Demolition of Ebbets Field in 1960, less than a mile from where I lived on Lincoln Place. In what today seems a perverse and needlessly cruel gesture, the wrecking ball was painted to look like a baseball, and Dodger players were invited to witness the desecration.
My world as a child was limited to the block of
The Congress Theater in 1958, the year I was born. I do not know the gentleman in the photograph.
Ethnically, ours was what was euphemistically called by some a "neighborhood in transition”. Our block had secular Jews and a few Hasidic Jews (though the Hasidim mostly lived farther down Eastern Parkway), African-Americans
It is amazing to me today, in the world of “play dates”, bicycle helmets, and highly supervised activities just how free a child’s world was back then. As long as you stayed within the geographic bounds of the terrain, stayed out of trouble, and were home for supper, you could pretty much do as you pleased. This was particularly true in the summer, when school was out and the nights were long. People came out on the stoops and brought cold drinks and transistor radios. They watched each others kids. This freedom allowed us to create a world in which adults mostly did not intrude. We could ride our bikes and play in the narrow alley next to our building as long as we didn't make too much noise (there was a lady on the fourth floor who would threaten to pour boiling water on us if we got too loud). I was also warned to stay out of the subterranean passage where someone called “the Super” lived. That wasn't much of a problem because it always smelled funny down there. (This smell was later explained to me as something called “whiskey”).
The Dodgers were gone, but there was baseball everywhere. Nearby Lincoln Terrace Park had a grass field where Police Athletic League games were held, and there was a blacktop softball diamond with painted baselines where local teams played. (These were serious games played for money – the blacktop did not stop players from sliding). For the older kids there was stickball, of course. And the Mets, in the early thralls of their ineptitude, and newly installed in the Polo Grounds, were being watched on black and white rabbit-eared TV sets by former Dodger fans like my father. It was in trying to fathom my father’s world while he watched these games that my education on baseball, and more importantly – baseball history – began.
Other fragmentary memories: Playing checkers and hearing the strange sounds of Yiddish at my grandparents' apartment on Park Place; Memorial Day parades on Eastern Parkway my father chasing a mugger through the alley; taking a subway car with cane seats to the Botanic Garden; the grandeur of the war memorial, library and Brooklyn Museum; the six-sided cobblestones of Prospect Park; hearing something strange on the bakelite radio in the kitchen and telling my mother that I think someone just shot the president.
The doors of P.S. 191 were formidable indeed to this six-year-old.
Brooklyn was also the beginning of the other fascination of my life: popular music. My best friend on the block, Tommy Newsome, was obsessed about a group of singers from
In April 1965, there was really exciting news. The mother of one of my friends agreed to take a group of us to one of Murray The K’s rock & roll shows at the Fox Theater in downtown
Things were changing fast. There was the Blackout. John Lindsay was elected mayor. Tommy Newsome’s family was moving to someplace called “
The sign on the marquee tried to put the best face on things by saying only "Temporarily Closed". But the Brooklyn Fox closed in 1966 and was demolished in 1971.
Our flannel special this month is the 1915 Federal League Brooklyn Tip-Tops road jersey. It is available for $99 for a limited time.