Saturday, September 21, 2019
8:30 AM – 9PM
Mass begins at 8:30 AM
Our guy Brian Lang will be honored with the Round Tower Award (AKA Firefighter Thomas Phelan Award). Brian is a Holy Name guy who grew up on 17th street.
Our friend and Windsor Terrace native Pat Fenton, has written a wonderful story for The Galway Review.
Pat grew up in the neighborhood and has been a huge inspiration to this aspiring writer.
Apartment, Ballard's Pharmacy, Basketball, Bus, Cher, Coney Island, Corner, Cupid, Feelings, Holy Name, Hot dog, Jealousy, Kings Plaza, Kingsway, Love, Mailbox, Maureen, Nathan's, Ninth Avenue, Parents, Phone, Queen, Rae and Otto's, Relationship, Roller Coaster, Schoolyard, Stupid, Windsor Place
It was a damp, chilly, October evening somewhere around 7:30.
I was standing on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Windsor Place, right outside Ballard’s Pharmacy. I was facing eighth avenue. There was a blue mailbox on the corner that kids loved to sit on top of but I never did. I saw her walking towards me. She was tall with short dark hair. Her walk was one of those pretty models you see on the cover of a fashion magazine.
This attractive girl always had a smile for me when we met up. When I was with her, I forgot about everything that was going on in my life. It was just her and I…We were in our own little world.
Her name was Maureen. She was my first girlfriend. I was fourteen, she was sixteen.
They say you don’t forget your first love, right?
It’s been over 30 years since I last talked to Maureen but it feels like just yesterday that we were holding hands walking around the neighborhood, making out in Prospect Park or fighting. I argued with her often. It was all my fault.
The year was 1978, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be with her. Didn’t understand the meaning of love. Was clueless as to how good I had it that someone cared about me.
Like most teenagers, (well some anyway) I took this time for granted. I also took Maureen for granted. And it’s one of my biggest regrets in my life.
It was also the biggest mistake of my life (second was dropping out of high school).
“Bless me father for I have sinned…”
Then something went wrong. At fourteen, my life was going downhill. Actually, before meeting Maureen things were building up, you can say they were ‘spiraling out of control’. Sorta like a snowball rolling downhill. Actually, I don’t like that expression because I have never rolled a snowball down a hill.
Shades of jealousy, including an awful trait of being overprotective and the fact that Maureen’s parents didn’t like me much put me behind the 8-ball at the start. I was nervous around them. It was difficult to say hello to them. But that was all my fault. Again, I’ll play the blame game; on my self-esteem because at this time of my life it was rock bottom.
They say you are a ‘product of your environment’ well at home in my apartment the male adults didn’t know how to treat women. My father screamed and beat my mother.
After an ugly divorce her boyfriends did the same. How is a young boy supposed to learn from those examples?
If a “relationship guru” was passing out grades to all these men, they would have received ‘F’s’…
In the late 70’s there was no such book as “How to Love Your Girlfriend for Dummies.” No one taught me how to treat a girl. I basically went on what I witnessed in person.
Maureen and I played the break-up game more than any other couple in the neighborhood. We’d spend hours arguing on the phone. At the end of the conversation I would tell her “it’s quits.” Only to make up the following night.
Clueless on how to make a relationship work. Not the slightest idea where to turn.
Trying to search for answers, but no such luck. Where was cupid when I needed him?
Not once did I ever consider Maureen’s feelings until it was too late. She broke my heart when she left me for good and found someone who showed her true love. From the ages of 14 to 17 I had a chance at love but I blew it. A golden opportunity that the Love Gods bestowed upon me. Too stupid to seize the opportunity.
After we broke up for the final time, I was in misery. I was sad and lonely.
Maureen was a beautiful girl. She had a glowing smile. An out-going personality and she was a magnificent kisser. She was what every boy wanted in a girlfriend.
One problem with our relationship and probably the most critical was I never put her first. It was always basketball or my friends before her; big mistake!
Maureen worked a lot harder than I did to make our relationship work. I on the other hand did not.
I learned the hard way how to treat a lady. It took me a long time but I’m happy to say I now know what it takes. You put the woman in your life first! You listen to her. You make her feel like she is the only thing that matters.
Like Cher said in a song, “If I Could Turn Back Time,” I would…
Have listened to Maureen; because she was very smart. Listening is the greatest gift you can ever give someone.
I would have treated her like a Queen.
I would have spent way more time with her.
Also, I would have been nicer to her parents and spent time with them.
Maureen and I would have sat at the counter of Rae and Otto’s and shared an egg cream.
In the summer I would have taken her to Coney Island to ride the roller coaster, share a hot dog at Nathan’s and hung out on the beach.
At night I would have walked down to her house on Windsor and 8th to pick her up and take her to the movies. Sanders was closed at this time so we’d hop on the B 68 bus and go to the RKO Kingsway.
On a Saturday afternoon I would take her shopping at Kings Plaza.
We would have spent time in the boys schoolyard at Holy Name playing basketball; despite Maureen not being a very good player, I would teach her the proper technique on shooting just like my coach at Holy Name had taught us.
In a nutshell, I would have planned it out better.
I would not have been a jealous lunatic.
I would have worked at it; hey Tony Soprano, give me Dr. Melfi’s number!
Most of all, I would have loved her and cared for her much, much more.
The love I lost…was a sweet love.
Thanks to JFH for this essay on her days growing up in the neighborhood.
Lately, nostalgia has been calling my name and I often find myself surfing the net for any information about my old neighborhood, Park Slope, Brooklyn.
You can imagine my surprise when one day I keyed in Brooklyn and the 50s and the name of the Jokers, which was the gang from my old neighborhood, appeared on several websites. I excitedly opened one of the sites and couldn’t believe my eyes. Several photos of the gang members from the Slope, in which Park Slope, Brooklyn was known at the time, were posted. These pictures were taken by a professional photographer, Bruce Davidson, who had hooked up with a social service agency working with juvenile delinquents of the 50’s, and the Jokers in particular. It’s hard for me to describe the feeling of euphoria I encountered upon seeing these photos. To say I was elated would be an understatement. Memories of my youth bubbled to the surface.
These gang members, who used to fight the Puerto Ricans or anyone else invading their territory, as most sections of Brooklyn were partitioned off according to turf, hung out at the candy store around the corner from the tenement where I had lived. The photos displayed many of the gang members who were familiar to me: There’s Joey Douglas who always got in trouble. There’s Michael Galvin, my girlfriend’s brother. There’s Cagi with whom I had a crush on as a 12-year-old. There’s Tony, the only Italian in an Irish neighborhood. I wallowed in the surroundings of my youth depicted in these pictures: Pictures of Prospect Park. Pictures of Holy Name of Jesus. Pictures of Coney Island. Pictures of a ride that used to come around and I could swear my older brother and sister were on it. Pictures of the candy store where Helen, the proprietor, used to make the most delicious chocolate egg creams.
As 12-year-olds, my friends and I would call the Jokers at this same candy story pretending we were older in order to talk and make dates. We would arrange to meet them at the bus stop and when the day arrived we would be sitting on our tenement stoop watching them waiting for the bus and making fools of themselves. Each time a bus came they would kick it when their so-called dates did not appear. Of course, they did not notice the 12-year-olds sitting next door.
Other memories of the old neighborhood began to emerge. When I was much younger. I would put on my bathing suit and walk around the corner in my bare feet successfully avoiding broken glass or any other obstacles that might appear on the pavement to cool off under the Johnny pump. This is what a fire hydrant in Brooklyn was called. Cannonball, a member of the senior Jokers, would open the Johnny pump in the sweltering heat to the delight of all the little kids in the neighborhood. His wife was the exact image of Bridget Bardot.
The claim has been made that there are “six degrees of separation” between each person. I truly believe this finding. After I excitedly told my dear friend about my discovery on the internet, she nonchalantly stated that she has these photos in a book given to her as a present. The book is called the Brooklyn Gang: Summer 1959. In my mind, the chances of this happening, especially because of our dissimilar backgrounds, were nil.
I guess you can also call this Karma.
The last few days we have been discussing ‘The Jokers‘, ‘Bengie‘, ‘stabbings‘ and ‘gangs’; a change of direction to say the least, huh?
For the past five years we have been talking about a lot of positive situations that went on in the neighborhood. I hope everyone is cool with the latest topic. I understand it’s painful for some, but on the other hand, it makes for a very intriguing discussion.
As for the book, I checked on-line and Bruce Davidson’s “Brooklyn Gang” is running close to $1,000. Mamma Mia!
Davidson, in 1959 made a visit to the neighborhood and followed a few teenagers around and snapped pictures of them and came out with a book. Not a bad deal, huh?
There’s no way I could afford the book today but I did go to a local library and I happened to come across some of Davidson’s work.
One image in the book that I thought was really cool is of the girl in the mirror. (Cathy O’Neal)
I also found a quote from Davidson when he went back a few years later and paid a visit to Cathy.
(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)
“In Brooklyn I had found the girl who combed her hair in the Coney Island mirror. She had married the gang leader. Their daughter is fifteen, the same age she was then. She said, “We all had a dream, but we lost it. Most of the kids we knew are on drugs, in crime or dead. You meant a lot to us because you were someone from the outside who had a camera and was taking pictures of us.” I told her that her picture is hanging in museums around the world. When her teenage daughter came into the room, she turned to her daughter and said, “Look, this is a picture of momma when she was your age.” The she turned to me and smiled, “Maybe my dream isn’t quite lost.” (Courtesy of Bruce Davidson Photographs)
I’d love to hear about Cathy from anyone who knew her…
4th of July is one Holiday that brings back so many memories; especially as a kid. Those memorable moments include going to the beach. Whether it was Coney Island, Brighton or Manhattan.
Thanks to Kenny for sending this link from the NY Times with a story on the Boardwalk at Coney Island turning to concrete. Good read and thanks Kenny for handing out the assist.
Last summer, the city began replacing the wooden boards on two short stretches of boardwalk with concrete strips as a pilot project for a more extensive overhaul of the structure, which extends for two and a half miles along the Brooklyn shoreline.
Speaking of the beach, do you recall that guy or guys who walked the beach in long pants and black shoes shouting, “HOT KNISHES, ICE COLD SODAS”?
Hey, what the heck, since we’re all over the beach theme, here’s another story from the NY Post on the bathrooms at Coney Island. Seems like in the ladies room they are being careful with their T.P. supply.
The city is so hard up for cash that it’s rationing toilet paper in women’s public restrooms — to the point where bathroom attendants are doling out a few measly squares per patron — along the world-famous Coney Island boardwalk.
The Post witnessed stone-faced Parks Department employees leave toilet-paper dispensers empty last week and instead force astonished female beachgoers to form “ration lines” in the bathrooms.
Hope everyone has a great day.