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A Tour of Brownsville, Brooklyn’s Jewish Past

September 26th, 2010 by DavidFreeland

Yesterday afternoon, a hot one here in the city, I was inspired to take a trip out to Brownsville, Brooklyn, once a hub of Jewish cultural life and now considered one of the most dangerous sections of New York.

Former Synagogue in Brownsville (note Star of David at top)

I was thinking of my late friend, George Sandler (father of my friend Rita), who was born in Brownsville in 1916 and grew up in the neighborhood.  While aware that many of Brownsville’s storied tenements were razed for public housing projects beginning in the 1950s, I was curious to see what might be left, in a physical sense, of Brownsville’s Jewish history.  Urban renewal seems to have impacted New York in a less overarching way than it did other U.S. cities, and, as it turns out, Brownsville still bears traces of its past.

I started with the old Loew’s Pitkin Theater on eponymous Pitkin Avenue, Brownsville’s commercial artery.  Opened in 1929, the Pitkin bears a remarkable similarity to the slightly later Loew’s 175th Street Theater in Manhattan’s Washington Heights.  George remembered coming to the Pitkin as a teenager, and, according to a 1932 New York Times account, the great Yiddish composer, Rumshinsky,  appeared here for a week’s engagement.  Outside the theater, a sign hints at plans for some sort of revitalization.

According to a 1951 book in my library on Murder, Inc., the infamous crime syndicate which grew in part out of Brownsville, “neighbors firmly believe Pitkin Avenue compares with Fifth Avenue…or any other promenade famed for its shops and shopping.”  Today, there is still much to be seen on Pitkin, including this terra cotta beauty.  It was once the Simon Ackerman department store.

And while we’re on the subject of gangsters, here’s a shot of Amboy Street, after which the notorious “Amboy Dukes” were named.

Amboy Street, home of the “Amboy Dukes”

While often cited as being a “fictitious” gang, George Sandler and others have claimed the Amboy Dukes were real.  In fact, as children George and some friends once got stuck in the Amboys’ clubhouse.  To frighten him into keeping quiet about what he might have heard, the Amboys smeared rotten eggs over his head!

Lovers of old signs will find much to savor in this remnant of what was probably a Chinese restaurant, on Pitkin.

Neon Survivor

Meanwhile, those interested in 1930s Deco will appreciate this Art Moderne-styled bank building, with Federalist touches.

Art Moderne Bank on Pitkin

I ended my tour beside the Pitkin Theater at “Zion Triangle,” a small park dedicated to Jewish veterans of the First World War.

Zion Triangle

“There were no subways at that particular time,” George once told me.  “If there were, our part of the area didn’t use them”  Instead, George explained, trolley cars supplied Brownsville residents with their primary form of transportation.  Visiting Brownsville yesterday, I came to understand George’s assertion.  Even now, the neighborhood feels removed from the rest of the city, and I needed to walk many blocks before coming to an A train.  And, of course, the A was not completed until the early 1930s, well past George’s childhood.

With its capacity for outliving the humans who create it, architecture can bring back the verve and spirit of a place in ways a mere historical plaque cannot.  After yesterday I feel more in touch with George’s personal history, and, as a New Yorker, a piece of my own.


UPDATE: July 18, 2015

Roger Elowitz has kindly shared some Brownsville images from his personal collection. I am posting them here. Captions are from Roger. Enjoy! David

Kishke King

Kishke King

Pitkin Avenue looking toward Hopkinson Ave.

Pitkin Avenue looking toward Hopkinson Ave.

Skateboard scooters

Skateboard scooters

The Kinish Man... with obligatory salt shaker.

The Kinish Man… with obligatory salt shaker.

Thomas Jefferson H.S

Thomas Jefferson H.S



UPDATE January 31, 2017

One of our readers, Sonny Crane, sent in this photo of his family’s potato chip stand in Brownsville.  Maybe some of you will remember it.  Either way, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the photo.  David





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694 responses so far ↓

  • Residing at 231 Herzl Street was a professional boxer by the name of Albert Farber who used the name Roger Farber when he boxed. I rem ember his pushed in nose which was a result of his occupation. Seymour Beubis who was a top newspaper sportscaster resided at 250 Herzl St. His area was in California. He also went to JHS 66. Does anyone remember MR. Ben Roberts who was a teacher in 66? Stuart Portnoy

  • Hi Harvey,

    I just did a Google search for seltzer bottle cases and came up with dozens of pictures. Seems that seltzer bottles can be quite a decorator collector’s item. Anyway, all of the wooden cases I found have compartments for only ten bottles.

    A quart of seltzer probably weighs at least two pounds plus the weight of the glass bottle.. guessing about half-pound so the bottles, liquid plus wooden case was probably thirty pounds easily.

    Hauling those cases up six flights of stairs must have been one hell of a workout all day long. Oh! And I forgot about the syrup!

    Then again, a cubic foot of ice weighs 57.2-lbs which is about five pounds less than the same amount of water. I’d really hate to be an ice-man delivering ice to the tenement buildings.


    Roger Elowitz

  • Hi Harvey,

    Thanks for checking in here. Please continue to contribute your remembrances of Brownsville. I’ll bet climbing the tenement stairs with a case of seltzer on your shoulder was no picnic. I just might have been easier than carrying chunks of ice for ice-boxes. How many bottles in a case? 10 or 12?

    Harvey, do you recall the name of the seltzer bottling company on Amboy Street near Pitkin Avenue? Was it Pormerantz?


    Roger Elowitz

  • I loved Farrell’s especially since your could see them making the burgers and fries in the back. It was a little bit from Pennsylvania Ave where there were batting cages and other sport related activities. I’ll never forget the huge nets there.

    I know that the Hoffman ladies didn’t ring a bell, but maybe the Bloom girls would. I forgot my cousins who lived in one of the apartments where my grandma’s (msrip) beauty salon was.

  • I was in the seltzer delivery business and I rember all of Brownsville in the 65 to the 80 s every Jewish family had a seltzer man

  • Hi Rhoda,

    My father never liked his few retirement years. He used to dye his hair black so he thought he looked younger so he could possibly get a job in his garment trade. I’m never bored in retirement. There’s always something to read or fix on the airplane or around the house and I fabulously enjoy watching the “TED” talks on cable TV as well as Jeopardy and many other shows.

    Since I was born in early May I missed the enrollment date for first grade so I started PS175 in kindergarten. I guess I was one of the “older” kids but it was still a traumatic experience for me. I used to build houses out of blocks and hide inside. Miss. Robinson was my kindergarten teacher and she got married and changed her name to Mrs. Porbach.

    I had Mrs. Cantor in the 4th grade at PS156. I recall buying and reading the NY Herald Tribune in her class. In the 5th grade I had Mrs. Warhaftig, a flaming redhead who simply loved art and penmanship and classical music. She’d trace a flowing “practice line” in the air before putting pen to paper and her penmanship was “flawless.”

    We’d paint something almost every day using tempera paints and I have very fond memories of listening to classical music she’d play on her record player and then test us on the names of the pieces and the composers. I can still identify all that music to this date. Her white-haired husband would frequently visit the classroom and I know she lived in Hollis, Queens.

    In her class I demonstrated how a model airplane (Taylorcraft) I built flew and for a science project I built a weather station from a milk carton. I can still recite most of the names of the kids in that class. I only wish I had saved the class picture that was taken by the East New York Savings Bank when we had “100% Banking” for the year. It’s no surprise that I went on to become a 5th grade teacher when I graduated Brooklyn College.

    In the 6th grade at PS156 I had Mr. Feuer who was my first male teacher. He had just returned from the Korean War. He taught us how to sew shop aprons which we would need when we started to take shop classes in JHS66.

    I ate “paid lunch” at PS156 because it was just too far to walk home for lunch. I just loved the soups they served and I’d always get seconds or thirds. I was also in the school’s Safety Patrol and proudly wore a white plastic belt and shoulder strap with a silver AAA badge on it. Mr. Fox was the Safety Patrol supervisor and I was obsessed with “taking kid’s names” who didn’t cross at the corners! I think I was obsessed with the “authority” of the badge.

    As for borscht, my all time favorite borscht was made by a Polish chef at the ILGWU’s (garment worker’s union) summer resort called Unity House in Bushkill Falls, PA where I worked as a waiter for the “help.” This cold borscht was whipped to an icy froth and had to be the most thirst quenching pink elixir on a hot summer’s day. I’ve never had better.

    Ahhh! Kasha Varnishkas!!! Yummy… with mushrooms and some kind of beef gravy. Love it. Same for the kinishes… any kind… potato, kasha, spinach, cherry cheese…if they made it at Mrs. Stahl’s in Brighton Beach… I ate it. My wife buys the Gabillas kinishes at Costco.

    I’m only vaguely remembering “the Dugan man.” I don’t think we ever bought from him… but we did buy from the Pomerantz Seltzer man and his Foxe’s U-Bet chocolate syrup that we’d make our own egg creams with. In those days we only had “whole milk” and it would make a nice foam “head” on the egg creams and chocolate ice-cream sodas.

    When we moved out of Brownsville to Canarsie on Avenue J and E.105 Street I would occasionally visit Farrel’s as well as Gill Hodges Bowling Alley as well as Seaview Lanes. But, for the greatest ice-cream in the world we’d go to Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor. I still have their menu.

    Best memories,

  • Hi All,

    Found the book at

    Brownsville: The Jewish Years: celebrating hope, hard work, tolerance & the triumph of the human spirit Dec 27, 2007
    by Sylvia Siegel Schildt
    $ 18 00

    No. I haven’t read it but I’ll consider ordering it.

    Thanks Stanley.



  • Hi All,

    I haven’t checked the previous posts but I wanted to make sure to mention that Stanley Goldberg let me know that there’s yet another book written about Brownsville called:

    Brownsville: The Jewish Years
    By Sylvia Siegel Schildt

    I’ll see if it’s available on

    Thanks Stanley.



  • Hi Rhoda,

    Yes! While I admit that I played with girls… to be CLEAR… I didn’t make a habit of it.

    Question: Does anyone remember if Lena Cherichetti was the assistant principal at PS175? I distinctly recall her ringing her wooden handled bell in the Hopkinson Avenue school yard to round up the kids and sort them into classes before going upstairs. She always wore the same black dress with white polka dots and had her hair up in a bun.



  • Hi Roger,

    It is so nice that we all find things to do in retirement that are meaningful to us. We do now have the time to do only what we want and are free to just do nothing at all. Certainly you are an example of a retired person who is active and enjoy researching what you like at your leisure. We are very fortunate to be able to stay home, do what we like, and still receive a paycheck. I’m not sure that our parents enjoyed their retirement in this way.

    You wrote about the boundary lines being changed for PS 175/156 . I guess this happened just when I was about to enter elementary school. I never went to kindergarten. It seems that I was too old for kindergarten and too young for first grade but my mother was given the option of putting me back to kindergarten or pushing me forward into first grade at PS 156. So there I was in Mrs. Hashkiss class with my mother and a doll for the first week of school. I was one of the youngest in the class and a bit overwhelmed not having the kindergarten experience.

    Re: 263 yearbook. I wouldn’t have one as I moved and went to Arthur S. Somers PS 252 and graduated in 9th grade and went to S.J. Tilden HS. I do thank you for your kind offer of the 263 yearbook but I don’t believe that I would know anyone from that time.

    I do remember a teacher by the name of Mrs. Cantor at PS 156. Do you know if she ever taught 5th grade there? The only teacher’s name I’m unable to remember is who I had in 5th grade.

    So nice to hear that you never fell in to the “trumbanick mode.” Wow! Mazel-Tov on your accomplishments. Sometimes it takes a while to get where we’re going. It’s a pleasure hearing that your parents were able to “kvell.”

    Schav: I do remember my father loving it. I loved borscht (borkas) with either the potato or with sour cream. Of course, it had to be accompanied by a roll schmeared with lots of butter.

    Liver and Onions. It seems it was a requirement that once a week we needed that iron from the liver. I wished we had a dog, but we didn’t. I remember having to get the liver down and also good old boiled cod fish for its health benefit. Of course it was not fried only boiled with veggies. I wasn’t a fan but did have to eat it. The best then and still is Kasha Varnishkes. In case you have a yen for groats they are sold in the kosher aisle at Publix or Wal-Mart. Yum! We found Gabilla’s Potato Knishes at BJ’s Wholesale Club.


    P.S. Do you remember a truck called “Dugan” that went from house to house with packaged cupcakes and pastries?
    He was called the “Dugan Man?”

    Seaview Bowling in Canarsie?

    Farrel’s Shakes and Burgers on Flatlands and Pennsylvania Avenues?

  • Hi Roger.

    It was refreshing to hear that you played with girls. Sometimes boys at that age wouldn’t partake. Boys at a young age shied away from girls. Good for you trying to Play “A” My Name is Alice. Still think it would be good to try this game to keep up with memory skills.

    Re: Eppy & Eppy Shoes. I believe it was on Pitkin Avenue but not sure exactly where. Maybe I can play eye spy and find it in the old photographs.

    Thanks for the information on “Winky Dink and You. I’ll be sure to check it out on the site that you recommended we look at.


  • Hi Stuart,

    Unbelievable! My wife just told me that Spitz florist on Pitkin Avenue is in our (her) family. Seems that my wife’s aunt Bea was a Spitz daughter before she married into my wife’s mother’s family… the Kossofs. The Kossofs owned the Rugby Sport Shop on Utica Avenue near the Rugby theater and Bea’s husband Archie Kossof owned a summer camp. Small world. Sorry! I inherited nothing! Not even a carnation for my buttonhole… but that’s the breaks. Then again, I hope I come up smelling like roses. And as we used to say… “That and 15¢ still won’t get me on the subway!



  • Hi Rhoda,

    Yes! Retirement for the last 20 years has been SWEET.

    Thanks for all the kind words and recommendation to write a book. Getting a book written, while a labor of love… is still a LABOR and that would take the fun out of the retirement thing. After all, I have done my fair share of working. Posts here and there and answering emails keep me busy enough… but surely you’re recommendation is an interesting thought.

    Ahhh! H & H chicken pot pie. Loved it too! My mom never made it but I delighted on Swanson’s Turkey TV dinners growing up in my teen years when frozen TV dinners were all the rage… and frozen pot pies were too. Yum!

    My bar mitzvah study memories made no sense to me whatsoever. I just couldn’t fathom praying to a God who required me to speak a foreign language that I simply never understood. Eventually however, I studied about 9-years of French and taught myself Spanish, Portugues and some Italian. I already had some knowledge of Yiddish but nothing formal. I just never got into Hebrew because no one I knew spoke it.

    Rhoda, as I mentioned to Stanley, the Board of Ed moved the school boundary line so one side of Amboy Street continued to go to PS 175 while our side went to PS 156. Eventually, we (the boys) ended up going to JHS 66 and then, to JHS 263.

    If you played with my sister Loretta you are probably three years younger than me. Going to PS 156 I had Mrs. Cantor in the 4th grade, Mrs. Warhaftig in the 5th grade and Mr. Feuer in the 6th grade. If you don’t have the JHS 263 yearbook… I can probably get you a copy.

    Happily, I never really fell in to the “trumbanick mode.” When I finally graduated Brooklyn College Cum Laude… my parents were finally able to Kvell. It just took a good long time.

    Sorry but I don’t remember “stuffed hedzel” but I surely recall my mom or grandmother making “schav” a creamy and tangy drink made from sorrel leaves and broth.

    I also loved hot borscht with sour cream and a boiled potato. Cold borscht was a particularly delightful treat my mom and grandma made.

    Of course mom made liver and onions and my dad loved cow’s brains and I would have none of it. Not chicken feese or necks or even the livers. Sorry, I wasn’t an organ meat connoisseur but I surely loved kasha varnishkas and kasha knishes. God! I haven’t had groats in the longest time. Ahhh!



  • Hi Stanley,

    I had forgotten about the deli on Pitkin Ave that was opposite the Haddon Hall soda fountain on Strauss Street. I think there was yet another deli on Pitkin and Legion? I remember someone sold the Sunday newspapers outside on Saturday night opposite the Lowes Pitkin theater. Believe it or not, that corner now has a “Gormet Deli” store but the Lowes Pitkin theater is a Dollar General store!

    I can still smell the fresh bread baking in the bakery on Sutter Avenue. Ahhhh!

    That candy store on Amboy Street near Sutter Avenue, I think, was eventually run by Frankie Bonfiglio’s parents. I could be wrong on that.

    A guy named Donald Panico lived Across the street in the apartment building. I think he was at one time in serious trouble with the law.

    When I was in the third grade at PS175 they moved the cut-off boundary line down the middle of Amboy Street so I had to go to PS156 for the 4th, 5th and 6th grades. At PS175 I had Miss Robinson kgdn, Mrs. Picar, Mrs. Fogelson and Mrs. Antel for teachers. Any chance you were in one of those classes as we must be the same age. I’m 76 now.



  • Hi Roger,

    You are correct. Haddon Hall was on Strauss & Pitkin. Shapiro’s deli was right across the street as was Jungle Jim’s diagonally across the street. I had forgotten the name of the barber shop. Thanks. I have a friend in Florida who’s farther was either Murray to Nature. I do not remember which one. I do not remember the post office on Sutter but sure do remember when the post office opened on Bristol St. i also remember the Bakery as it was my job on Sunday mornings to go for a fresh baked seeded rye bread.

    Speaking of bookies. I remember they used to take action in the candy store on Amboy St. near Sutter. If I remember correctly the guy who was in charge was named “Big Jake”. I had friends that lived right across the street from the candy store.

    By the way I had a chance to read some of the old posts. One of them talked about the Firehouse on Bristol St being next door to PS 175. Actually it was 2 buildings away as I lived at 220 Bristol St. which was right next to PS. 175





  • Hi Roger,

    Yes, retirement is great. It is especially nice knowing that most often now one doesn’t have to rush and be somewhere at a particular time. I mentioned your writing a book because you have done so much research and personally remember a wealth of information. Not many people dig further than their last memory, even if it is a pleasant one. I can tell by your blogs how many people have enjoyed all that you have shared on this topic. Although the audience is not large, It seems that most of those who reply are most appreciative of your memories of growing up in Brownsville in the 1940-1950’s; there’s so much to enjoy down memory lane. It’s nice too for one’s family members who show an interest. You never know what topic about Brownsville will arise. Thank you for all the additional sites you recommended.

    Re: Sneakers with Velcro closures. Please don’t be “fahklempt”. An alternative shopping spot for these sneakers would be Wal-Mart. Believe they have them for men and women. Look what excites us….

    Horn and Hardart: I remember the women doling out those nickels so quickly . They were amazing to watch. Your story about the child and the spilled milk was cute … not for him, of course. I recall putting a nickel in what I would call a “trap door” to get a roll and butter. You certainly had to be quick or you thought your hand would get caught in the door. I can still taste that roll with salty butter. Yum! Thanks for the sites to check out H & H. Looking forward to doing so. The only thing my mother would let me order that wasn’t kosher was the chicken pot pie only for her to see the “kishkas”
    of what was inside so that she could copy it and make it for us at home. I have to say hers was good but definitely not as tasty as H&H. It was probably the lard that gave theirs so much flavor.

    It seems you have definitely have outgrown the “trumbinick” mode. It sounds like your experience with the study for your bar mitzvah was not entirely pleasant. It’s too bad your lessons for this special time in your life was not more memorable. Looking back you turned out well and made your parents and family proud.

    Teachers/Schools. You went to many in a short time staying while living in the same place.. I did wonder about why you lived a few doors down and went to PS 175. I do remember some of my lower class teacher’s names. Mrs. Hashkiss 1st grade, Mrs. Baum 2nd , Mrs. Gibbs 3rd, 4th maybe another Miss or Mrs Baum, 5th don’t remember and Mr. Fox for 6th grade. I don’t recall anyone’s name at Col. David Marcus.

    We did eat and make the best of what we had. Did your mother or grandmother make stuffed heldzel
    it was the neck filled with stuffing or picha which was jellied but firm cows feet? Will you yech at these former delights?


  • Hi Stu and Stanley,

    I’ve done another exhaustive search of the Brooklyn White Pages from 1948 to 1955 and cannot find any listing for Murray and Nat Barber Shop and I searched backwards and forwards. It could be they didn’t have a phone although I think that unlikely. What I distinctly recall is that Murray and Nat was located on the south side of Sutter Avenue while Eppy and Eppy was on the north side. I found the Post office was located at 177 Sutter and Eppy and Eppy was located at 181 so they definitely were on the same side (odd numbered) of the street and only one or two doors away from each other.

    Thanks Stu for the detail of the Epstein brothers being the owners.

    Stanley, I also did another exhaustive search for the Haddon Hall soda fountain on Pitkin Avenue and came up empty-handed. Then, this morning I had a vague recollection that Haddon Hall was the name of a cigar brand like Corona Corona. A Google Search turned up people selling vintage Haddon Hall cigar boxes. So I was right about that. Then I recalled that this soda fountain also had a humidor and sold cigars and probably that’s where the Haddon Hall name comes from on the store.

    When I worked as a soda jerk for Morganstern and Stark newsstand on Franklin Avenue near Eastern Parkway… besides selling newspapers, greeting cards and soda fountain products, we also had a humidor and sold cigars. So, the cigar business was sometimes related to the soda fountain business.

    My wife has been asking the question…”Why is all this stuff so important to you?” and the only answer I can give her is that it’s fun to reminisce and bring back the memories of these old people and places. Nothing more. I hope all you reading this enjoy it too.


    Roger Elowitz

  • Roger, The barbershop on Sutter and Amboy was Murray and Nat and they were next to the Eppy and Eppy shoe store own ed and operate by the Epstein brothers. Stuart Portnoy

  • Hi Stanley,

    My exhaustive search for a phone number or address of Haddon Hall came up with nothing. However, I was successful finding the address for Eppy and Eppy Mens Shoes at 181 Sutter Avenue and DIckens 2-8806 on page 205 of the 1955 White Pages.

    The White Pages on-line can sometime be almost IMPOSSIBLE to search because of the careless manner that they photographed the pages… sometime blurred, sometimes folded or creased or smudged or printed too light or dark. It’s a pure mess that can only be searched sometimes by switching to a different year.

    I was able to locate the US Post Office Brownsville Station (12) at 177 Sutter Avenue in 1948, DIckens 2-6941. It will take awhile to find out when they moved to Bristol Street. At any rate, that puts the Post Office about two doors down from Eppy and Eppy. Hmmm.



  • Hi Stanley,

    Once again you’ve filled in some lost memories. Thanks so much for that.

    Then, if I’m correct… Haddon Hall was the soda shop on the corner of Strauss Street and Pitkin Avenue. I surely remember their Lime Rickey and the Charlotte Ruses they sold. They were diagonally across from Jungle Jim’s coconut stand. (I’m gonna check the White Pages for their address.)

    The “famous” barber shop was “Murray and Nat’s” but I have no idea what made them so famous. Murray had the first chair near the window and Nat the second chair. I rarely got to sit in either chair. When they eventually moved out of Brownsville to East Flatbush I was living in Canarsie and I went to them to get my hair cut for my wedding. I also got a manicure for the first time. Wow! What memories.

    I don’t know what made them “famous” except perhaps that I think they had a pay phone in the shop that the bookies would use. It always seemed as if there was something shady going on there. Were there card games in the back room?

    Do you remember a post office next to Eppy and Eppy?… and the bakery next to the post office?



  • Hi Roger,

    Haddon Hall was a soda shoppe. They were famous for selling
    “Cherry Lime Rickey’s”. Yes Eppy & Eppy was on Sutter Ave. There was a famous barber shop right across the street from Eppy & Eppy.


  • Hi Stanley,

    Yes! I received your email as well as Rhoda’s. Finally some people are emailing me and I can send them pictures and information I can’t post here. Simply GREAT! So… at least we did recognize each other.

    Betsy Head park extended from the pool to Strauss Street on the west, Dumont Avenue on the north and Livonia Avenue on the south side. The map above the comment box I’m typing in now… doesn’t really show the park label in the right place… but it will allow you to click on the little stick-figure and drag him over to the map and place him on the street… which will then turn into a STREET VIEW that you can use to drive around the neighborhood.

    It doesn’t work as well as using Google Maps which will allow you to do basically the same thing but with more control and a full screen view. I use it all the time to take a virtual tour of the old neighborhood. Please forgive me but I think you are confusing Riverdale Avenue with Livonia Avenue which had the elevated IRT tracks above it.

    Sorry I’m not familiar with NIck’s Shoeshine Shop. I’ll bet you may not have noticed that PS 175 is now called Teachers Preparatory School. That sign covers PS 175. And about a block away on Bristol Street between Blake and Dumont the NYC Department of Health building still stands with the same name! Amazing!



  • Hi Roger,

    I sent you a separate email to the address you posted below. I just want to make sure you received it. I believe it was Betsy Head park that was on Riverdale and Legion St. The Shoe Shine shop you recall was called Nick’s Shoe shine, but it was on Sitter right past Chester Street. Nick would shine shoes and block hats.



  • Hi Rhoda,

    I guess everyone had their own special names for things or games so there are no “right” way to say anything… only the way you did. All are fun to remember.

    It took me a long time to get used to people saying “we shouldn’t play in the “street.”” To me… it was always “the gutter.”

    Well, when I played with girls I was only too happy to play “A” My Name Is Alice but… I don’t think I ever got past “C.”

    Oh! Haddon Hall! Was that the name of a soda fountain or a haberdasher? Wait, wait… no, it’s not coming to me. However, I do recall the name of a shoe store called Eppy & Eppy. Was it on Sutter between Amboy and Herzl? The name Eppy… reminded me of the name of a black kid who lived in Harrold Moll’s building cellar. His name was Ebbie. Only recently did I realize the name was a nickname for Ebeneezer. Wow! I think his was the only family of black people on the block for quite some time. No! Not so! I believe the entire building directly across from my home was black.

    Please thank Michael for “Winky Dink and You.” This was the FIRST interactive TV show where the audience actually participated. You can read all about it at:

    It’s most interesting why they took it off the air.

    YouTube has some actual videos of the show if you search for Winky Dink And You.

    Best Regards,


  • Hi Roger,

    You’re probably correct about the game with the rubber heels. It could have been called “packs” or “packzies”. All I remember is “heelzies”? In any case, it was truly fun to play.

    It was very sad when one of us had a ball or coin go down the drain or sewer. We also referred to the road as the gutter. It looks like you had a lesson in magnetism when trying to retrieve lost coins using a string attached to a magnet. Sorry that your efforts were for naught. I would just stare at the sewer knowing it was too late. Just thought of another game called “A My Name Is Alice.” It was a game played with a Spaldeen ball. You would bounce a ball and at the same time had to put one leg over the bouncing ball and recite: A my name is Alice and my husbands name is Al, we come from Alabama and we sell apples. I bet your sister played this one. I think I should try and do this now and see if I can remain upright and also see how my memory serves me. You needed to recite the whole alphabet while bouncing a ball for each letter and saying a whole minsa for each state and what was sold. Not sure if boys played this one, maybe efsha?

    No recall of the magic stuff hanging on the cabinets in the candy store. I do remember the Chinese thumb traps. I remember it because I got my fingers stuck. I panicked and began crying right there in the candy store. Oy, how the kids looked at me.

    It seems that your sons were quite resourceful and entrepreneurs at an early age. It all sounds funny now but sure it wasn’t then. No surprise hearing that they turned out well. They come from good stock. Children are a challenge. Our parents probably felt the same about us.

    I believe you are correct about the location of where Florsheim Shoes was on Pitkin Avenue. Do you remember a shoe-shine person at the entrance of Haddon Hall?

    The Lowe’s Pitkin was a showplace. We were too young to appreciate its beauty and décor. Our junior high class also had their graduation there. I believe Pomp & Circumstance played in the background.

    Thanks for the info. on “Shrinky Dinks.” I’ll have to look at the site. I do remember drawing on transparent film that was laid on a tv screen.. Michael says the show was “WinkyDink & You.”



  • Hi Stuart,

    Sorry but I don’t remember “Sam the shoeshine man.” What else was there at Riverdale and Legion? It wasn’t a subway stop so there must have been something else there to bring him some “traffic.”

    I used to shine shoes in front of the East New York Saving’s bank when I was eight of nine years old. I also recall a shoe repair shop on Sutter between Herzl and Strauss where you’d sit in a booth while the guy shined your shoes or repaired them. He also used to “block” hats there. Sheesh! That used to be such a “dark place.”

    Stuart, may I dare ask… “Did you graduate Jefferson and if so, what year?



  • Hi Stanley,

    It doesn’t look like my previous message turned up so here it is again.

    I found your JHS 263 class picture. You were in Class 9-6, Mrs. Outlaw’s class along with Frankie Bonfiglio and Aaron Chazan. If you’d like a copy of the picture just e-mail me at:

    I copied your message and sent it to Jimmy Resko who I speak to daily and who I’ve seen twice in the last few years when I flew my plane to his home field in Venice, FL.. Jim is doing very well and looks great. I had completely forgotten he was in a singing group. We used to go to dances all over Brooklyn. I used to call him “rubber legs” because he moved so easily. None of us move that way any longer.

    All the Best,

    Roger Elowitz

  • Oops Stanley,

    I hope you see my previous message to you as my fingers accidentally hit “SEND” prematurely.

    Yeah! I practically lived at “The H.” Thanks for remembering Landis Jakes name. I think he was a tall black man who would greet me with a laughing “Vie gaits du Kimosabe?” I just loved that he could speak a few words of Yiddish.

    I fondly recall all the hours I’d spend at the H’s pool table or running around the upstairs gym track or battering my knuckles to a bloody pulp on the high speed boxing bag. Who knew they made gloves for that?

    Do you recall that Dembo used to hold court in the H’s library helping the teachers at JHS 263 study for the principal’s exam? He tutored Norman Peck, Elizabeth O’Daley, Chuck Shoenhaut, and Mr. Mirsky… all of whom became District Superintendents. One of his cronies there was Donald Kagan… one of the world’s most famous and renowned Greek literature scholars.

    I always thought that my sister baby-sat for Dembo but she now tells me he only tutored her in his home.

    If my previous message to you disappeared… I’ll surely re-post it here.

    Best wishes and so nice to hear from you,

    Roger Elowitz

  • Hi Roger,

    Thanks for the memories. I just happen to come across these postings and it brought back great memories of the past. Your name and Jimmy Resko’s reminded me of the many great times I had at the “H” H.E.S. I do remember that Jimmy had one of the best collections of 45 records. He would always bring his collection to the dances at the “H”. They were great and fun times. I even remember that Jimmy was part of a singing group for a while. Too bad they never made it but they did try. It amazing all the hours we spent at the H.E.S. day and night. The good thing there was always a smiling face there to greet you. It was Landis Jakes who was the costodian of the “H”

    So many good memories but just a few in a lifetime of memories of our dear old Brownsville.

    Stanley Goldberg

  • Hi All,

    If you have an interest in old Brownsville pictures you can go to this website and view them:

    There are two pages of old B&W photos for your viewing pleasure.



  • Roger, In those days we were all jumpy because of the son of Sam crimes which he targeted Brownsville and the surrounding areas. But we survived and continued our Brownsville life. Do you remember Sam the shoe shine man who had his big, chair on Riverdale and Legion> He stored his shoe shine equiptment in the cellar of the corner apartment house. He actually in addition to using shoe polish shined shoes with Simonize car wax. He resided in an apartment building on Saratoga and Dumont. His busiest season was the Jewish holidays when his customers showed up to glorify their shoes. Stuart Portnoy

  • Hi Stuart,

    You’ve done it again! Many, many thanks for recalling those Brownsville details. I didn’t know that Spitz also delivered telegrams. Tips? Tell me about the tips I got for delivering the Brooklyn Eagle newspapers in the projects on Watkins Street area, in the snow, on my bike. I was 14-years old and just got my working papers. I was also lucky to have the customers pay for the newspapers. Oy!

    Wow! I was just thinking about the tobacconist across the street from Spitz where I bought my pipes… especially the large Calabash gourd with the huge meerschaum bowl, like the one Sherlock Homes used… and I bought the delicious Flying Dutchman blend of tobacco. That got me hooked on nicotine. Rats! I only wish I could recall the name of that guy and his shop.

    Right across the street from them was a camera store where I bought my first chemistry supplies to develop my own prints on our kitchen table. Another thing that got me “hooked” on photography.

    My parents bought my bedroom furniture in a furniture store on Rockaway Avenue and I recall a large marquee above the entrance. And who could not remember all the pushcarts on Belmont Avenue? Eventually, they were banned. I forget which mayor took credit for the travesty that outlawed them and that destroyed those livelihoods.

    Rhoda reminded me of the summer day camp in the play-yard next to the H.E.S. where I whiled away the summer making pot holders and weaving lanyards with barrel stitches and box stitches. Loved those things. And then one summer when I was about 8 or 9 I went to H.E.S. sleep away camp called Camp Stahahee in Sterling Forest, N.Y. just before you got to the beginning of the Catskills. Got to learn all kinds of Hebrew songs there like Tsena, Tsena and Hatikvah.

    Great hearing from you Stuart. Hope your summer is going well for you.


    Roger Elowitz

  • Hi All,

    I found it! Hyman Spitz Inc. was the florist at 1685 Pitkin Avenue right near the corner of Rockaway Avenue. DIckens 2-4000 and HYacinth 8-9688 according to the 1953 Brooklyn White Pages, p. 657. They also had a listing there for Hyman Spitz Steamer and Fruit Baskets. Interesting.


    Roger Elowitz

  • Roger was Hyman Spitz as the florist and he also handled Western Union deliveries of plants, flowers and telegrams. He had an older man using a ten dollar two wheeler rolling outs Hyman Spitz delivering telegrams and flowers etc. Could you imagine how little the tips were in those days? Across the street was that dignified gentleman and his wife selling pipes an dpipe tobacco. Next door to the pipes was a corset store. Around the corner on Rockaway Ave were furniture store who were across the street from Mirskys, And of course you can not forget the Belmont Ave pushcarts, They filmed Last Angry Man with Paul Muni in the Belmont Ave area. Time for lunch Stuart Portnoy Coconut Creek/

  • Hi Rhoda,

    What a wonderful response. Thanks so much for your kind words.

    When memories begin to fade it’s great to know just about anything you want to remember is stored somewhere on the Internet and is discoverable if you only know how to ask the right questions.

    I’ve given serious thought to writing a book and dashed that idea only because it would be so much work… and I retired over 20-years ago and can’t disabuse myself of that wonderful decision. Besides… there is already at least one book about Brownsville called “Another Time, Another Place” a neighborhood remembered by Gerald Chatanow and Bernard Schwartz.

    That book is available from Amazon and is rather inexpensive. If they have a used edition… buy it… it’ll probably be brand new:

    It’s not what I would call “a great book” but it’ll do for some research and good remembrances. My dear old friend Alvin Steinberg contributed lots of information to the authors before he passed recently.

    re. tennis shoes and sneakers… I’ll need to do some research to figure out the difference between your “fahputzed” and my bubby’s
    “fahpitzed.” Sneakers from “K-Mart” with Velcro straps solve lots of problems… except K-Mart is now gone! The thought makes me “fahklempt.”

    Horn and Hardart will always live on in blessed memory. The cashier ladies sliding nickles across the worn marble top in the change booth always fascinated me. So did the crank that you turned to get the milk to pour out of the lion’s head spigot. I once took a class to visit the UN Building and one kid turned the crank and the milk dutifully came out of the spout and then right down into the drain because he was expecting a cup to drop from somewhere like the soda machines. So, quick witted that he was he just cupped his hands and caught the last spurts and slurped down the milk from his hands. We couldn’t stop laughing watching this fiasco. Of course we bought him another milk… this time in a glass.

    I went with my dad to the Horn and Hardart across from City Hall when we went into “the City” … and to a few other locations I’ve long since forgotten. Here is a link to some great pictures of the place:

    And Wikipedia has an interesting article about the company:

    The Automat lives on in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. There you can see an elaborately decorated, 35-foot section of Philadelphia’s original 1902 Horn & Hardart, complete with mirrors and marble. It ain’t your father’s fast food, but it may be your great-grandma’s comfort food.

    And believe it or not… Currently the Horn & Hardart – Bakery Cafe is the name of a coffee shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The assets of the company were purchased in 2015 and the brand is being reborn as Horn & Hardart Coffee. Branded coffee is offered on their website.

    Here’s a nice article about H & H:

    I just loved their baked beans, mashed potatoes with gravy and Salisbury steak followed by milk and apple pie. Milk and steak? Nisht Kosher but I have a cultivated goyisha palate!

    Schlepping a 45-lb reel to reel Pentron tape recorder to dances wasn’t easy to do on the bus. I was driving at 18 and took my father’s ’49 Pontiac to help the cause. Many years later I found those reels of tape and discovered that they were completely useless for play-back because of poor storage and “print-through.” Nevertheless, all those old songs are still available for free on the Internet.

    Vinyl records are truly making a comeback but at “our age” and level of geriatric hearing loss… we don’t need to delude ourselves about the “richness” of the sound.

    I have all the time in the world to practice guitar but I keep forgetting to do it.

    They kicked me out of the H.E.S. Hebrew school… and everywhere else I attended. I was a model “trumbinick.” Somehow I did manage to get Bar Mitzvah’d. Never had a reception party… and surely never deserved one. Once a week (on Wednesdays I think) they let me out of school an hour early to attend a yeshiva run by Rabbi Hifetz on Blake Avenue between Amboy and Herzl streets… I think. Or was it Dumont Avenue? I think it was near a pool parlor. Stuart Portnoy knows it as well as he does the “evil” proprietor rabbi Heifetz and his wife. He was famous for his “schmeis” smack with a ruler.

    I started Kindergarten (Miss.Robinson/Porback) at PS 175… then Mrs Piccar 1st grade and Mrs. Fogelson 2nd and Mrs. Antel 3-rd grade. Then, they changed the school boundary lines and I had to go to PS 156 for the 4th, 5th and 6th grades.. Mrs, Cantor, Mrs. Warhaftig and Mr. Feuer. Next it was off to JHS 66 for the 7th and 8th grades when the school closed and JHS 263 opened and we were the first graduating class from that new building. I did the Pledge of Allegiance over the school’s PA system in the morning… probably because my voice had changed to a deep, resonant mellifluous one. LOL. So, without moving once I ended up going to five schools if you count Jefferson.

    Soda-jerking was hard work… especially trying to pack ice-cream into half-pint and pint containers and trying to squeeze all the air spaces out. Yet, the job did have its delicious rewards.

    If I ever see feesilach (chicken feet) in soup I think I’ll throw up! The thought of eating them and chicken necks makes me sick! Jews learned to make the best out of the worst meats imaginable! Yech!

    My wife’s uncle Morty is in his 90’s in Boynton Beach. When he sold the Rugby Sport Shop he became a stock broker… and he retired from that only recently. My wife and I lived about the Rugby Sport shop for about 6-months when we were first married in 1965.

    Stuart Portnoy once reminded me about the florist on Pitkin Avenue near (or at the corner) of Rockaway Avenue. I just forgot if it was Atkins or Spitz and Peck. A peak in the White Pages will confirm it once and for all.

    Doing our own repairs on just about everything was just a way of life. After all, the “experts” or “professionals” just knew a bit more than we did so… it behooved us to do some learning and save some money. No big deal. Education was the key to everything.

    My very best,


  • Friends, During the era od the 50s my brother Howard owned and operated a huge whip ride on a truck. The fre was five cents and each kid riding the whip would receive a souvenir toy. Every Sat and Sun we would park the whip on Hopkinson and Pitkin and all the kids flocked to the truck. Away from Pitkin Av e we rode through Brownsville, ENY, E Flatbush in addition to other areas. Those were the days. My best to all of you Stuart Portnoy Coconut C reek

  • Hello again Roger,

    Re: Penrod’s Men’s Wear…The more I read the name I can sort of visualize where it was . Thanks for all the addresses and telephone #’s. Amazing research. You certainly follow through in every aspect.. Clearly you have the gift of following up on everything. Just wonderful what you have done here for those wanting to know just a tad more about Brownsville and the locations of all the stores. Roger, have you thought of writing a book? I bet everyone would love it.

    Thom McCan was also where my husband shopped for shoes. Do folks even wear shoes anymore? My parents never owned a pair of tennis shoes or sneakers. Besides being the most comfortable I’m thinking sneakers are an all time favorite. We need some shoes for an “event” where one needs to be fahputzed in their best attire.

    Re: Famous Restaurant. Our family rarely went out to eat. I remember going to Ratner’s Restaurant when we went to the Andersen Yiddish Theater. Blintzes for all. They were good. Also, we went to the Famous when graduating from High School. Again, blintzes for all. It was indeed way too expensive for us to eat out. My father also felt that one had the best offerings at home where everything was fresh and tasted best. Sometimes, I’m in agreement. Do remember going to Horn and Hardart across from Macy’s in Manhattan. My mother used to laugh as I always ordered three starches. It is great that you got to see it at the Smithsonian Museum. Would love to see that restaurant make a comeback. What do you think?

    Concord Cafeteria or Hoffman’s Cafeteria. I remember the name but nothing else. Very possible that it was a Depression thing.

    Ann’s Dancing School: Remember the name but didn’t attend. What a great opportunity to learn dancing at a young age. Sorry that you were punished and had to leave dancing. Happy that on your own you learned and enjoy and do it well. It’s great that your sister had the same opportunity and participated in shows.

    Reel to Reel Equipment: It was great that you were able to shlep all the reel to reel equipment that distance. Did you have a car? I hope so. Would you believe that we have a collection of 45rpm records in boxes purchased at the Stadium Bookshop. They have been in our garage for ten years. I guess we should see if they still work. Vinyl records are making a come back. Who would have guessed. My husband says that they never really went away. Guessing all good things have a way of coming back. Most important is that you remain in touch with your friend, Jimmy Resko. BTW, my husband built my first stereo for me. Wishing that I would have kept it.

    Your Guitar: Do you have any free time now to practice? You know that it’s never too late if you enjoy it. Understand that singing or playing an instrument is good for our health and well being. I don’t remember learning any dancing at 263. Maybe I was absent. I remember all sorts of music lessons taught at the H.E.S. I wasn’t able to take piano because Vivian took violin lessons and quit in a short period of time and my parents thought I would do the same. I didn’t put up a fuss so maybe I wasn’t that interested. I remember going to Hebrew class there from the 2nd grade to the 6th grade and once a week going from P.S. 156 to an auditorium on Strauss St. for Jewish Studies. Did you do that? Incidentally, how come you went to P.S 175 when we only lived a few doors from each other? Did your sister go there too? Vivian also went to P.S. 175.

    Once upon a time I was pretty good at spelling. Not so much anymore. Also, quite thankful for spell check. Seltzer. Yes, it is very gassy but we still love it. Being a soda jerk must have been quite a cool job. Understand it’s quite hard getting the ice cream out of the deep buckets.

    It’s great that you continue being a ham operator. It is nice that you remain in touch with your friend, Chuck. Do you know where in Israel Chuck’s family live?

    The name Billig does mean frugal. My father used to say Billig vi like beets. He was frugal out of necessity but never cheap.

    It is really great that Rozzy is in touch with so many friends from years gone by. Not sure she would remember me from school but maybe from the H.E.S. That’s where I remember her from.

    Didn’t care too much for the fresh chicken market aromas (the smell of burning pin feathers) but I had to help my mother do the shopping. She always told me it was preparing me to be a good shopper. I bought that story.

    Delicious schmaltz and gribbinas…loved em, too. We would spread it on rye bread. No Twinkies after school for us only schmaltz on rye with a sliced onion. Thanks for reminding me about the unborn chicken eggs. Do you remember the chicken feet in the soup. Haven’t seen those in ages. I suppose they’re sold somewhere. We love gefilte fish also. It’s tasty with some hot horseradish. Your wife has good taste.

    We ate the same things on the menu at Grabstein’s. Remembering how thick that mushroom barley soup was. Isn’t it all about the food? Yum!

    Sheila Bernstein’s face does look familiar to me.

    I remember the Brooklyn Union Gas Co, The F.W. Woolworth and Smitty’s for a (charlotte russe) sponge cake delight with swirled whipped cream on top and of course a cherry. The florist that I remember was Spitz and Peck I loved the trolley and then you got a transfer for a bus. My husband used to get his eye glass protective gear from your wife’s uncle at Rugby Sport Shop. Again, a small world.

    We went to the same libraries. They were just great. So glad they remain. I saw on the news a while ago that someplace in Texas there are libraries without books (computers only). It’s hard to imagine.

    It’s great that your dad was so handy and able to do everything. It’s wonderful that you too learned and were capable of doing everything in a home without having to call a professional. My father could do only repairs on plumbing. When we lived on Amboy St. if something failed electrically my cousin who owned the building was an electrician so it all worked out.


  • Hi All,

    Here’s a delicious article about Brooklyn Street Games by Laura Greenberg all you “nostalgia-nicks” may enjoy…

    So, now I remember that the game of “packs” involved throwing the pack of rubber-banded cards or the rubber shoe heel and trying to see how close you got to the expansion joint line on the sidewalk to determine the winner.

    I also remember “stoop ball” where we’d try to throw a Spauldeen ball at the steps in a stoop and I think the person who caught the ball on that bounce would be the “next up” to “trow” the ball.

    I’m forgetting… what Jewish holiday involved rolling nuts and what games did we play with them?



  • Hi Rhoda,

    The game with the rubber heels I believe (could be wrong) was called “packs” or was it “packzies?”

    “Drain” is the correct name but we always called it a “sewer.” Fishing lost treasures out of the sewer was a special skill. That is how I learned that coins were unable to be attracted to horseshoe magnets on the end of a string.

    The pink ball you are referring to was probably called a “Pennsy Pinkie.” I didn’t recall the price or quality difference but I trust you are correct.

    I do remember the little charm “chotchkahs” in the machines but I was more “invested” in the “magic stuff” that filled the glassine bags that were stapled to either yellow of blue cardboard show-cards that hung on the cabinets behind the counters in the candy stores. They contained sneezing powder, Chinese thumb traps, twisted metal pairs of things begging to be separated etc.. In fact there was a store-front on Amboy between Pitkin and Sutter that I worked in where I stapled those “tricks” to the cards.

    Remember playing with baseball cards (Topps) that came with a slice of stale gum? The gum sure didn’t taste like Bazooka which was a flattened cube that came with a cartoon “joke” inside. I surely remember flipping the baseball cards. I think the object was to match the head or tail of the card already on the ground. The bubble gum that came with the cards was hard as a rock and would crumble in your hands.

    When my sons were in high school they would buy cases of baseball cards wholesale, open the individual gum packs and
    extract the most valuable players’ cards and reseal them containing players easily gotten, and sell them in school. I think I raised a pair of professional gonnifs. They nevertheless turned out OK! But one son had me called up to school because he was also selling all manner of candy to the other students and the school was
    complaining they weren’t getting a “cut” out of the proceeds. It didn’t matter that many teachers and administrators were also customers. LOL.

    Of course the name Florsheim shoes rings a bell. Wasn’t it located on Pitkin near Saratoga? Under the Wu-Han Chinese restaurant sign?

    The Lowe’s Pitkin was a showplace for vaudeville (before my time) and a true “air-conditioned” delight in the summer. As kids I guess we never appreciated the decor… just taking it for granted. I believe my junior high school 263 used the Pitkin for our graduation and perhaps so did Jefferson?

    I “think” I went to Manhattan to NBC Studios with Heshie and his mom. My sister definitely was not with us. I had very little to do with her and her friends growing up.

    I surely remember “Shrinky Dinks.” You can still find them in craft stores or at this website:

    Better yet, I remember drawing on transparent film that was laid on a TV screen. I forget who’s show featured that. Was it Soupie Sales? Here’s a great link to Jon Gnagy’s show:

    More great Brownsville memories.



  • Hi Roger,

    Pleased that you enjoyed my reminiscences. I enjoy all of yours as well. Don’t remember when last I thought of all these things. Sometimes Vivian I go over things we remember. We both have different memories. It could be the difference in age.

    You have provided the power of restarting my brain. I do remember so many games that you mentioned. Just thought of another with old rubber heels that the shoemaker gave us. We aimed at chalk lines on the sidewalk trying to throw them closest to the target. Oy, how we measured to see who came closest. Loved “Hit the Penny”. Your wife is so right about t he aroma of a Spalding ball. I remember losing my ball down the drain. This time I needed to save 10 cents to buy a replacement ball. Of course, this time, with a pink ball that was similar to a Spalding. It didn’t live up to the Spalding reputation. I got what I paid for. Spalding was about 25 cents and the replacement pink ball was 10 cents. Do you recall buying little charms from a machine? They looked like plastic copies of hot dogs, cars and ice cream cones. Maybe, boys didn’t collect them. Never remember what happened to my collection. Remember playing with baseball cards (Topps) that came with a slice of stale gum? The gum sure didn’t taste like Bazooka. We tossed the cards at the wall or flipped them. I bet you did this too. We got our TV when I was nine. It was a 13” TV. We had an Apex washing machine that had a roller to drain the clothing. We’ve come a long way. Now if only our machine would make coffee it would be perfect. Just kidding. Do you remember the Chinese laundromat on Sutter Avenue? I loved the aroma in the shop when I would pick up the sheets or my father’s white shirts (used only for weddings and bar mitzvahs). Do you remember Florsheim shoes? Looks like I’m on a roll today. So Heshie, Eileen and Sherwood had a home full of modern conveniences. I never realized all the “modern” conveniences they had. I believe their dad was a waiter in a deli. The family invited me to a Christmas party at the company either her mom or dad worked for. The company gave me a gift of a doll. I’ll always remember that one. It was so nice of them to invite me. Never went to the movies through a back door. Didn’t realize one could do that. The Lowe’s Pitkin was truly beautiful.

    Wow! You went to see Howdy Doody. Did Loretta go too? I did watch every day. I knew of Bob Keeshin who was playing the part of Clarabelle and then Captain Kangaroo. My neighbor who lived in Holbrook, her father owned an Italian Restaurant called Amato’s in Amityville. They were friendly with Bob Keeshin. Small world. I too loved Jon Gnagy but never learned to draw. Do you remember Shrinky Dinks?


  • Hi All,

    Another apology. I used Google Maps to visit the shul I used to go to for dances on Avenue P and Coney Island Avenue and to my dismay the shul was gone! Not that it doesn’t exist any more… but because of my faulty memory… since the shul is located a block away on Avenue P and East 12th Street. The name on the building is Jewish Center of Kings Highway. Sorry for the confusion. It’s been quite a while since I physically visited that location but I’m thankful I can go back to anyplace in Brooklyn, including Brownsville with Google Maps and ride down each and every street and see what has changed and what remains the same. I highly recommend you learn to use this valuable Internet resource as well as the Brooklyn White Pages.

    Best always,

    Roger Elowitz
    Morganville, NJ and Port St. Lucie, FL

  • Hi All,

    For the longest time I’ve been wondering about Concord Cafeteria and the Hoffman’s Restaurant on Pitkin Avenue between Strauss Street and Saratoga Avenue. I didn’t recall which one came first. Finally the mystery has been solved with a bit of Brooklyn White Pages on-line look-up detective work.

    Seems that Hoffman’s Restaurant had been around for quite some time at 1529 Pitkin Avenue DI6-8404, and also, HY8-5672 with a listing in the 1947 White Pages. Then, in 1951 the Concord Cafeteria chain opened up in Hoffman’s place at the slightly different address of 1535 Pitkin Avenue, DI2-8625 and HY6-5672 and Hoffman disappeared.

    So, that solves the problem. Hoffman came first, then, replaced by Concord. Another mystery solved. We can all sleep better now?



  • Hi again Rhoda,

    re. Penrod Men’s Wear… 1606 Pitkin Avenue, DI2-5838. It was right next door (to the right of) Meyer’s Goody Shop, 1608 Pitkin Ave. DI2-8365. Eidetic memory…. that’s a laugh! Nope! It’s called “looking at the on-line Brooklyn White Pages. My memory for faces and names is really pretty good but please don’t ask me where I left my keys last. (recent memory stinks). I also have a good memory for the sound of voices but my wife’s voice recognition is phenomenal. (Always lots of fun playing.. “Guess who’s speaking…”)

    Penrod was a “men’s” store so I didn’t start buying stuff there until I was about 14. Correction: I didn’t find a Stride-Rite shoe store on Pitkin Avenue in the White Pages. What I did find was Buster Brown Shoe Salon at 1554 Pitkin Avenue (on the corner with Hopkinson Ave.) DI2-9397 in the 1955 White Pages p.103. When I was older I bought shoes at Thom McAn, also on Pitkin Avenue.

    re. Famous Restaurant… (now a McDonalds). We didn’t go out to eat often. (Expensive). I just loved the food there. The Kasha Varnishkas and the blintzes… and the vanilla ice-cream with the little flecks of vanilla beans in it served in a metal dish. Yum! But my all-time favorite restaurant was Horn and Hardart when we went into Manhattan. I recently saw a Horn and Hardart wall in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. DC. Fabulous memories.

    Do you remember the Concord Cafeteria at 1535 Pitkin Avenue, between Saratoga and Strauss Street, DI2-8625 p.137 1953 White Pages? We’d get a ticket at the door and hand it to the guy behind the counter and he’d punch the ticket with each item of food we selected. Then, we’d hand in the punched ticket to be tallied when we left to pay. I think that this restaurant was Hoffman’s Cafeteria before it became Concord… or vice versa. I’ll have to check. Cafeterias were popular because you didn’t have to leave a tip since you did your own “waiting.” (Perhaps this was a Depression thing?”)

    I believe Ann’s Dancing School was above the Concord or next to Wu Han’s Chinese restaurant. I went to Ann’s to learn to tap the Waltz Clog and my sister tapped and did dance routines in Ann’s shows. (Tap dancing was all the rage back then. I was in the 2nd grade at PS 175 and because I got a bad report card… mom pulled me out of the dancing school as a punishment. I still went on to become a fairly good dancer. I even studied ballroom dancing at Arthur Murray’s in downtown Brooklyn.

    And speaking of dancing and dances… I have a correction. One of the shuls we went to for dances was on Avenue P and Coney Island Avenue (not Flatbush Avenue). I would schlep a humongous reel to reel tape recorder on which I had taped all of my friend Jimmy Resko’s 45 collection. Jimmy lived at 207 Amboy St. I talk to him via e-mail daily.

    I play classical and pop guitar but not well. I’m dreadfully out of practice. I learned to play with Basil Cimino who taught me classical guitar when I was 13-years old… at the H.E.S.. but I shouldn’t forget that Adolph Dembo taught me dancing in JHS 263. We learned Rumba and Cha Cha.

    Spelling is my bane. I thank God for “spell-checkers.” Seltzer? I love seltzer and do remember the blue and clear seltzer bottles…like the one used by Clarabell the clown (on Howdy Doody), however, I’ve stopped drinking carbonated beverages for quite some time. Too gassy! I still love the taste or the tingle. I have fond memories of being 17 and working as a “soda jerk” after school for Morganstern and Stark Fountain and Newsstand on Franklin Avenue near Eastern Parkway.

    Yes! I’m still a ham radio operator (call letters K2JAS) and I’m somewhat active in the hobby and I do talk to my old friend Chuck Tames (W4QNW) almost daily… but now on e-mail. Correction: I photographed Chuck’s kids’ bar mitzvah’s and not Ginger’s. Chuck has relatives in Israel. BTW… I thought the word “Billig” was unflattering in that it meant “very frugal” but then again, the transliterated Yiddish spelling is “Billik” which is probably the correct translation of (frugal). LOL. Yiddish names were often not very kind. “Klein” was small. “Grosman” was big man.” Lots of others. I was amazed at how common Portnoy was as I was going through the names of Jefferson graduates.

    I’ll let Rozzy Hymowitz know you remember her. She’s my go-to-gal for all things related to Brownsville. She’s absolutely FABULOUS! I’ll ask Rozzy if she remembers Paula Salinsky Abramowitz. She’s also in-touch with Eileen Sikowitz, Sharon Senator, Anita Golub, Sheila Bernstein and so many other “kids.”

    I do remember the fresh chicken markets. The smell drove me crazy… hated it. Same for the fish stores. My grandmother once raised a turkey in our garage to slaughter for Thanksgiving. Yeow! Then again, she once kept a pony there too to help pull her pushcarts from which she sold french fries and jelly apples on Pitkin Avenue before I was born.

    I don’t know what it was about Brownsville having a drug store (pharmacy) on just about each and every street corner? Definitely one on Sutter at Amboy, Herzl, Strauss and Saratoga.. and lots of other corners too on Blake Avenue. I do recall that back then, pharmacists would frequently compound many their own drugs and salves and fill gelatin pill capsules.It was probably a very good living.

    Schmaltz and gribbinas… loved them. My bubby made them.And what about eyellas… unborn chicken eggs? My wife eats gefilte fish daily for lunch. Sammy’s Romanian Restaurant serves schmalta and gribbines in Manhattan and charges a fortune for the crap we refused to eat as kids. They once seated me in the “garden section.” …that was a table next to the wallpaper with the pictures of vegetables!

    Of course we ate at Grabstein’s Deli on Rockaway Parkway when we moved to 105-10 Avenue J in Canarsie (corner of of E 105th St). Loved it especially the lean pastrami on club and the split pea or mushroom barley soup. Oh! Please don’t get me started! LOL.

    Sheila Bernstein lived at 66 Powell Street and graduated Jeff with me in June ’59.

    Barton’s Bonbonniere was at 1573 Pitkin on the corner of Herzl St. DI2-8570. Barricini Candy Shops were at 1643 Pitkin… I think now, between Amboy and Hopkinson. There’s no address like that now on that block. Those stores are long gone as is National Shoes on the corner of Amboy and Pitkin. Yet, Pitkin Avenue is still a vibrant commercial shopping area… that’s for sure. It’s only that we’d never recognize it for what it is today. Other shops I recall are the Brooklyn Union Gas company next to Meyers, and the F&W Woolworth as well as Atkins(?) Florist on Pitkin and Rockaway. I do recall riding the trolley on Rockaway Avenue to New Lots where we transferred to the New Lots Line going to Utica and Church Avenue
    BTW… my wife’s uncle Morty owned the Rugby Sport Shop on Utica Avenue near the Rugby Theater.

    One institution I forgot to mention was the Stone Avenue Library on the corner of Stone and Dumont Avenues. It’s recently been restored. I loved that place as well as the library on Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Ave which is still there and the one at the Grand Army Plaza which is still there too!

    My dad was a “jack of all trades” and I got my early training and habits from him. We almost never called anyone to fix anything. I’m the same way… but in retirement I now just love to watch people fix things and I’m happy to pay them now. I got my love for flying from my dad as he was also a private pilot back in the 30’s. He was there on the day I made my first solo flight at Deer Park Long Island airport (long since closed). Dad flew a bi-plane out of Flushing Airport and also Roosevelt Field (before it became a shopping center.

    The “cheap rents” make us smile these days but we neglect to remember those were when the yearly salaries rarely topped $2000 a year. I recall when my dad finally made $100 a week (in the 1950’s) and we all thought that was FABULOUS! I know from the US Census records that when I was born in 1941 he was making $1700/yr. on the 1940 Census. I think that was close to average. Everything is relative.

    I certainly remember the rides that stopped near our homes. The swing and the whirling circle thing were fun. I think Stuart Portnoy drove one of them. He also drove a Bungalow Bar ice-cream truck.I also recall the guys who came around with a pony and would take your picture on it. I think the pony was blind. (Gads!!!) I also fondly recall the gypsies who’d play the violins in the backyards and women would throw down pennies wrapped in tissue paper. And I fondly recall the summer mornings with our bedroom windows open and the radios blasting out the programs on WEVD in Yiddish. EVD stood for Eugene V. Debbs.

    Challenge? Remember the pickle barrels outside the appy stores on Sutter Ave and the bags of M&M’s you’d buy for 1/8 of a pound?
    Remember the millinery shops and the men’s hat shops and the shoemaker shoe repair and shine shops? Oh! So much to remember! And so much fun to do so. Remembering this stuff helps to keep it alive… and the memories too.



  • Hi Rhoda,

    I really enjoyed your post below and your fabulous reminiscences

    Please don’t trouble Vivian about Debbie and Nettie.

    Sitting on the concrete sidewalks shooting marbles or playing “Hit the Penny” or shooting “packs” (of rubber-banded baseball cards) or shooting Hazel? nuts on the holidays… was all part of staying busy and having fun. We also used to play “box ball” and handball in the alley-way between houses. Of course there was “stickball” with a broomstick handle and a Spaulding ball that my wife can’t get enough aroma to inhale. She also loves the smell of tar when they resurface the roads and the smell of burning kerosene from jet engine exhausts! I love them too!

    We played outside because… nothing important was happening inside. We didn’t get our tv until I was about 8 or 9. Before that we’d go up to Harrold Moll’s house and watch his 8-inch tv with a giant magnifier on it. Sitting a few inches off the center-line, the screen would change color and get distorted. Or, we’d play with his Webcor wire recorder. Heshie had all the latest toys. His mom had a roller to iron sheets. She also had a small oven she placed on top of the stove to bake cookies in. I think Heshie’s father was a waiter in a deli somewhere.

    In the street we also played Johnny on the Pony or Hide ‘n Go Seek. Or… we’d send a kid to buy a ticket to the movie at the Lowe’s Pitkin and then he’d open the door and we’d all sneak in.

    I fondly recall traveling to Manhattan to see the Howdy Doody TV show, sitting behind a kinescope TV monitor (no room for me in the Peanut Gallery) and it was Howdy’s birthday… and they had a contest to draw a picture of Howdy’s birthday cake. My drawing won because I learned to draw in perspective by watching Jon Gnagy on TV. I won a pair of roller skates that were stolen from me a few days later. Oy! As an interesting aside… Clarabell was played by Bob Keeshin who became Captain Kangaroo… who my ex-brother-in-law worked for as a producer of the show.

    Some people paid extra for the brown eggs thinking they were more nutritious because they were brown. What did we know about the insides being EXACTLY THE SAME! Ever notice that robbin eggs are blue?

    Re. Penrod’s… more in the next post.