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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






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334 responses so far ↓

  • Hi Stu,

    I don’t know if you’ve looked lately but Google Maps shows Feldman Lumber to still be in business in the same location. Their phone number is 718-498-6600. I remember as a ten year old, buying a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood that I laid across an old couch in my basement to use as a table for my Lionel trains that I bought at Kings Stationery on Pitkin Avenue. I have no idea how I got it home. I still have those Lionel trains! Yeow! And Betsy Head Pool is still across the street from Feldman.

    Roger Elowitz

  • Hi Stuart,

    I don’t know if you’ve checked lately but Feldman Lumber is STILL THERE. Of course, there is a nice ball field a few blocks away that is part of Betsy Head park. I used to run around that track many times to work off some excessive “shpilkas.” Next to the park on Strauss Street was my scout troop 157. Do you remember the People’s Cinema on the corner of Livonia and Saratoga? Diagonally across the street was the Ambassador Theater.


  • Roger, I remember the same as you. I have not been back to NY since 1983. King on Pitkin and Thatford which was across the street from Rimberg and Kishka King was the central place to buy school supplies when school started. I still have the oval Btrownie camera and a box style. Film was 127 and is available in Rochester NY. I of course can not utilize it because I would have to bring Victor Schutzbank back to insert and remove the film for me. As a pharmacist Victor was always obliging and a true gentleman. But one block away was Lena Chericetti the assistant principal in PS175. She came to work daily on her broom and the clothes that were well worn. She was in the same category as Mr. Gustave Rappoport the typing teacher. Wondering if Hyman Spitz the florist is still at Pitkin and Rockaway? For now I bid you all farewell Stuart Portnoy

  • Hi David,

    I’ve left two comments to be posted, the second one was because the first one didn’t show up. Please explain what’s happening. Are you on vacation? I’m sure I didn’t post anything offensive or censurable.


  • Hi Roger – nothing new is showing up, for some reason. I went through the spam folder as well and nothing is there, so can you try posting again? One of the vagaries of the blog program, no doubt! Others have mentioned similar things to me, from time to time. David

  • Hi David,

    I found the missing posts… under the heading at the bottom of the page called Newer Comments ». I always find missing things in the last place I look. So… not your fault at all! Sorry to trouble you.


  • Hi Stu,

    I went to Google Maps and looked at 1688 Pitkin Avenue where Spitz Florists used to be… but sadly, no more. I think they became Spitz and Peck Florists at two locations in Manhattan.

    I sure do remember Mrs. Cherichetti in her black print dress and her cow-bell lining up the kids in the school yard. Mrs. Allen was the principal in my time. I remember reading passages from the Bible at some assembly programs. Funny, it never “corrupted me.”

    I surely recall Kings Stationery Store for school supplies, toys and bikes and so much more. I bought my Schwinn Traveler bike there and I STILL RIDE IT to this day… only I keep it in my airplane’s hangar and ride it on the taxiway to get to the bathroom at Old Bridge (NJ) airport. (True)

    I’m very familiar with the 127-Kodak film. I have a complete darkroom here and used to process roll film (B/W and Color) as part of my photography studio (Roger Lawrence Photography). People tend to forget that Drug Stores used to process B/W film long before they sent it out to a lab. It was “natural” for a pharmacist who works with chemicals all day… to process film and prints after work. I’m still intending to visit my neighbor, Barry Shutzbank, and see if it was his father’s pharmacy you’re speaking of. Please standby!

    Farewell? Where are you going?


  • Hi Roger – glad you found them! Thanks for letting me know. Take care, David

  • Roger I am not going anyplace in particular, At this stage of the game I take everything day by day. I am sure that you remember the Loews Pitkin and the big organ they had. It was Henrietta Camaretta who performed on the organ. One performance she caught one of her feet inside thje mechanism and was in deep trouble. My friend Herman Leo Raphael was there and pulled her foot out to safety, Also do you remem ber Ripleys on Pitkin Ave at Grafton St burn down the night of Jan 14,1954? I wish you and yours the best and all the folks from Brownsville, Stuart Portnoy

  • Hi David and Stu,

    David, the problem with “missing posts” is that one needs to look for them on a “new page” instead of them continuing down the blog. That’s a programming feature I don’t find “user friendly.”

    Stu… I certainly remember the Lowe’s Pitkin. Thomas Jefferson high school held their graduation ceremonies there. I don’t believe I ever heard the organ played and didn’t know about Henrietta Camaretta’s accident. Wow!

    I do certainly recall Ripley’s Clothiers but I never really frequented them. They were mostly “men’s stores” and I left Brownsville just before I turned 18 when my parents moved to Canarsie.

    Do you remember Concorde or Hoffman’s Cafeteria on Pitkin Ave near Saratoga? You had to get a ticket and then order your food at the counter. The server would then punch your ticket with the value of the food… I think.

    And do you remember kids using garbage can covers to change the spray from the open fire hydrants in the summer? Did you ever sleep outside at night on a fire-escape or on “tar beach?” (the roof)
    I never did since my two story building my parents owned didn’t have fire-escapes. We were lucky. My dad bought a window air-conditioner and I dragged my mattresses into the living room for sleeping.

    All the best,


  • Hi everyone, Hope all is well. I was thinking of the movie theaters in Brownsville. There was the Tiffany on Livonia and Chester which was on the style of the Peoples Cinema at Saratoga and Livonia. The Waldorf was on Church Ave and E.94. The Stadium theater was on Chester and Pitkin. The Palace who always carried the overload from the Pitkin theater was on Strauss and ENY Ave. Of course there was the pre-war priced Brandts Sutter on Sutter and Ralph featured an admission price of ten cents. Also the Hopkinson theater on Hopkinson and Pitkin which eventually became the parking lot of the East New Savings bank. I worked as an usher at the Hopkinson. The Congress was adjacent to the Unity Hospital on St. Johns Place. I consumed many hours in these establishments. Until next time the best to all of you fine folks from Brownsville. Stuart Portnoy

  • Hi Stu,

    The Peoples Cinema on Saratoga and Livonia ran a Saturday morning matinee… with two features, newsreel, shorts and cartoons. I recall the theater being so packed that I had to lay down on the stage and watch the movie.

    And I vaguely recall two theaters… side by side(?) on Stone avenue between Pitkin and Sutter. I don’t recall their names. I do recall the Congress theater located at 1561 St. Johns Place at Buffalo Avenue Brooklyn, N.Y. 11213 where on June 27, 1950 I saw Destination Moon. I walked there myself and I was only 9-years old.

    Did you ever see any of the Yiddish Shows in the Hopkinson Theater (behind the ENY Savings Bank)? My fondest memories of that theater was watching Laurel and Hardy comedies.

    The Rugby Theater on Utica Avenue between Church and Linden Blvd was another favorite. My wife’s uncle owned the Rugby Sports Shop a few doors away.

    Oh! And diagonally opposite the People’s Cinema was the Ambassador Theater. I recall them giving away dishes on Friday nights. I have photos of most of those theaters if you’d like to see them.

    Do you remember the Roller Skating Rink on St. Johns Place and Howard Avenue. I believe they were next to Goldring Motors who sold Studebakers. They used to have boxing and wrestling there… that I never saw.

    The park next to the Lowes Pitkin was called War Memorial Park although I always heard it referred to as “Kitzel Park.”

    All the Best,


  • Anyone have the recipie for Jungle Jim’s coconut whip drink?

  • Hi Norman,

    I used to love Jungle Jim’s coconut whip… and his slices of coconut too. Since I used to be a soda-jerk I’m going to take a stab at the coconut-whip recipe. Take about 4-oz. of Goya Coconut Milk and add about 4-oz. of 2% milk. Put into a blender and add a dash (squirt or two) of either vanilla or chocolate or cherry Fox’s U-Bet syrup and blend until frothy. It would be great if you had an old Hamilton Beech Malted Machine… but any old blender will do. You might want to add a bit of crushed ice to make the concoction really cold.

    Man! Is that GOOD!


    Roger Elowitz

  • I lived at 260 Amboy Street between Dumont and Blake. I am 74. Years old and have a very good memory of my Brownsville years. I know the Petsky’s and I know Roger Elowitz. I also have four brothers that lived with me on Amboy Street. If anyone like some questions answered about life on Amboy Street, I would be glad to try to answer some of your questions. I remember entering Persky mud garden and taking some set shots. The problem was that, if it rained I would sink in the mud and was not able to reach the basket.

  • Hey Marty,

    What can I say? “Welcome Aboard.” All your great reminiscences are needed here. Hey folks! Marty lived only a few hundred feet from Betsy Head!!! We still have many friends in common. Of course we went to the same schools. Great having your input here Marty.


  • Thanks Roger, great to be abroad. it’s been a great adventure and I wouldn’t change it one bit. When I went to free shift at Betsy Head I would stay the whole day for free. I remember my mom giving my neighbors my lunch to throw over the fence so I didn’t have to leave the ink well. Does anybody remember where you could sit outside the pool area where there was a filter system with air blowing out. How about walking out of the locker room into a pool of mud that was supposed to clean your feet as you entered the pool area.

  • Hey Marty,

    I most certainly remember the pool of muddy water you stepped into when entering and leaving the locker room. We always tried to avoid it. But… I also remember wearing the elastic band with the brass number tag that was your “locker” number for your clothes. What I can’t recall was if you brought your own bathing suit or they gave you one? Hmmmm!

    Much later in life I got to know the guy who ran Betsy Head, by the name of Sammy Umansky. He would tell the tale of kids who slipped un-wrapped Baby Ruth’s into the water and then went around screaming about seeing a “turd.” Man! Kids were wicked.

    Sammy, I found out was a ham radio operator and we used to talk on the radio all the time. He was quite a character but he’s gone now.

    As much as we despised “The Ink Well” we also loved it. It was a true love-hate relationship.

    BTW…. I posted the FREE website where all of Thomas Jefferson H.S.’s Aurora Yearbooks can be found dating back to 1927 but somehow I found the URL was “corrupted.” Please try again at this web address:

    If anyone has trouble using it… please contact me.


  • To Roger,
    Great web site. I still. Have my year book. I was in the concert band. Don’t know how since I never learned to play the trumpet. But my picture is there on the upper left side of page. I can’t read music but I was also in the marching band. I see they also show Tilden where my brothers went. I’ll send it to them. Thanks Marty

  • Loved reading about Brooklyn, My father and his siblings grew up there and my grandmother lived there and we visited often. A family friend was the owner of a men’s clothing store on Pitkin Ave. His first name was Abe and I just can’t recall his last name. Can anyone help?

  • Hi Sandra,

    Welcome aboard.

    Could your family friend be Abe Stark? Abe Stark Clothiers at 1514 Pitkin Avenue. If it was this Abe… he was quite a famous fellow. He advertised “a free suit to anyone who could hit his sign in the outfield of Ebbet’s Field. Only one suit was given away thanks to great fielding by the Dodgers. Stark went on to become the President of the NYC Council and later… the Brooklyn Borough President. A skating rink is named for him and also a public school. I hope this helps.


  • Hi All,

    Here’s a real find! If anyone is interested in browsing the Winter 1939-1940 Brooklyn White Pages telephone directory… look no further, just copy and paste this website in your browser



  • David_
    Terrific Website. I live in Brownsville and planned on updating my
    equipment and take pics in and around the area. An interesting
    place this Brownsville and look forward to taking pics.

    See ya

  • Dear neighbors from Brownsville. There are many books written about our Brownsville and they are indeed interesting. Makes you feel that you are still there. There is a book of the life of Rabbi Alter Landsman and the HES. Many good days and nights were spent by me growing up in Brownsville. Being a Brownsville inhabitant can never be duplicated; It was like a college course of all the things we went through. Best to all Stuart Portnoy

  • Hi Stu,

    I completely agree. Growing up in Brownsville was “special.” When I go back, either by driving through or visiting using Google Map and viewing places at street level (really very easy to do) I’ve come to learn first hand that neighborhoods “evolve.”

    I remember Brownsville’s influx of Puerto Ricans in the early 50’s. I then remember the “white flight” out of Brownsville to Flatbush or Canarsie or Staten Island. My family moved to Canarsie and much later, to Long Island. When I got married and moved to Flatbush and then New Jersey. It was much later in life that I learned about’
    redlining as a real estate term for methodically destroying a neighborhood.

    And after having been away for over 50-years now… I find the buildings we knew so well have been torn down and replaced. Of course a few still remain… The Lowe’s Pitkin still exits but is completely gutted shell and no longer a movie house. The H.E.S. physically exists but is now church institution. The organization itself moved to Canarsie where it serves a Caribbean clientele. How strange it that?

    It’s not so much a crime to see so much of the area obliterated but rather, a sad fact of necessity. Buildings age and crave maintenance. They need new roofs, new windows, new heating plants, new plumbing, new electrical wiring, new brickwork etc.. When we left, most of those buildings were already more than 50 years old. They had come to an end of their useful service lives… a fact we are loath to accept. They were taken over by poorer people who couldn’t possibly maintain them at the level of need they required. They were then either abandoned, or torched or leveled to make way for new development. I guess the land was far more valuable than the old structures.

    Brownsville is now mostly inhabited by people from the Caribbean area who have likewise expanded and moved into Canarsie and Flatbush just as we vacated those areas. Look at the business on Pitkin Avenue that now cater to those locals. Those businesses reflect the needs of their neighbors. The East New York Savings Bank is now Banco Popular. JHS 263, built in 1954, from which I was among the first graduating class, is no longer named for the war hero, Col. David Marcus, but now, for Esther Clark Hunter. PS 156 has been leveled and replaced by PS 156 The Waverly School for the Arts. PS 175 is now a special high school. The gardens across the street have been paved over for a park.

    Sadly, almost nothing stays the same. (Of course there are exceptions… take the restored Stone Avenue Library (now on renamed Mother Gaston Blvd., on the corner of Dumont Avenue), a particular favorite of mine when I was very young. Oh! I almost forgot about Betsy Head Pool… still in existence as is the elevated IRT trains on Livonia Avenue. But Thomas Jefferson High School is no more although the building still stands. Entropy has its way with all things. New people and buildings take the place of old. The only thing that lasts, for now, are our precious memories. Let’s keep ’em coming.

    Roger Elowitz

  • I just came across this site and felt so at home that I had to comment. I don’t do social media so connections from the past are a little more difficult. Living in Houston for the last 40 years means I rarely run into people from “home” (Brownsville, not NYC or just Brooklyn in general).

    I was born in Brownsville in 1947 and lived there until 1963. First at 104 Tapscott St (bet. Sutter & Blake) and later at 19 Blake Ave (between Union & Tapscott). I went to PS 156, JHS 252, Wingate HS. I saw the postings from Carole Radsprecher and Rena Uffer Berlin. I was in Mr. Mischeloff’s class for the 5th and 6th grade so I must know you both. I remember Rena’s name since Uffer is not very common but I have no recollection of a Radsprecher at all. Is it my memory or is it your married name? My other teachers in 156 were Galaminson, Tobias, Sullivan, Sussman, and Metz (from Kindergarten to 4th Grade).

    Reading through the postings, it is amazing to me how many shared memories that all of us have without many of us having ever known each other. We went to the same stores, same movie theaters, the same restaurants, although I see some names I never heard of (I remember 2 Chinese restaurants on the Sutter Ave side of Pitkin Ave about 2 blocks apart, Wuhan’s and Lan Fong’s)

    Someone mentioned the pickle store on Sutter between Howard and Grafton (a few doors down from Tony’s pizza), I believe it was called Korchin’s. The kinish man was always on the corner of Grafton St at lunch time.

    I don’t really remember going to Betsy Head Pool, we used to go to the BBC/BRC to swim and afterward go to Coney Island Joe’s for Hot Dogs (a double on a club roll with mustard and onions). I am pretty sure it was owned by a guy named Julie Schumer, who was a teacher at 156.

    I was last in Brooklyn in 1973 and when people ask me where I’m from, because they can tell that I am not a native Texan, I never say NY, I always say Brooklyn and if people don’t understand the difference I don’t bother to explain it.

    I want to thank all of you for sharing your memories and wish you a belated Happy New Year.

    Danny Greenberg

  • Hi Danny,

    Many thanks for adding your recollections. I certainly remember Tony’s Pizzeria on Sutter and Grafton. When he raised his price from 10-cents a slice to 15-cents… I thought it was so expensive I would never buy another slice. Oh! How wrong I was.

    You are six years younger than me so when I was in the sixth grade at PS 156 (Mr. Feuer) you were starting kindergarten. In those intervening years many of the school’s staff turned over.
    Often, being just three years apart in age (as was my sister) is SUBSTANTIAL. For example, I never really knew my sister’s friends or her teachers.

    I remember there was a candy store on Howard Avenue near Sutter that I used to hang out in. And I forgot about the appetizing store you mentioned on Sutter near Howard but it’s coming back thanks to your help. It’s simply amazing how many memories center around the businesses we frequented in that neighborhood.

    If you want some precious pictures of old Brownsville, there are dozens you can find for sale on E-bay if you do a search for “photographs of Brownsville, Brooklyn.” Most of them can be viewed enlarged to almost full screen with a few simple clicks.

    On Sutter Avenue I recall the Key Food supermarket between Saratoga and Tapscott Street. It was perhaps the largest supermarket in the entire Brownsville neighborhood. All the other grocery stores I recall were just mom and pop affairs.

    Across for the Key Food was notions store that sold thread and buttons and was owned by a friend’s grandparents, the Liebermans. Next to it on the left was a shoe repair shop.

    Around the corner on Saratoga Avenue near Sutter Ave. was a hobby shop (Kings?) from which I purchased many stamps for my collection. I recall the very rotund proprietor.

    And, as I recall, almost every corner of Sutter Avenue had at least one pharmacy (drug) store. How they managed to stay in business with so much competition I have no idea. Little did I realize that that competitive model would soon be followed by pizzerias.

    Between Herzel St and Strauss St on Sutter Ave there was a shoe repair shop that also blocked hats. Hat blocking was an essential service since most men of that time wore them. On the corner of Sutter and Herzel St was Toby’s Yarn Shoppe. The man who owned it gave knitting lessons to most of the women in the neighborhood.

    And on Sutter Ave between Herzel and Amboy Sts was Murray and Nat’s Barber Shop where I always got all my haircuts. It was one of the few places that had a pay phone and lots of bookies would take bets there as well as at the pay phone in Romar Pharmacy (owned by Robert Margolis) on the corner of Sutter Ave and Amboy Street. Most of his customers appeared to be people who frequented his phone booths from Shimmy’s Bar and Grill across the street… which seemed to me to be the home of “Murder Inc.” Of course, I never knew anyone in that gang or The Amboy Dukes for that matter but people swear they really existed.

    Remembering our old neighborhood strongly centers around our interactions with the local merchants. They formed the essential character of the entire neighborhood.

    Roger Elowitz (born 1941)

  • Ooops! Correction. The Key Food Supermarket was on Sutter Ave between Saratoga Ave and Leigon Street (not Tapscott). Sorry.


  • Herzel Street is “Herzl”street.Murder Inc.met at Saratoga and Livonia.I was a regular at “Pop’s Inn” which was next to the Ambassador Theatre,also at the Dumont Avenue Poolroom around the corner.I graduated Broomlyn College in 1958.Moishe,said Poolroom proprietor, said that never in his life would he have believed I would be a college graduate.When I gave him some credit for that achievement he became my fdriend for the rest of his life.I recently retired from Public Accounting where I founded and headed one of New York’s biggest accounting firms.I married Eileen Silverberg of 147 Dumont Avenue and am still friendly with Warren Mamberg of 135 Dumont Ave.I am 78 and spent much time at the H.E.S.I knew Rabbi Alter(Yes,read his book)and went a summer to Ms.Strauss’s Camp.She was the ass’t director of the HES.
    Regards to all from a Snakepit Duke.
    Marty L.

  • Hi Marty L,

    Many thanks for the corrections. Always appreciated.

    I never spent much time on Saratoga and Dumont or Livonia so that’s why I had nothing to do with Murder Inc.or the pool rooms where they hung out. I did spend many a Saturday morning in the People’s Cinema (diagonally across from the Ambassador) watching all those double features and newsreels, serials and cartoons galore. Some days the theater was so full we used to lay on the stage under the screen. That was total insanity… but we were kids so what did we know? I brought a bag lunch to the theater.

    When you graduated Brooklyn College in ’58… I graduated Thomas Jefferson H.S. in ’59 so I was starting B.C. when you were leaving. I fondly recall sitting on the steps in front of the LaGuardia Library building and playing my folk guitar… even before I attended B.C.. After a year and a half they threw me out of B.C. for “exceptional scholarship.” Seems I was having too much fun as a member of Brigham House house plan. Ultimately, I went back to B.C. at night and with now stellar grades, I re-matriculated and graduated cum laude during the day. As an elementary school teacher I went back to B.C. for my Masters and post masters credits. College was some of the very best years of my life… especially Brigham House… whose guys I am still in touch with daily. Amazingly, most of those guys became prominent dentists, lawyers and doctors. How sad it was to learn that the City’s “Open Enrollment Policy” pretty much destroyed the college’s reputation as a “top notch” school. The influx of academically under-qualified students who were much poorer, also spelled the end of the House Plan system.

    I also attended the H.E.S. summer camp for one summer at Lake Stahahe. I also remember gravely voiced Rabbi Lander. I’d like to read his book. Can you provide me with the title? I recently finished the book about Brownsville… Another Time Another Place. You may enjoy it too.

    All the Best,

    Roger Elowitz

  • Hi Roger,, The pharmacist at Sutter and Amboy was Harry Margolis. He always told me he had graduated in the same pharmacy college with my uncle Harry Portnoy who had a pharmacy on Ridgewood and Chestnut in ENY. In those days the pharmacist also operated a ice cream [parlor in the drug stlore. The Key food market on Sutter and Saratoga originally opened uinder the name of City Wide Super Market, The chubby man who operated on Saratoga and Sutter also sold pickboards for gambling. Do you remember Eppy and Eppy, next door to Murray and Nat? Also there was Froikes candy store. Sidney and Lillian Siskind s Drug store. In those days they were called drug stores. Those were the days. Stuart Portnoy

  • hi all
    i was born in brownesville i am 70 i lived on powel street, and snediker ave and linden blvd does anyone remember the push carts on blake

  • Hi Stuart,

    I always thought the pharmacist was named Robert Margolis because the name of the store was Romar Pharmacy… Ro for Robert and Mar for Margolis. When I was 15-years old I worked for him delivering small bags of pills to drug stores throughout NYC. He’d buy pills in large quantities and job them out in smaller lots. I’d take the IRT all over the city after school. I’ve just done a 1940’s White Pages lookup and can’t find Romar Pharmacy or Robert Margolis but there is certainly a Margolis, H Drugs on 425 Christopher Ave. DI2-8845. So… perhaps you are right after all! Amazing.

    I don’t recall any pharmacy that had a soda fountain but I know some surely did. I got my Bryers Dixie Cups in the candy store on Sutter Ave between Amboy and Herzl…between the deli and the bakery. I recall the Dixie Cup lids had pictures of movie stars on the ice-cream side. When I was older I took dates to Meyers Soda Fountain on Pitkin Avenue between Amboy and Hopkinson between Penrod Clothing and the Brooklyn Union Gas Company. I remember the stools in the front and the booths in the back which had juke box music selectors on the wall. We went there after the dances at the H.E.S..

    Pharmacies also used to develop film and print pictures. Of course all these things involved mixing chemicals. I used to frequent all the local pharmacies to replenish my A.C. Gilbert chemistry set chemicals when I was a pre-teen. I also recall that most drug stores had laboratory glassware in their windows that contained red or blue or green liquids. And, many stores advertised EX-LAX on big signs. EX-LAX must have been a necessary product.

    The Key Food supermarket on Sutter Avenue was perhaps the largest, if not the only supermarket in Brownsville. I never remember shopping there. For groceries we always frequented the mom and pop grocery across the street on Amboy St. run by Mr. Nichols who kept a hard-covered composition notebook where he recorded our “charges.”

    Yes! I surely remember Eppy and Eppy Mens Shoes at 181 Sutter Ave, DI2-8806. I never bought shoes from them because I was too young. Wasn’t there a Florsheim shoestore next to the post office on Sutter between Amboy and Herzl across from Murray and Nat’s barbershop? That post office moved to Bristol Street in good ol’ Brooklyn 12, NY… later to become 11212.

    Of course I recall Murray and Nat. I got my haircuts from them all the time while growing up and when I moved to Canarsie… I still went back to them to get my hair cut for my wedding when they had moved to East Flatbush.

    I’m trying to visualize the “pick boards” for gambling. Perhaps I can find them on the Internet. The guy who sold them on Saratoga Ave… also sold me model airplanes and small model engines. I eventually got a real pilot’s license in 1960 and now fly my own plane. I guess I just took after my dad who was also a recreational pilot in the 1930’s.

    Do you remember the Brooklyn Botanical Garden selling seed packets in elementary school? I used to plant those seeds in wooden cheese boxes and they would grow on my kitchen window sill. I also used those cheese boxes to break-in my model airplane engines. The box also held the glo-plug battery and a can of fuel.

    And do you recall the East New York Savings Bank doing school banking where the teachers would pass out brown envelopes for you to put your dimes, nickles and pennies to be saved. If everyone in your class had a savings account and your class had “100% banking” the bank would send a photographer to take a class picture at the end of the year.

    And how about Jahn’s Ice Cream parlor? Did you ever visit that place. I think they were on Jamaica Avenue but not in Brownsville! We used to order “The Kitchen Sink.”

    Ah! Sweet memories.

    Roger Elowitz

  • Hey Stu,

    Are these the “Pick Cards” you were referring to?