Love this mini-documentary on the church we all grew up in…
Short update on the health of our guy, Pete Hamill.
(Image taken from mcbrooklyn.blogspot. com)
“My legs are getting better, thanks to a noble wife, a very good physical therapist, and a platoon of superb doctors from NYU Langone. But I’m still not walking, so I will do no tap-dancing.”
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.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I’m a Bay Ridge girl, born and bred in Brooklyn. I was born at a hospital called Brooklyn Doctors which isn’t there anymore but I believe it was located at 45th Street and 15th Avenue. I grew up in Bay Ridge, on Gelston Avenue, and went to St. Patrick’s. For high school, I “escaped” Catholic school and attended Fort Hamilton, where I had great teachers who encouraged my love of writing. I was a shy kid who could write much better than I could talk and that’s how it all started. I’m also grateful to Mildred McVay, my third grade teacher at St. Pat’s, who instilled in me of a love of reading. (I thank her in the “Acknowledgements” section of THE EL.) I set a number of scenes in the book in places familiar to me growing up–a noteworthy accident takes place on the corner of Gelston, for example.
In Chapter 24, a scene in your book takes place in Farrell’s. What was the reason for using Farrell’s?
I’ve lived in Windsor Terrace since 1994, just a couple of blocks away from Farrell’s. Even though I’m not much of a beer drinker, I’ve always loved the sense of camaraderie of Farrell’s. People celebrate there, mourn there, get jobs there…I’ve never seen another place like it. So, when I needed a place for a clandestine family pow-wow, the back tables of Farrell’s seemed perfect. The characters lived in Borough Park and in a sense, Farrell’s was a world away for them. Few people knew them there, so they could speak frankly, plot and bond. I even put Houlie into the scene (but changed his first name) even though he probably wasn’t even born yet. I wanted to pay homage to Farrell’s, to its spirit, and it seemed to fit perfectly into the plot. I hope it worked!
If you can sit down tonight and have dinner with any three people, who would they be and where would it be? (Don’t worry, you’re not picking up the check…)
I guess I should say something noble like Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln but I think I’ll be selfish and say my mom and dad Teresa and Francis Gigante, and my great-grandmother Marguerite Cirigliano who inspired the “Bridget” character in THE EL. Both of my parents have passed away (my dad almost 2 years ago and my mom 19 years ago) and I would love to have one last dinner where I could ask them things I didn’t and tell them things I should have. I’ve always wanted to meet my great-grandmother who died about 7 years before I was born. And dinner would be a home-cooked meal! To cook with Marguerite and my mom would be amazing, and to share all of the things women talk about when they cook together would be a gift.
Your three favorite books of all-time?
That’s a tough one. Let’s see. In no particular order: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude and Pete Hamill’s Forever.
Are you working on a new book?
Yes, I am. The working title is “Society’s Child” and it’s set in 1979 Brooklyn, mostly the Sheepshead Bay area. It’s about a female drummer in the club-date business (aka “society music”)…you know, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc…who’s trying to “make it” and get a recording contract. It’s very different than “The El,” written in journalistic style from the drummer’s POV, and also from the POVs of various people close to her. I’m a little more than halfway through. I wish I had more time to work on it. For “The El,” I took off six months and managed to write it. I’ve been working on my second novel a lot longer but I love being able to squirrel away any time I can to work on it. I love writing about Brooklyn and the colorful characters in it.
Cathy Gigante-Brown lives in Windsor Terrace and is the author of “The EL.”
Click here for more information on her book.
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.
“Live your life, don’t perform it.” -Pete Hamill
Looking for an outstanding book to read?
Have no fear.
I’m here to help ya out!
Our very own, Pete Hamill’s “A Drinking Life” should be in your hands, on your night table, in your lap, or on your mind today! Oops, I forgot about the Kindle version. Everyone is into e-readers now.
That’s right sports fans, Hamill’s memoir written in 1995 is remarkable!
Listen to this, it’s the second time I’m reading it.
The first time I got through it, I thought I understood it. Boy was I mistaken.
A few days ago while at the local library I was walking down the Memoir aisle and it jumped out at me.
It’s amazing how some of the things he went through as a kid back in the day, reflects what we experienced too. Farrell’s, living in an apartment, seventh avenue, Prospect Park and alcohol.
It’s a tough book to put down.
Do everything you can to check it out at your local library, run to your nearest bookstore or purchase it on-line.
Here’s an interview I found with Pete. Sit back and listen to him talk about his upbringing, the Hamill family, his battle with booze and of course, how he overcame the bottle. The transcript is included too.
I’m thinking way ahead here…
I have been going 125 miles an hour with my writing. I’m determined to get it done! (By the way, if anyone knows how to contact Pete Hamill, let me know. I want to thank him for “A Drinking Life.” It’s a truly remarkable book)
The cover of my book will be key. It needs to be right.
Been going over many ideas right now. So many thoughts go through my head when thinking of what it could look like.
I found this possibility in the back of an old basketball magazine. At the time (1978) it was probably my inspiration to ditch school.
(Double click to enlarge)
Alphie McCourt, Bartenders, Bill Boyle, Bill Reel, Black 47, Bobby Rice, Brian McCabe, Cell Theatre, Chelsea, Chris Byrne, Christmas, Ciaran Byrne, CJ Sullivan, Column McCann, Container Diaries, Court Clerk, Daily News, Dan Barry, Danny Mills, David Amram, Denis Hamill, Dennis Duggan, Eddie Mills, Ellis Henican, Farrell's, Frank McCourt, George Kimball, Harry Chapin, Holy Name, Ireland, Jack Deacy, Jack Kerouac, Jack O'Connell, Jacky Malone, Jen Chapin, JFK, Jim Dwyer, Jimmy Breslin, Jimmy Houlihan, Johnny Kennedy, Josh Chapin, Judy Kennedy, Larry Kirwan, Lisa McLaughlin, Malachy McCourt, Mort Persky, New York Newsday, Newtown, Pat Fenton, Pay it Forward, Pete Hamill, Peter McDermott, Peter Quinn, Queens Supreme Court, Red Hook, Rocky Sullivan's, Sandy Chapin, Scrooge, TJ English, Tom Kelly, Windsor Terrace
My friend Pat Fenton wants to spread cheers to everyone from the neighborhood. Here’s a great piece from an outstanding writer and a better person…
On my wall, above my books in the room I write in, I have a framed original Christmas column Pete Hamill wrote. It’s called “A Garland of Christmas Toasts.” It’s a full-page long, faded, Newsday column dated December 13, 1967. Signed across the top of it are the words, “for Pat Fenton who remembers.” And I do.
It’s perhaps one of the most beautiful, moving pieces of writing about Christmas time that I have ever read. Sad at times, political, sentimental, it rolls across the page like the lyrics of a Van Morrison song. He always started his annual Christmas column with an apology to the writer Jimmy Cannon, who originated the idea and the form as only he could. Jonathan Schwartz should invite Pete Hamill on his radio show and have him read that to us on Christmas day to remind us all of the way we were. And alert his listeners to pour a glass of champagne before he starts. It deserves it.
Here’ a sample of his column: “maybe it’s the beer and the season and the weather, but I could almost swear there was a time when we had a hell of a lot more heroes, and a hell of a lot more laughs. And I’m certain there was a lot more girls.”
It was lines like that made me want to be a writer.
So, with my own apology to him for borrowing the form, here’s to Windsor Terrace tonight…
To Pete Hamill and his brother Denis and to Brian Hamill, and to Bobby Rice, and Judy, and Johnny Kennedy, and to Jacky Malone, and to Steve Finamore from Container Diaries, who records the story of our lives on his Windsor Terrace blog.
Here’s to the bartenders in Farrell’s Bar and Grill on 16th Street and 9th Avenue in Windsor Terrace in my old Brooklyn neighborhood, and especially to Jimmy Houlihan and to Eddie Mills, they all give so much to those who need it. And let’s not forget the memory of the bartender/actor, Danny Mills who also defined what Farrell’s Bar was all about since it opened its doors in the 1930’s. He understood that.
Like Pete Hamill, we all drank there when we were young so long ago, so did our fathers from Ireland, and we all passed through Holy Name Parochial School where our report cards are still on file, hopefully forever.
Glasses up to Malachy McCourt and his brother Alphie tonight. And here’s to Larry Kirwan from Black 47. And to the musician David Amram too, who I learned so much about Jack Kerouac from. Cheers! And to Chris Byrne, another Windsor Terrace boy, whose special bar Rocky Sullivan’s in Red Hook got tossed around by Sandy, but whose still open for business. And to Lisa McLaughlin who brings the talent there.
It’s Christmas time and we have a few toasts to make. Here’s to all the people of the Queens Supreme Court who I spent a good part of my life with, and how they never once asked me, what the hell are you doing here working as a court clerk when you have a by-line in New York Newsday and the Daily News? Thanks to Tony and Maureen and Jackie, and Ken for putting up with me.
Here’s to my friend Jimmy Breslin, tell him to call me on Christmas morning, and be grouchy again when I don‘t have the answer he’s looking for. I miss those calls. Someone tell ‘Bres’ to write one more Christmas column. Let him write about how he is an usher in a Catholic Church in Manhattan, few people know that side of him. What a great Christmas story that would be.
May that women I shared a turkey sandwich on white bread with one cold evening in front of St Francis Assisi Church in Manhattan, as I was heading off to the old Rocky Sullivan’s Bar on Lexington Avenue to read, who trusted me as I handed half of it to her, be in a warm, safe place tonight. I never forgot her. She was Christmas.
Let’s all remember this holy Christmas night these words out of Newtown from a Litchfield Connecticut newspaper, “this heinous act does not define our town. What does is the love, compassion and caring that we have for one another. Love conquers all, especially evil.”
Along with “Scrooge”, let some cable station run a marathon showing of the movie “Pay it Forward” on Christmas Eve. Forget who is a Republican or a Democrat this night and let the politicians in Washington finally understand that we elected all of you to bring America together, not to divide it. It’s time for that.
Fill up my glass bartender, and let’s drink a toast to writers like T.J. English, Peter Quinn, Peter McDermott, Ellis Henican, C.J. Sullivan, who published some of the best stories about New York ever written in the New York Press, Jim Dwyer, Tom Kelly, Dan Barry, Jack Deacy, Column McCann, and the ones who I miss this year, Bill Reel, Dennis Duggan, Frank McCourt and George Kimball.
Here’s a special toast, a double Irish whisky to an editor from the Daily News that I will never forget working with, Bill Boyle, and his words, “go write a good story, Pat”, as he turned over a nine hundred word assignment to me that I just pitched to him. And , “don’t be too nostalgic.”
And let’s not forget to raise a glass to Brian McCabe, a great New York Detective and a great writer, and to my close friend the actor Jack O‘Connell, and the actor Ciaran Byrne, and to Kira and Nancy down in the Cell Theatre in Chelsea who breathe life in to all that we write with their stage.
Here’s to my friend Sandy Chapin this Christmas, and Pegge, and Jen Chapin, and Josh Chapin, and the memory of Harry Chapin who pointed us all in the right direction in America.
Hey bartender, send a drink down to the end of the bar to my friend, Mort Persky there, one of the editors of one of the greatest efforts to create a new newspaper in this town, New York Newsday, who watched over my words there.
Let’s drink to the memory of President John F Kennedy tonight who made my dad from Galway, Ireland so proud. This one is on me. Raise a glass and remember some of the lessons he tried to teach us when he said: “let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divides us.” So simple.
Let his words be a Christmas card for the world this night. We need it more than ever. None of these things may never happen, but if they did it would be a fine Christmas.
Thanks for the use of the hall tonight, Pete. Merry Christmas.
One of my favorite writers of all-time, and a huge inspiration, seventh avenue’s own Pete Hamill has a new book coming out.
Simone Weichselbaum of The New York Daily News takes us on a trip back to Pete’s old stomping grounds where they checked out Pete’s old apartment.
“The Christmas Kid: And Other Brooklyn Stories,” on sale Tuesday, is composed of 36 short tales depicting a bygone era when bloody street fights, heartless murders and torrid love affairs were all part of everyday life on and around the Seventh Avenue strip.
This new book sounds awesome!
Good luck Mr. Hamill
10 years ago today, 19 fanatics in four hijacked airliners did the unthinkable; they created the worst tragedy in American history. Today marks that terrible morning when 9/11 became the saddest day in every American’s life.
In the past I have written about Vincent Brunton here on the blog. Vinny passed away while saving lives at the World Trade Center; he worked for the FDNY and was one of the best from the neighborhood.
When I play word association and the name ‘Vinny Brunton’ comes up, I think, GREAT GUY!
One of my favorite writers, Pete Hamill (special to the Daily News) on his thoughts about the sad day.
Each of us remembers Sept. 11, 2001, in separate ways. Where we were. Who we called. What we did. The morning in New York was mild and lovely, with clear skies and a light breeze from the west. A fine day for walking. I had a 9 a.m. meeting at the Tweed Courthouse on Chambers St. and left home early to walk 10 blocks downtown in the splendid morning air. Bagels and coffee surely awaited me.
It was Primary Day. Democrats Mark Green and Freddie Ferrer were a point apart in the final polls. A Republican newcomer named Michael Bloomberg was far ahead of Herman Badillo. All were running to succeed Rudy Giuliani, barred from running again because of term limits.
There were a few campaign workers on the streets, some candidates’ stickers on lampposts, but no sense of political excitement. I bumped into a few friends. Politics? Hell, they didn’t even mention baseball. The Yankees were 11 games ahead of the Red Sox. The Mets were seven games behind Atlanta. One friend said: Jeez, it’s a lovely day, ain’t it?
I got to the meeting early, and was standing with the eloquent New York writer Louis Auchincloss, chatting about the architectural ugliness of the Municipal Building, scowling at us beyond the windows. Then we heard a fairly loud thump. If I’d looked at my watch it would have told me it was 8:46.
“What was that?” I said.
“Just part of the New York soundtrack, Peter, old boy,” Auchincloss said with a chuckle. Of course. Probably a controlled blast at some construction site. Something like that. I sipped my coffee. We sat down. The meeting was called to order.
At the time of this disaster I was driving in my car, on my way to my next class while I attended Central Michigan University. My wife had called me and told me what had happened. I didn’t believe her. I quickly turned on the radio and pulled over to listen to the special report.
Where were you on this awful morning? What were your thoughts? Would love to hear them…