kids around the neighborhood said that they had seen weird-looking people with pink hair and a lot of black make-up chanting crazy shit as they worshipped the Devil. One night while we were wasted we made a trip to see them and actually the rumor was true. We saw a bunch of live bodies about a hundred yards in front of a big fire, I felt like Charlton Heston in the Omega Man. We harassed them from outside the high silver fence and they scattered. We wanted to climb over the fence but there was way too much barbed wire on top.
I’m currently reading Pete Hamill’s outstanding memoir, “A Drinking Life.”
There are so many awesome stories from Pete from his younger days of growing up in the neighborhood. This one particular story blew me away…
By the Spring of 1949, seething with anger at Brother Jan, I started hanging out in a different part of the neighborhood, two blocks from Holy Name. The place I chose was called Bartel-Pritchard Square, and it was more of a circle than a square. Off the square on one side were the two tall Corinthian columns that marked the entrance to Prospect Park; we called them the Totem Poles, or the Totes. We’d gather around the bases, sitting on them, looking at girls, cursing, smoking, making jokes, and drinking beer. (Taken from pp 111-112)
Thirty years later, when I was 13, I did the same thing! This is where we hung out! On the parkside, inside the park (they called it “Hippie Hill”)
I’m sure other teens from the neighborhood, ten and twenty years before me, did the same thing. On a weeknight everyone would make their way over after supper. It was our meeting spot. Our own little world. Like Pete mentioned, we drank, talked, flirted and sometimes, when we had money, we’d play cards right on the sidewalk.
Some kids went home earlier than others. I was usually one of the last to leave. I loved being with my friends.
Little did we know that for many years the teenagers in and around the neighborhood were doing the same thing.
George Brossard and I drove out to L’Amour where we parked on a deserted street.
“George, where we going?”
“Don’t worry Red, just follow me.”
I walked behind George down a dark street filled with auto repair shops. Up ahead I saw a long line of people. I also heard some music being played. The closer we got, the more I realized we were going to a club.
“Yo George, what kind of place is this?” I asked nervously.
“Don’t worry about it, just follow me.”
I did as I was told. We walked past all the people lined up and headed straight to the front.
“Me and the bouncer went to Ford together,” George said.
As we approached the front door, people on line were dressed in jeans, black leather jackets and a few were smoking cigarettes. And they seemed pissed at us for passing them.
“Brossard, what’s up my man?” said a huge dude with Popeye forearms.
“What’s up my man,” George answered as they shook hands. I watched George’s hand disappear inside the bouncer’s hand, it was huge and the bouncer’s hand.
“This is my buddy Red,” George said to the bouncer as he tapped me on the shoulder.
“Hey Red, nice to meet you.” We shook hands, his grip was incredible.
George’s bouncer friend opened the velvet ropes and escorted us inside the club.
“Have a good time fella’s,” the Mighty Hulk said as he went back outside and left us alone.
The music was blasting. I recognized the song; it was ‘LA Woman’ by the Doors.
The club was dark. I could barely see in front of me.
“You want something to drink?” George screamed at me.
I looked at him and said, “WHAT?
“DO YOU WANT SOMETHING TO DRINK?”
“SURE, GET ME A BEER!” I shouted back to him.
George walked away and disappeared into the crowd..
I looked around the club and saw a lot of people; mostly dudes but I did notice a few babes. There was a stage where it looked like a band was setting up and about to perform.
A few minutes later, George was back.
“HERE YA GO!” George screamed as he handed me a bottle of beer.
“CHEERS.” George said as we raised our bottles and toasted.
As I sipped the beer I wondered if they had Wild Irish Rose?
We stood there and watched all the action. Girls passed by and I would stare at them; they were gorgeous. We watched people dance to LA Woman and then the band got on stage and began to play. They were actually pretty good.
“HOW YA LIKE IT SO FAR?” George shouted in my ear over the loud music.
“IT’S GREAT, THANKS FOR BRINGING ME!”
Just then a pretty girl came up to us carrying a black tray above her head wearing a ton of makeup and a really tight black top.
“Can I get you guys anything?”
“No we’re good,” George answered.
She smiled and walked away. I watched her make her way to another group of people. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was amazing looking. Her ass was amazing in her black tights.
After a few songs by the band, the DJ came back on and began to play some more great music. People began to dance; actually I wouldn’t call it dancing, they were jumping around having a great time. I kept my eye on the waitress.
“Red, go rap to one of these babes.” George said to me as he pointed to a group of girls standing in a circle drinking and talking.
I looked at him and smiled as we watched a ton of people dance to Stray Cat Strut.
“GO DANCE!” He shouted as he gave me a slight nudge.
I looked out on the dance floor and spotted a pretty girl dancing with her friend.
George began to push me even harder.
“Stop man, I’ll go, give me some time.” I said to him.
The music seemed to get louder and louder as the night went on. After a few numbers, panic set in. I looked around and couldn’t find George. It was close to 1 A.M.
Did he leave?
How was I gonna get home?
Shit, I was screwed.
The DJ was spinning Black Sabbath’s ‘Crazy Train’. Every time I heard this song I got juiced up.
I walked around the club and tried to find him. I checked the bathrooms. I even went outside the club to ask his bouncer friend.
“You see George?”
“Nah man, haven’t seen him all night.”
I went back in and kept on looking for him. Three different times the pretty waitress I had my eye on walked past me smiling, asking if I needed a drink.
“I’m looking for my friend, have you seen him?” I asked her.
“Sorry sweetie, there are a lot of guys in here, I don’t know what your friend looks like.”
“Thanks.” I said.
She walked away, this time I didn’t look at her ass.
Finally at about 1:30, I stood over by the bar looking out on the dance floor. I spotted George. I quickly ran over to him and came up behind him.
“George, where ya been man?”
He turned around and his eyes were glassy.
“RED, what’s up my man?”
“George, what time we leaving.” I asked.
He looked at his watch.
“We got a couple of more hours,” he assured me.
I enjoyed L’Amour so much I started going every weekend…without George. I liked it so much I took the train there one night! George’s bouncer friend recognized me and let me right in.
“Yo Red, what’s up my man?”
The big fella opened the velvet ropes for me and I got right in without waiting on the long line. I felt important.
The DJ played rock songs that everyone danced to; it was amazing. I listened to Roadhouse Blues by the Doors, We Got the Beat by the Go-Go’s and many others.
The girls were amazing. They wore halter tops and short shorts.
Afterwards, when is was too late to take the train back home I hopped in a Car Service outside the club. L’Amour became my favorite spot, I’d go out every chance I could, it was the place to be on the weekends.
Take it easy this isn’t about a movie from back in the day on Forty-Doo Wop/Times Square.
No, this entry is about a friend Jack Kelly, who played rough-touch football down at Farragut Road.
Sunday mornings was special for me as a teenager. I would head down to Farragut Road and watch Farrell’s football. If you waited outside the bar there was always someone headed down to the game whether it was a member of the team or a fan taking in the game. You just hopped in the car and off you went. Gerard Trapp often hooked me up with a lift.
This past weekend I had an e-mail exchange with Jack about his experience playing for Farrell’s. (First of four parts)
Container Diaries: Jack tell us about your playing days down at Farragut Road.
Jack Kelly: The league was around for a long time. The team which became known as Farrell’s started in 1972 as ninth Avenue. I believe it was Paulie Lawrence, Mike Marona and John Devaney who put it together. I, along with the rest of seventh Avenue joined the team the next year. We then became EJ’s.
It was a blast that first year for me. Ninth Avenue guys, seventh avenue guys, the Hun’s and a few others from different parts of the neighborhood; all mixed together for a Sunday morning football game which lead to a long Sunday afternoon and night celebrating our youth. (Not many people made work on Monday’s that’s for sure)
To top it off, we won the Championship that year by beating McGuires, 25-24.
The next year, 1974, we became Farrell’s. I remember every Sunday after a game Eddie Farrell would buy a keg a beer down the Knights Of Columbus so we long-haired kids wouldn’t disturb his Sunday afternoon crowd at the bar.
It worked for most of us, especially for the Seventh Avenue and Huns guys, free beer was all we needed to hear.
That first year as Farrell’s we were again in the Championship Game, but this time we lost 14-13 to Five Corners who became Brennan’s the next year.
We got our revenge in 1978 in the championship by beating an undefeated Brennan’s team 19-6. That’s how it started for me on Farrell’s.
The following year McBears formed a team…it was started by my friends from Seventh Avenue. But I stayed with Farrell’s; until the following year, that’s when I joined up with McBears.
Up Next: Jack’s tough decision; stay with Farrell’s or go with his friends and play for McBears.