Friday, November 30, 2007

Home Run Derby

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3 DVD's from this series were recently released. I must say we were very creative about inventing games at Tanahey Park and Coleman Oval . One of my favorites was Home Run Derby, which we adapted from this 1959 show. It was a game we would play if there were just a few of us around. The only problem was that it was a pain to chase down a ball if one of us hit a homer. I remember playing it with a stickball bat and a spalding at Tanahey where we created a baseball diamond from the 2 eastern most basketball courts. In that way we would have both a right and left field fence. It was a game I played a lot with Rich Karney. He would switch hit. In fact I believe he was our only real bona fide switch hitter, (Marvin did a little too). The homers I hit were little consolation for the one I never hit at Coleman Oval in the little league.
Note: all switch hitters mentioned here were literal, not figurative. Or is it the other way around Not that there's anything wrong with that.
About Home Run Derby
Home Run Derby was a 1959 television show held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles pitting the top sluggers of Major League Baseball against each other in 9-inning home run contests. The show was produced and hosted by actor and Hollywood Stars broadcaster Mark Scott
The rules were similar to modern home run derbies, with one notable exception. The show's rules were that if a batter did not swing at a pitch that was in the strike zone, that also constituted an out, although this rarely happened. Nine future Hall of Famers would eventually participate in the series. Art Passarella, a major league umpire who would go on to a TV acting career, served as the plate umpire. There were also umpires in the outfield to help judge fly balls that were close calls. The participants were:
Hank Aaron, Bob Allison, Ernie Banks, Ken Boyer, Bob Cerv, Rocky Colavito
Gil Hodges, Jackie Jensen, Al Kaline, Jim Lemon, Harmon Killebrew,
Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Wally Post, Frank Robinson,
Duke Snider, Dick Stuart, Gus Triandos

Aaron won the contest 6 times. Mantle played in the initial match vs Mays and I read online that he was so hung over that he whiffed on a few pitches. Later in the 6th inning, of the simulated game, he sobered enough to blast a few tape measure jobs

Out of the 19, eight are dead and tragically the host of the show, Mark Scott died 6 months after the filming of the series. He had a heart attack and was just 45 years old.

1915 Real Estate Maps: PS 177, PS 12

The map on the right encompasses the area around PS 12 shown here previously on a post about Laguardia visiting the school in 1941
It shows the density of the area at the time. There was only a tiny school yard for the school. There were many industrial plants around, including a bread factory and a brewery. Since there were so many people and so many kids there were schools all over and they were still overcrowded. Visible here is PS 147. Just another block SW and not visible would be PS 31. About 3 blocks NE would be PS 110 as well as PS 34. St. Augustines's Church (called all saint's here), famous in its role in Black History in New York, is visible The map of PS 177 shows where PS 36 was located. It was probably demolished in the construction of the Manhattan Bridge in the early 1900's. A previous post about PS 36 mentions its poor condition and its lack of light since it was in the middle of the block. PS 177, constructed I believe in 1903, has more light since it's on the corner. The architect was C.B.J. SNYDER, who was known for the care and beauty he put into school construction.

East Side West Side: A Block By Block Tour Of The Two Bridges Area

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I did this in July as a possible enhancement to Peter Dans' book talk at the Seaport Museum. The images come from Dylan Stone's online exhibit at the nypl site. It's called
Drugstore Photographs or A Trip Along the Yangtze River. I alternated those images with coordinated google earth screen captures with highlights. More on the Stone exhibit:
Conceptual artist and photographer Dylan Stone created 1999 to explore the intersection of art and documentation in an archive. The physical collection consists of wooden cabinets, snapshot photographs, archival boxes, Manhattan map segments, and acrylic paint.

As an array of visual documents, this collection has something in common with the photographs by Percy Loomis Sperr (1890-1964), commissioned by the Library in the 1920s and 1930s to document buildings that were soon to be demolished (now held in the Milstein Division of U. S. History, Local History and Genealogy). Stone's work differs from Sperr's by its focus on the comprehensive recording of only one part of the city-the buildings existing below Canal Street. Also, it is all-inclusive, rather than selective, in its coverage.
Background

Artist Dylan Stone was born in New York City in 1967, but raised and educated in London. Drugstore Photographs, or A Trip Along the Yangtze River, 1999 was featured in Greater New York: New Art in New York Now, an exhibition held at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in New York City in 2000, for which Stone provided the following description of his projected, larger plan:

On an official county map of Manhattan, I have numbered every block starting from the financial district, ending at Inwood. With this numbered map as my guide, I am photographing the entire island of Manhattan. I need between one and three rolls of film to photograph the four sides of an entire block. I take the shot film to be developed at a drugstore, which returns the processed film in an envelope advertising "A Trip Along the Yangtze River." I have developed a numbering and description system to catalogue and archive these photographs. My archive will be stored in boxes designed by a company that specializes in museum-quality storage systems. My project, at heart, is about conservation. It is a living, precious photographic archive of an entire city. Yet it contains cheaply processed photographs from a typical, nondescript Manhattan drugstore. It documents the dubious decisions of what corporate and political officials choose to conserve, or - more likely - rebuild. To some, it seems, conservation itself may be a lost idea."

Stone has since stopped working on the project, which was intended originally, in part, to show the transience of New York's urban landscape. The Library's holding-which includes his 35mm color negatives-therefore comprises the most complete expression of his goal. Now, in light of September 11th's murderous destruction of the World Trade Center and nearby buildings, the utter ordinariness of his pictures and their vernacular medium have overtaken his stated narrow, polemical goal to succeed in conveying the almost elegiac contradictions of loss, memory, and impermanence that so enticed Stone to undertake the project in the first place.

Catharine Street Market: 1850

The spelling used to be with an a instead of an e.
From the Brooklyn Genealogy site. Remembrances recorded in 1874 in the Brooklyn Eagle of the early 1800's on the Lower East Side and the Catharine Market (BEWARE OF LANGUAGE):
Brooklyn In its Infancy - Memories of Localities Now Obliterated - the River Front on Both Sides - How the March of Improvement has Transformed the Old Scenes in the River Wards of Brooklyn and New York, etc., etc.
Fifty years ago travelers crossed the Catherine Ferry in a horseboat,
then, and for years after, owned by Rodman Bowne and Brothers, who
accumulated a vast amount of real estate and left millions of dollars to their heirs. Then there were but few buildings between this point and Red Hook in
comparison to the present. Beyond the Fulton Ferry, excepting an occasional
shanty or boathouse, there was nothing but a beach, affording a very
comfortable bathing ground. What is now called the Heights was then a delightful promenade, with only a few mansions and the Eagle tavern, very near to what is now Atlantic avenue. Many resorted to this promenade to enjoy the exhibarating breezes
from the bay and harbor. There was a gradual slope from the top of the bank down to the water, and A FEW WOODEN STAIRS to ascend and descend. It was not easy to walk down where there were no steps, and the boys, in attempting to run, would go head over heels into the water. It may be that here Jack and Gill Went up the hill To get a pail of water; And Jack fell down And broke his crown, And Gill came tumbling after. Below Atlantic avenue was what might be termed a great bog meadow until
Red Hook was reached. The most prominent bulding in this locality then was a
very extensive glass blowing establishment. At a later period the Long
Island Railroad Depot was at this point, and went through Atlantic avenue the
most of the way underground. It was finally driven away by the old fogies,
whose nerves were so sensitive that they could not endure the noise of the
iron horse. They had to shut up the tunnel, thereby burying an enormous
amount of treasure which had been expended in its construction. Looking at this portion of Brooklyn now, and comparing it with what it was fifty years ago, it would seem to have risen up as by enchantment. But
what might it have been had the iron horse been permitted to stay?
East of Catherine Ferry it was less populated than west of it. Scarcely
any buildings along the shore except one tavern, which stood on quite a high
hill about midway between the ferry and Navy Yard. There were not many
streets cut through to the water. At the foot of Washington street there was
an extensive lumber yard, kept by one John Moon, whose children are still
living in Brooklyn. Adams street came next, and but few others until Navy
street was reached, running alongside the Navy Yard.
From Fulton Ferry to what is now called the City Hall there was not one
building where there are now ten.
THE FINEST MANSION IN THE STREET
was the residence of Henry Waring, Esq. (the founder of Waring's
Storehouses), in close proximity to which there was a beautiful burying
ground. This was in the vicinity of what is now called Clinton Street.
Where the Court House now stands was a very pleasant resort known as
"Duflon's Garden." Between this point and the Jamaica turnpike (where Fulton
street then ended), was another familiar resort, known as the Black Horse
Tavern, or half way house to Jamaica. Not far beyond this, at the junction of
the Jamaica turnpike and Flatbush road, was a large nursery and magnificent
garden, kept by one Parmentier.
=To the right of the garden an ordinary country road passed over Prospect
Hill and on to Flatbush. From the left side of Parmentier's the Jamaica
turnpike went through Bedford now almost "lost and swallowed up" in the heart
of Brooklyn. Stages then left Fulton Ferry about three times a week for
Flatbush, Flatlands, Canarsie, etc.
From Catherine Ferry, up Main street to Sands, and up Sands to the
Wallabout Bridge, buildings were anything but numerous, and mostly frame. On
one side of this bridge was a large pond full of timber, seasoning for Uncle
Sam to build his ships.
Crossing the Wallabout Bridge, which was at the head of Sands street, an
ordinary country road wound its way to the Cross Roads and Bushwick.
A great portion of the land in the vicinity of the Navy Yard, now so
compactly built on, was then sal(t?) meadow, and there is now an old house in
Adelphi street, near Park avenue, that they stood on the edge of the
Wallabout, and from which its occupants frequently went in a "boat" out to
the Cob Dock. (The word "sal" was at the end of the column)
From the bridge, along the East River, to Grand street, there was only a
footpath and some half dozen farm houses. From the Ferry up Grand street,
until Bushwick avenue was reached, the houses were few and far between.
THE OLD DUTCH CHURCH
(Meeker's) was then in Bushwick avenue' and is now hid away among the
hundreds of surrounding habitations.
Adjacent to what is now called Broadway, E. D., there was a long row of
Lombardy poplars, doubtless remembered by many of our readers from which many
of the farmers started for New York in skiffs with milk, carrying it from
door to door with a yoke on their shoulders. Milkmen also went from Red Hook
to New York, crossing Buttermilk Channel, and sometimes they would get upset
from their skiffs in the ice during the Winter season.

NURSERY MAID'S SONG
Then it was that the nursery maid's sang to the little 'uns:
Milkman, Milkman, Where have you been?
Buttermilk Channel Up to my chin
Spilled my milk And spoiled my clothes
And got a great icicle Hanging to my nose.
Crossing to New York and passing along the river front and the Seventh
and Fourth Wards, the contrast is most remarkable. Then from Corlaer's Hook
to Pike street the river front was mostly used for shipbuilding. Bergh's yard
was at the foot of Scammel street.
The water front then was at Water street, and all the slips from
Gouverneur to Roosevelt street, viz: Rutgers, Pike, Market and James, run up
to this street.From the foot of Walnut street (now Jackson) there was a ferry,
principally used for getting to the Navy Yard.
Walnut street in those days and for years after was almost a
pandemonium----worse, if needs be, than the well known Five Points.
Banker street (now Madison) with its one story shanties, occupied
promiscuously by whites and blacks, was not far behind Walnut street.
Georges street (now Market), was another emanation from the lower regions.
Lombardy street (now Monroe), lined with Lombardy poplars, was a
comparatively quiet street. At Jefferson street it was intercepted by
country bars. Old Colonel Rutgers at that time occupied about two blocks,
his mansion being in the centre, and not far from where Monroe street was in
later years cut through and continued on to Corlaer's Hook. On the opposite
side of the Rutger's mansion a splendid row of brick buildings was put up,
but they and the mansion house have wonderfully retrograded. The millionares
have gone to the Fifth avenue, and the mansion and grounds are now used as a
large cooperage.
OPPOSITE COL. RUTGERS MANSION
was another old relic, being a large brick dwelling about fifty feet square,
surrounded by spacious grounds, belonging to and occupied by Mr.Remsen. This,
some thirty years since, had to succumb to progress, and in its stead stands
Remsen Row. On the corner of Clinton and Harman (now East Broaway), was a very high
hill, which remained some years until the street was widened; and this
street, as also Henry and Madison streets, became the most quiet and retired
in the city. In fact some of the oldest and most respectable merchants
resided in these streets. Such, for instance, as Josiah Macy, of the firm of
Josiah Macy & Sons, Samuel Judd, (now Samuel Judd's Sons;Preserved Fish,
(said to have been picked up in a boat when a boy), once President of the
Tradesmen's Bank; Jas. W. Barker, dry good merchant, once Know Nothing
candidate for Mayor.The venerable Dr. Maclay, the eminent Baptist divine, and Wm. B. Maclay, M. C. Madison Holmes, Sr., of the firm of Holmes, Hawley & Co., once President of the Tradesmen's Bank, also.
(In case any of the comments in the following transcript are
upsetting to some people, as they were to me. please remember
that this is from a newspaper that was published in 1874.)
OLD JOE HOXIE
Joseph Hoxie, who was considerably mixed up in politics, and subsequently
moved over to this city; also Wm E. Hoxie, his brother, once Captain of the
packet ship North America, lost on Sandy Hook beach, and afterward Captain of
the ship bearing his name.G. W. Brown, so long known as the keeper of a hotel in Water street, near Wall.John J. Cisco, who once kept a clothing store on the corner of Market and Cherry street, and not many years since was connected with the United States Treasury, now a Wall street banker.Cherry and Water streets, then below Catherine, were comfortable streets to live in, but now what are they?
Catherine street was a great thoroughfare from the Bowery to the ferry. A
large market at its foot and almost every commodity being sold in this
street, made it almost impassable on Saturday nights. Sunday morning was a
gala day at this market for the "darkies" who came over from the Wallabout in
skiffs to dispose of their perquisites. The market was open till nine
o'clock and they carried on quite a traffic in birds, berries, herbs, clams,
crabs, eels etc., beside having a jolly time "wid dem New York niggers."
BOTH MARKETS AT THIS TIME were frame buildings, the lower one being about half occupied by fishermen and hucksers. Some years after they were replaced by brick ones, and an exclusive fish market built over the water. Then, the butchers, with very few exceptions, butchered there own meat, and had their own slaughter house
in the Tenth and Thirteenth Wards. But they have all disappeared, the
wonderful increase in population and the more fastidious ideas of the people
demanded their removal. Some of the most prominent butchers were the
Varians, Winships, Andersons and Valentines. A meat shop could not be found
at almost every corner, and those in want had to go to market. There were
not more than a half dozen markets on the east side of the city and it was
quite a journey for some people to go to them. The East River Savings Bank (now in Chambers street) was first located in Cherry street, at the residence of John Leveridge, one of the old time and much respected lawyers.Goodrich (the well known Peter Parley), fifty years ago kept a bookstore on the corner of Water street and Peck Slip, and it is only a few years since the old Dutch building was taken down, and a large tenement house erected in its place. Old Johnny Pease, better known as the introducer of "PEASE'S HOARHOUND CANDY," once kept a fruit and candy store in Division street, opposite Chrystie, and was noted for his fine sprue, beer and mead. One of his sons is now living, and is of the firm of Pease & Murphy, boiler makers.
CONGRESS HALL where they could have the soft side of a plank for three cents per night, and it is said one of the most prominent citizens of the Seventh Ward once took these Congressmen to a clothing store and then to the poll, in order to help
his cause.East Broadway was somewhat noted for physicians, such as Cockroft, Miner,
Lindsey, Baldwin and James R. Wood (a student of the celebrateed Dr. Mott),
the latter now a surgeon in the Bellevue Hospital. Now, we will suppose that that honest old Dutch groceryman, who once kept store in Fulton street, and never put sand in his sugar, or mixed old beans with new, should return (having been away fifty years), and be lifted to the top of the BRIDGE TOWER and "view the landscape o'er"; the forest of masts; the magnificent domes; the floating palaces upon the water; those inimitable public buldings on Blackwell's, Ward's and Randall's Islands; the innumerable number of cars and the multitudes that crowd them, and hear those screaching devils (the tugs) coursing to and fro; would he not be very likely to go mad and exclaim, "Mein Got, vat a countree and vat a peebles-----vy, te berry tuyvel moost pe in em!"

Catherine Street Eel Market

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From the Big Apple Comic Collection by Patrick Reynolds. There was once an active eel market on Catherine Slip in the 1800's. Black citizens engaged in a form of minstrelsy to earn a living and perhaps a free meal. The slide show is padded with an excerpt from an 1889 nytimes article about the area:
A Rodgers and Hart work:
Hawks and crows do lots of things,
but the canary only sings.
She is a courtesan on wings-
So I've heard.
Eagles and storks are twice as strong.
All the canary knows is song.
But the canary gets along-
Guilded bird!

REFRAIN

Sing for your supper,
And you'll get breakfast.
Songbirds always eat
If their song is sweet to hear.
Sing for your luncheon,
And you'll get dinner.
Dine with wine of choice,
If romance is in your voice.
I heard from a wise canary
Trilling makes a fellow willing,
So, little swallow, swallow now.
Now is the time to
Sing for your supper,
And you'll get breakfast.
Songbirds are not dumb,
They don't buy a crumb
Of bread,
It's said.
So sing and you'll be fed.

Your Show Of Shows

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Mel Tolkin, the head writer for "Your Show of Shows" died this week. I mentioned the greatness of Steve Allen and his ensemble as it related to us Baby Boom KVers. How could I have forgotten Sid Caesar's show and his amazing ensemble of writers. From Mel's obituary:
Mel Tolkin, the head writer for Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows," which defined the art of sketch comedy during television's Golden Age, has died. He was 94.
Tolkin died of heart failure on Monday at his Century City home, said his son, writer-director Michael Tolkin.

Tolkin spent nearly a half-century in show business, beginning in the 1930s when he wrote revues and played piano in Montreal jazz clubs. He wrote comedy for Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye and Danny Thomas and in the 1970s was a writer and story editor for "All in the Family."

For Caesar, he contributed to the 1949 TV variety show "The Admiral Broadway Revue," and wrote for "Your Show of Shows" from 1950-54 - including its theme song - and for "Caesar's Hour," which ran from 1954-57.

Sketches from the shows, many pairing Caesar and Imogene Coca, became classics. Caesar and company captured new generations of fans with the 1973 theatrical compilation film "10 From Your Show of Shows" and more recent DVD releases.

"I guess he was most proud of his professionalism," his son said Tuesday. "Of course, he was very proud of his association with Caesar and his association with the birth of the Golden Age of television."

Tolkin "was a tremendous asset," Caesar, 85, told the Los Angeles Times. "He was a very talented man, and he worked really hard."

As head writer on "Your Show of Shows," Tolkin worked with the likes of Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Larry Gelbart, whose later credits include "M-A-S-H" and "Tootsie.'"

Caesar's team worked in a pressure cooker atmosphere, creating material for the live, 90-minute show and trying to satisfy the notoriously difficult star. The experience inspired Simon's play "Laughter on the 23rd Floor," and was fictionalized in the 1982 movie "My Favorite Year."

There was "a creative anger in the room," Tolkin told the Times in 1995. "We had an acoustic ceiling. People would throw their pencils at it in frustration. One time I counted 39 pencils hanging from the ceiling."

Tolkin "absolutely had a brushstroke of genius," Brooks told the paper. "He was never Bob Hope contemporary. ... It was always the human condition, what happened in the human heart, and he taught me that."

Tolkin received several Emmy nominations and shared an Emmy with several colleagues in 1967 for "The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special."

He was born Samuel Tolchinsky in the Ukraine in 1913; the family moved to Montreal when he was in his teens. He studied accounting after high school but also wrote musical revues, using the name Mel Tolkin so his parents wouldn't know.

Primary School 36: 1896


Continuing with the topic of prejudiced attitudes towards immigrant children
in the late 19th and early twentieth century nyc public schools

The school on the left is not Primary School 36, but PS 35. The buildings looked very similar. Primary School 35 was on Monroe Street, between Market and Pike. The Primary category was for lower elementary age kids. Grammar Schools were for older kids. I'm not sure where the break occurred.
This comes from a 1896 special school edition of the Tribune Newspaper. Note the references to "they didn't know about sanitary conditions....they were too ignorant..."

PS 177: Circa 1906

I believe Mary Brady was PS 177's first principal. This is part of a NYTimes' article from 1906. The main thrust here was juvenile delinquency among immigrant children. It's filled remarkably with prejudiced thinking and presented so casually. This was very prevalent at the time. Even Jacob Riis, an immigrant rights's advocate of the era, sprinkled his writing with outlandish racism.
In article's about schoolchildren the German kids' were looked upon as the models while Italians and Jews were incorrigible and unwashed respectively

PS 177: Circa 1956-7


Sometime in 2000 (that's the time stamp on this image which I just found today on an archived CD), I had the occasion to visit the nyc public school archives located at Columbia Teacher's College. A really nice guy named David Ment was the curator of the "Special Collections." I was getting resources for teachers doing research projects to fulfill the requirements of a grant. I told David that I went to 177 and lo and behold he comes back with a couple of prize pictures. Evidently the board of ed had photographers come around to document special events. Wouldn't you know it it was of my class? I think it's from the 4th grade. The very much beloved Beverly Feuer was the teacher.
Note: The KV boys were given the task of coming of with the imagined conversation that was occurring between Bob Simmons on the left and Steve Needle on the right. This is a good one (others were good, but not suitable for publication) that came from Bob
Simmons: "Nancy Gentile has real breasts, just look!" Needle: "Maybe, but we have a math test coming up--long division is more important!"

Little Flower Visits Madison Street


379 Madison to be exact in 1939, to attend a celebration for the opening of the Vladeck Projects. My father was one of the first occupants. It was held at the alma mater of many KVers, Corlear's Junior High School 12.
The picture of the school was taken in 1920

A Pigeon Eye View Of Knickerbocker Village

Taken in 1933 from a rooftop on Catherine and Water Street looking NE towards Monroe Street at Knickerbocker Village construction site. Visible is St. Joseph
Church and school. Photographer: Percy Loomis Sperr from the nypl digital collection.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

G&S Sports: From An Interview in 2002

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For KV kids and adults the place to go for sporting goods was either Haber's or G&S Sports. Haber's had the added bonus of selling school stationery supplies. Haber's has been gone for a long time, but G & S is still going strong after 70 years. Now it specializes in boxing supplies sold mail order and also via the internet. Len Zerling, now in charge, also manages boxers. This is part of a longer interview done as a school research project in 2002.
Information from the G&S website
G & S Sporting Goods was established in 1937 by a former boxer, Izzy Zerling, and has continued to be operated by the same family. G & S specializes in boxing equipment but also carries a full line of sporting goods for baseball, basketball, football, soccer, sneakers and team uniforms.
Today, G & S still takes pride in our equipment and guarantees customer satisfaction. We use quality leathers, the best nylon stitching and rubber in making our boxing gear. We try to bring our customers the best in boxing equipment possible by investing in product quality and not in advertising or self-promotion.

Note: Haber's was almost bought by the Kuperstein conglomerate.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Hebrew "Horsemen" Of Seward Park High

Among them is a FB named Babits. Sounds like Seth's, aka Salvator, older brother Irving who grew to be 6'6"
To the left is a picture of Marshall Goldberg (October 25, 1917 – April 3, 2006) He was an American football running back with the Chicago Cardinals in the National Football League. At the University of Pittsburgh under coach Jock Sutherland, he led his team to back-to-back national championships in 1936 and 1937. Goldberg's 1936 team won the Rose Bowl, and the 1937 Panthers earned the National Collegiate Championship. He was finished third in the 1937 Heisman Trophy voting, and was runner-up for the 1938 Heisman Trophy, and a two-time All-American (1937 & 1938).

Chinatown 3: Transfiguration Church Part 2


A picture that combines Jim Naureckas' songline map segment of Mott Street with a google map street view. More on Transfiguration Church from the Villager
Father Raymond Nobiletti of Transfiguration Church cherished his meetings with the pope, who told the priest of his unfulfilled longing to visit China.
Chinatown father met the pope several times Italian priest prays in Chinese
By Divya Watal
Father Raymond Nobiletti lends true meaning to the word “catholic.”

Nobiletti, 62, may be of Sicilian-American stock, but that hasn’t stopped him from pastoring an all-Chinese congregation for the last 14 years in Chinatown. He speaks Cantonese fluently and is currently studying Mandarin, although, he concedes woefully, he doesn’t speak Italian.

“Catholic means universal and inclusive,” says Nobiletti, a dapper man with a warm smile and affable manner. “I won’t say this is a Chinese church – we call it ‘The Church of Immigrants.’ ”

Nobiletti leads the Church of the Transfiguration on 29 Mott St. ensconced deep within Chinatown. The Georgian-style, gray-stone church with a conspicuous green bell tower is a designated New York City landmark, and it stands silently and elegantly amid the colorful buzz of Chinese shops and restaurants.

“I believe we have a spirit of being open,” he says, “like this pope.” Nobiletti points to a picture of Pope John Paul II at the entrance of the church. A sign below the picture announces a special commemorative mass in his honor. This mass, like all other weekly masses, took place a few days later in both Chinese and English.

“To include rather than exclude – that’s what he [Pope John Paul] wanted,” Nobiletti continues.

He met the pope on several occasions, but the one meeting he cherishes took place in the Vatican over a decade ago. After celebrating mass with the pope in his private chapel – “an honor in itself” – Nobiletti spoke to him about his favorite topic: China.

“He asked a lot of questions – he was anxious to find out who you were,” Nobiletti says in a dream-like voice. He seems enthralled by the memory of the visit. “He had never been to China – it was an unfulfilled goal.”

Nobiletti himself lived for 15 years in Hong Kong, studying Chinese at the University of Hong Kong. He was sent there by the Maryknoll Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America after being ordained as a priest in 1969. He returned to the United States in 1984 and assumed various administrative positions within the Society.

On April Fool’s Day in 1991, he joined the Church of the Transfiguration.

“Chinatown was quite different back then,” Nobiletti recalls. “There were gang problems, social problems, people shooting each other in the streets … no one wanted to come down here.”

After Mayor Giuliani swept the city clean, the situation in his parish improved, he says, but the church constantly receives new immigrants who bring with them complex problems of assimilation. Chinatown’s current wave of immigrants, for instance, come from the Fujian province of China.

“Some [Chinese immigrants] are illegal,” he explains. “They need medical help, legal help – they trust the church. They’re industrious and loyal, and Catholic-wise, they’re very devout people.”

Although he could not say what percentage of Chinatown’s residents are Catholic, Nobiletti adds that 32 young adults were baptized by the church this past year.

Transfiguration’s congregation on a typical Sunday comprises about 800 to 900 people, Nobiletti estimates, although he adds that “the crowd is quite fluid.” Not all come from Chinatown – some come from Queens, Brooklyn and even New Jersey. Many families visit Chinatown on weekends for the food, lively atmosphere and bargain shopping, and they often stop by for mass, he says.

However, the church hasn’t fully recovered from the events of Sept. 11, 2001, although “things are picking up,” Nobiletti says.

“It was a horror here,” he says. “The place started to close down after 9/11.” The streets of Chinatown were blocked, there were no working phones for four months, there was a pervasive stench, and people even needed passports to move around the neighborhood, he recalls with discomfort.

But none of this drove him away from the parish.

“I couldn’t leave after that,” he says. “In fact, I had even more reason to stay.”

Nobiletti runs a small school, attached to the church, for about 270 children in grades 1 through 8. Transfiguration also runs a kindergarten located in Confucius Plaza for about 125 children. In addition, every weekend about 900 children come to the church to study Chinese. He is helped by two religious sisters, one Jesuit priest in residence, about 30 teachers, an administrative assistant and an army of volunteers, he says.

“There are so many churches in Lower Manhattan,” he says. “Sicilian, Genoan, Irish, et cetera – they’re all exclusive.

“There are too many churches and not enough parishioners,” he says, breaking into warm laughter.

So, instead of creating a hundred different houses of worship for a hundred different groups of people, having one inclusive, “Catholic” church not only saves space, but also promotes unity, according to Nobiletti’s logic.

“I like it here,” he says of his all-encompassing Church of Immigrants, “and I’m staying here.”

Chinatown 2: Transfiguration Church Part 1

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The above soundtrack comes from a Discovery Atlas Podcast. I added images to make it a video
about Transfiguration:
When the Lutherans arrived in New York in the eighteenth century they attended a Dutch language Lutheran church first founded in 1664. In 1749 the German element, with a majority of nearly eight to one, was not successful in having alternate services delivered in German. They separated and established "Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church." In 1794 English-speaking descendants of these German speaking Lutherans were also unsuccessful in having alternate sermons in English. In 1801 the English speakers: "..bought a plot of ground 83 feet by 85 feet on the corner of Mott and Cross (now Park) Streets, and erected thereon a large, commodious, and substantial stone church, 55 feet in width and 76 feet in length, walls 30 feet in thickness, with galleries, at a cost of $15,000." The elevation of the site suggested the name "English Lutheran Church Zion."

After more than six years of debate about language and doctrine the English Lutheran Church congregation passed the following resolution: "Wheras many difficulties attend the upholding of the Lutheran religion among us, and wheras, that in as much as the doctrine and government of the Episcopal Church is so nearly allied to the Lutheran, and also on account of the present embarrassment of the finances of this Church... that (it) become a parish of the Protestant Episcopal Church." On Thursday, March 22, 1810, the Church was consecrated according to the rites and ceremonies of the Protestant Episcopal Church by the Right Rev. Benjamin Moore and renamed "Zion Protestant Episcopal Church."

The arrival of countless immigrant ships carrying Europe's poor made the area around Zion Church a tragedy. Charles Dickens in 1841 thus described its horrors: "near the Tombs; Worth, Baxter, and Park Streets came together making five corners or points of varying sharpness, hence the name "Five Points." It was an unwholesome district supplied with a few rickety buildings, and thickly populated with human beings of every age, color and condition." Owing to the changing character of the neighborhood, and to removal of many Protestants families to the upper part of the City, ... the permanent resuscitation of the parish in that locality was a hopeless undertaking." On January 28th, 1853, Zion Protestant Episcopal Church was sold to the Right Rev. John Hughes, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of New York. The Parish of the Transfiguration moved into the church building on Mott Street and the spirit of it's Cuban Pastor Father Felix Varela, continued to serve the Irish, Italian and now the Chinese immigrant populations in New York. We celebrate the uninterrupted Christian serve of this "Church of Immigrants.

Chinatown 1

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I discovered a gold mine of "blogging raw material" at the Discovery Channel Atlas podcast site. This piece wasn't raw. Here's part 1 of it.
There's a KV family connection, one of my favorite classmates, to the ownership of this store, but I have to get some exact verification on it.
From a 2006 article in the Villager:
The new look of the store at 32 Mott St., above. The new owners no longer have the space’s outdoor sign, seen below last summer.
Pain and hope as new Chinatown gift shop opens
By Hemmy So

Amid the bustle of Chinatown shops, a new face popped up two weeks ago in a historic location. Once home to 32 Mott Street General Store, the namesake address now houses Good Fortune Gifts, Inc.

The new store shares the same skeleton as its predecessor but not much else. Vestiges from the store’s 113-year long history remain, such as the brown wooden shelves and cabinetry and elaborately carved arch decorating the counter. But the new owners, who include the building’s landlord, have changed the wallpaper, added more lights and stripped the hardwood floors.

New merchandise fills the store’s shelves. Above eye level, windowed cabinets display numerous boxed Barbie Doll-sized action figures. A Jackie Chan action figure stands next to Wonder Woman as army and police toy figures protect them from all sides. Across the store, cartoon figures like Yogi Bear and Archie offer wide grins from inside their paper and plastic boxes. Trinkets such as painted ceramic eggs, small crystalline balls enshrining decorative scenes and ceramic animal figures are lined up carefully for presentation in the glass case that greets customers at the door.

“People in the community and who had been in store [before], have been marveling at what happened,” said manager and co-owner Danny Kung. “[The remodeling] gave the place a lot of life. It really brings out its natural beauty, from what it was maybe when it was first opened up.”

But for the previous store’s owner, Paul Lee, the new opening only causes pain.

“It’s not a good thing. It’s very, very painful,” Lee said. “To lose the store — that was my family’s business for 113 years. It’s very shameful, very painful.”

Opened in 1891 by Lee’s grandfather, Lee Lok, 32 Mott Street General Store was originally called Quong Yuen Shing & Company. During that time, the store not only sold general merchandise like medicinal herbs, sundries and silk brocade for clothing, but also conducted import and export business. Importing goods from China, the store distributed such goods to Chinatowns in major cities including Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Because immigration laws forbade Chinese men to bring their wives to America, a bachelor’s society formed and Quong Yuen Shing & Company became a social center. As society became more modernized, the store went through its own evolution. In its next incarnation under Lee Lok’s son Peter Lee, Quong Yuen Shing & Company became a restaurant wholesaler. Still engaging in the import business, the store sold imported goods such as non-perishable foods and cookware.

In the mid-1970s, Paul Lee took the reins from his father, although the two vacillated in the role of head proprietor until Paul Lee finally took over in the mid-1980s. Under his ownership, Quong Yuen Shing & Company became 32 Mott Street General Store, selling Asian giftware and knickknacks. Lee also began selling bus tickets to Atlantic City and services to local residents, such as handling bill payments for seniors without checking accounts.

But after 9/11, Lee’s business suffered. The store never even got close to earning half its original revenue, Lee said.

Lee attributed the losses to a drastic reduction in tourism, the security-related closing of Park Row near Police Headquarters and fewer parking spots available to civilian vehicles. Lee is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit intended to reopen the street.

After Lee fell behind on his rent payments, building owners May Yee and her family had Lee evicted by city marshals at the end of last year. Lee, who lives next door to his former store, is now trying to negotiate the return of his personal belongings from the store. As for the store sign that hung above the doorway, the Museum of Chinese in the Americas now holds it for safekeeping.

After members of the Transfiguration Church across the street from 32 Mott Street General Store had recovered the sign from the trash, a community member informed the museum about the find.

“It’s in good hands now at the museum,” said Lamgen Leon, the museum’s chief of operations and facilities. Though MoCA is keeping the sign at its storage warehouse, the museum hopes to someday use it for a future exhibit, he said.

Lee declined to comment about the sign’s recovery.

As for Good Fortune Gifts, Kung feels optimistic about the store’s future. “I don’t think we’ll be millionaires doing this line of business, but just enough to pay the bills, put food on the table,” he said.

Kung said the store will sell mostly tourist items and Asian wares, but he also wants to be flexible. “We’ll adapt to the needs of what people are interested in purchasing,” he said.

Lee hasn’t yet been inside the new store and doubts he ever will, even though he lives just next door.

“I don’t look in there,” he said. “It’s so painful.”

Little Flower

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Bear with me on this LaGuardia obsession. I'll try to justify it in terms of KV since: the project was built during his term of office, he was a "hybrid" Italian/Jew and KV was pretty much that way in those days, the LaGuardia Homes are nearby and they sponsored a Little Flower team in the Two Bridges Little League and "Gdd Bless Em," it was a team that LMRC could generally handle. Finally just like there is nostalgia for the old neighborhood there is nostalgia for a mayor that was "of the people".Anyway, I just remembered the LaGuardia-Wagner Archves site and it has great stuff, audio and loads of pictures. I combined parts of each here. Here's a tune from the show Fiorello:

Mr. X, may we ask you a question?
It's amazing, is it not,
That the city pays you slightly less than fifty bucks a week,
Yet you've purchased a private yacht?

I am positive your Honor must be joking!
Any working man can do what I have done.
For a month or two I simply gave up smoking,
And I put my extra pennies one by one

Into a little tin box,
A little tin box
That a little tin key unlocks.
There is nothing unorthodox
About a little tin box.
In a little tin box.
A little tin box
That a little tin key unlocks.
There is honor and purity,
Lots of security,
In a little tin box.

Mr. Y, we've been told you don't feel well,
And we know you've lost your voice,
But we wonder how you managed on the salary you make
To acquire a new Rolls-Royce.

You're implyin' I'm a crook and I say no, sir!
There is nothin' in my past I care to hide.
I been takin' emply bottles to the grocer
And each nickel that I got was put aside
(That he got was put aside)

Into a little tin box,
A little tin box
That a little tin key unlocks.
There is nothing unorthodox
About a little tin box.
In a little tin box,
A little tin box
There's a cushion for life's rude shocks.
There is faith, hope and charity,
Hard-won prosperity,
In a little tin box.

Mr. Z, you're a junior official
And your income's rather low,
Yet you've kept a dozen women in the very best hotels,
Would you kindly explain how so?

I can see your Honor doesn't pull his punches,
And it looks a trifle fishy, I'll admit.
But for one whole week I went without my lunches,
And it mounted up, your Honor, bit by bit.
(Up your Honor, bit by bit.)

It's just a little tin box,
A little tin box
That a little tin key unlocks.
There is nothing unorthodox
About a little tin box.
In a little tin box,
A little tin box
All a-glitter with blue-chip stocks.
There is something delectable,
Almost respectable,
In a little tin box,
In a little tin box.

Our Ecumenical Council

I'm very happy that many of our Italian "brothers" have discovered this site. It gives us a real ecumenical feel, which is what growing up in Knickerbocker Village was all about. Maybe LMRC can play St. Joe and Transfiguration again. But hopefully they'll leave Tommy Red and Vinny Adimondo off the active roster. Here's an archival pic of the Fradella clan and a note from Anthony:
Hello David, My brother sent me the site yesterday and I took a look. It brought back so many memories as I had many, many friends who lived in Knickerbocker Village. How I loved "the neighborhood". I live in Scottsdale ,Arizona now. You did a terrific job on that website. TONY

Battling One's Way From Yorkville To Knickerbocker

Legend had it that Seth Babits (already memorialized in a Who's Who of KV posting) was a golden gloves boxer. Now we have proof. It seems he fought under an assumed names, i.e. Salvator, Sal, Sol. I dug these up in a nytimes archive search A reaction from his son (a pacifist of repute and peace advisor):
You know my father told me on many occasions that he had fought in the Golden Gloves but he also told me so many other stories that I had serious doubts about what was true and what was not. Anyway it's relieving to hear that some of what he told me is the documentable truth. God bless the old battler. According to family legend, in his last fight he knocked his opponent unconscious and left the arena thinking he had killed him.

He felt terribly guilty and decided that night never to fight again. The other boxer pulled through but my father hung up his gloves and from that day forth wore only mittens.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LaGuardia: "I Can Run On a Laundry Ticket And Beat These Bums"

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The audio is from a documentary narrated by Edward R. Murrow

Fiorello LaGuardia And the Essex Street Market

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The market was a shopping destination for many in Knickerbocker Village
Essex Street Market began in 1940 as part an effort by Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia to find a new place for street merchants to do business. At the time, pushcarts and vendors crowded the city streets, making it difficult for police and fire vehicles to easily pass. To ease congestion, Mayor LaGuardia created the Essex Street Market and several other indoor retail markets throughout the city.
In the early years, Essex Street Market’s identity was shaped by the Lower East Side’s Jewish and Italian immigrants, who served as both the merchants and the customers. Local residents got personalized service as they gathered to browse a diverse collection of goods and sundries including flowers, meats, clothing and fresh produce.
Beyond its intended function as a shopping destination, the Market also developed into a social environment where residents came to connect and share ideas.
The images on the slide show come from the Essex Street Market site. The information above as well. I added some ambient market sounds. The market after years of decline is making a bit of a comeback.

Fiorello LaGuardia And Jack Kirby


Jack Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg. He lived down on the LES. In fact he lived at 76 Suffolk Street, the same tenement that I lived in before my family moved to Knickerbocker Village. (For some reason Knickerbocker is mentioned on one of the Kirby sites but I can't find any direct connection between Jack and the projects). Jack is considered one of the all time greats of comic book artists. He's referred to as King Kirby. Here's the story of Fiorello and Jack from goodcomics
When Captain America #1 came out in 1941, America was not yet at war with Nazi Germany. The time period was an awkward one in American history, as there were many who felt that America should not get involved in the European conflict. But Captain America #1 certainly showed a different side, with the new hero, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, punching out Hitler on the cover. The success of #1 was followed up with a similar anti-Hitler cover for #2… The book was a massive sales success, but it certainly rankled Nazi sympathizers, and resulted in the Captain America creative team getting into a bit of trouble. Captain America co-creator, Joe Simon, detailed a particularly rough period in his great memoir, The Comic Book Makers, which he wrote with his son, Jim Simon:
Hitler was a marvelous foil; a ranting maniac. It was difficult to place him in the standard story line of the cunning, reasoning villains who invariably outfoxed the heroes throughout the entire story before being ultimately defeated at the very end. No matter how hard we tried to make him a threatening force, Adolph invariably wound up as a buffoon - a clown. Evidently, this infuriated a lot of Nazi sympathizers.
There was a substantial population of anti-war activists in the country. “American Firsters” and other non-interventionist groups were well-organized. Then there was the German American Bund. They were all over the place, heavily financed and effective in spewing their propaganda of hate; a fifth column of Americans following the Third Reich party line. They organized pseudo-military training camps such as ‘Camp Siegried’ in Yaphank, Long Island and held huge rallies in such places as Madison Square Garden in New York. Our irreverent treatment of their Feuhrer infuriated them. We were inundated with a torrent of raging hate mail and vicious, obscene telephone calls. The theme was “death to the Jews.” At first we were inclined to laugh off their threats, but then, people in the office reported seeing menacing-looking groups of strange men in front of the building on Forty Second Street and some of the employees were fearful of leaving the office for lunch. Finally, we reported the threats to the police department. The result was a police guard on regular shifts patrolling the halls and office. No sooner than the men in blue arrived than the woman at the telephone switchboard signaled me excitedly. ‘There’s a man on the phone says he’s Mayor LaGuardia,’ she stammered, ‘He wants to speak to the editor of Captain America Comics.’ I was incredulous as I picked up the phone, but there was no mistaking the shrill voice. ‘You boys over there are doing a good job, ‘ the voice squeaked, ‘The City of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’I thanked him. Fiorello LaGuardia, ‘The Little Flower,’ was known as an avid reader of comics who dramatized the comic strips on radio during the newspaper strikes so that the kids could keep up-to-date on their favorite characters.

Fiorello LaGuardia And Knickerbocker Village: May 6, 1934


I knew if I looked hard enough I would find a connection. From a police memorial page
"Patrolman Rasmussen was shot and killed during a robbery in progress on Oliver Street. Two suspects had just robbed a market and were fleeing to their getaway car when the store owner threw a milk bottle through the window to draw attention. As Patrolman Rasmussen rounded the corner from Cherry Street he encountered one of the suspects. The suspect opened fire, striking Patrolman in the abdomen, chest and chin.
Although mortally wounded, Patrolman Rasmussen was able to return fire, but did not strike the suspect. The man fled in his getaway car but was apprehended a short time later. Patrolman Rasmussen was transported to Beekman Street Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds. The suspect was convicted of his murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison, and is now deceased. Patrolman Rasmussen received a posthumous Honorable Mention from the Chief's Office. He had been with the agency for just over eight years and was survived by his wife and family."
The article (the pics displayed are only an edit) describes LaGuardia's reaction. He made the police chief return from a weekend trip to the Kentucky Derby to take charge of the investigation.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Just About This Day In Knickerbocker Village History: 11/29/1965, What's Cooking At P.S. 177


I found this in a search of the nytimes' archives. You know what's amazing about this? You would be hard pressed to see this wonderful kind of work done in today's nyc public schools. You would have be doing a unit on narrative account (writing and reading).
If you had the kids reading cookbooks, each book would have to be leveled and the knowledge they gained would have to be shared out with their partners before presented to the group. Then if you got that far you would have to have a "canned" publishing party. You'd have to be careful not to spend too much time on this because you would have to march on to your next topic (be on task) and make sure your bulletin boards are up to date. On second thought there wouldn't be a prayer. You'd be doing test prep all day and then examining the data.

It's Very Nice To Go Traveling, But It's So Much Nicer, Yes It's So Much Nicer, To Come Home

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I'm working on my old laptop (and it's slow as..) as I wait for repair on main squeeze. Yet another hard drive I've wrecked. Anyway I found this Sinatra gem looking for a slide show movie home. I found it with some pictures that I newly discovered on the "official" knickerbocker village site The site, along with the knickerbocker wiki site (all it does is concentrate on the Bonanno crew) doesn't do justice to the topic. This line from it bothers me:
"During the nineteen forties and fifties, the complex was home to Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and executed. It would seem that their activities were orchestrated from their apartment."
That makes it sound like their were regularly scheduled meetings or something. And does it imply with a lead up to that statement that "Many of the early residents were socialists and the complex was a hotbed of tenant activism at the time," that their neighbors were involved? I don't know maybe I'm just sensitive (or in a pissy mood) but
I believe and many others believe that the evidence linking Ethel to the case was weak and compromised and there was absolutely no need for her to be executed and two young boys, contemporaries of mine and my friends, to grow up without a mother. In fact her existence on death row was being used to try to get Julius to make some late confession. Well apologies for spoiling the joyfulness of this slide show and the great Sammy Cahn lyrics. Maybe I'll revisit this post later:

It's very nice to go trav'ling
To Paris London and Rome
It's oh so nice to go trav'ling
But it's so much nicer, yes it's so much nicer, to come home

It's very nice to just wander
The camel route to Iraq
It's oh so nice to just wander
But it's so much nicer, yes it's oh so nice, to wander back

The mam'selles and frauleins, and the senoritas are sweet
But they can't compete 'cause they just don't have
What the models have, on Madison Ave.

It's very nice to be footloose
With just a toothbrush and comb
It's oh so nice to be footloose
But your heart starts singin' when your homeward wingin' across the foam

And you know your fate is
Where the Empire State is
All you contemplate is
The view from Miss Liberty's dome

It's very nice to go trav'ling
But it's oh so nice to come home

You will find the maiden and the gay muchachas are rare
But they can't compare with that sexy line
That parades each day at Sunset and Vine

It's quite the life to play gypsy
And roam as Gipsies will roam
It's quite the life to play gypsy
But your heart starts singin' when your homeward wingin' across the foam

And the Hudson River
Makes you start to quiver
Like the latest flivver
That's simply dripin' with crome

It's very nice to go trav'ling
But it's oh so nice to come home


Wow: I don't think it would be so nice now
"to just wander
The camel route to Iraq"



Note the last slides have to do with this:
On May 31, 2007, Lieutenant Che Yuk Chan who is assigned to the Knickerbocker Village Security Staff by Cambridge Security Inc. was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by both Knickerbocker Management and Cambridge Security.

This award was presented in appreciation for the lieutenant’s actions on Saturday May 5, 2007. On this date a tenant turned in a woman’s handbag which contained credit cards, keys and nine hundred dollars in cash. The only identification in the bag was a slip for a doctor’s appointment with the woman’s name on it, the lieutenant called the doctor’s office and explained the situation leaving his name and number. The following day a much relieved owner of the purse called to claim her property which was returned intact.

The lieutenant’s actions exemplify the quality of personnel that Knickerbocker Village has strived to provide it’s residents. In addition to the certificate Lieutenant Chan was awarded a hundred dollars from both Knickerbocker Village and Cambridge Security.

Making the presentation were Mr. Vincent Callagy Building Manager, Mr. Steven Stanley Assistant Manager, as well as Mr. Stanley Czwakiel Vice President of Cambridge Security and Mr. Winston Murray Account Manager of Cambridge Security.

The Last Day Of The Automat

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The automat "thread" reminded me of this great piece by David Isay at soundportraits. It was done in 1991. I added images to accompany it. BTW, that's Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart in the first few. A bonus, it came with a transcript:
DAVID ISAY: I got the call at about 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon: "They're closing down the Horn & Hardart tonight, on the sly. They don't want any kind of landmark fuss. Don't tell anyone I told you."

I got to the Automat about a half hour later, and everything seemed normal in the huge art deco cafeteria on 42nd Street. The tables were crowded with older men and women nursing cups of coffee, reading the paper, or talking. But then: a sound from the back, where the ancient Automat machines have stood for decades.

(Drilling.)

It was true. Workmen had just begun to dismantle these stainless steel machines, cracking them apart from the wall with chisels and hammers, screwing off the marble-covered turn knobs, pulling out the tiny black-on-white signs beside each compartment: "kaiser roll with jelly," "pot of baked beans," "bologna sandwich." This was indeed to be the last night at the country's last Automat. None of the customers had any idea.

You know they're closing the Horn & Hardart tonight?

CUSTOMER: Tonight? They can't do that, they've been here for over 50 years. You're springing this on me all of the sudden. Today's the final…? You're not kidding.

CUSTOMER: Oh, no. We love it.

CUSTOMER: Oh, am I happy I was here to have a cup of coffee. I'll miss it so much. I'm 97 years old. I never miss to come here. It hurts. What happened? Tell me.

CUSTOMER: Forever? Unbelievable. I came here 75 years ago. And now they're closing?

CUSTOMER: I was brought up in the Automat. My mother brought me here. I was a hard kid to feed at home. I liked to go out to eat. No matter how good she was a cook, I liked coming to the Automat.

CUSTOMER: My mother used to take me for allergy shots. After the pain of the shots, the thing that I most looked forward to was to go up and get the chicken pot pie from the Automat.

CUSTOMER: When I was a young actress, I used to go to the Automats on Broadway. And a lot of stars would come in before show time. Before plays went on they would come into the Automat. And, oh, it was terrific! The chocolate cream pie, the pumpkin pie, and the wonderful vegetables. It was terrific, the Automat.

CUSTOMER: The Automat was the closest thing to home cooking. Really.

CUSTOMER: There were so many, I don't know how many. How many were there? I don't know. Everywhere they were! Everywhere! Everywhere!

CUSTOMER: Downtown, Wall Street area. Every place, yeah.

CUSTOMER: Before we'd come to work, we'd stop in, have a cup of coffee, a sandwich. It was real nice. And you always see something, some characters or something. It was beautiful.

CUSTOMER: This was years ago a poor man's paradise. People didn't have too much money years ago. People could come in here and ate like a rich person. They could eat, relax, enjoy, meet their people. It was nice.

CUSTOMER: You come in relax, read a paper, something you can't do in no fast food chain now, because they got to get you in and out, and that's the name of the game now, you know? And maybe that's one of the things that ruined the Automat too, you know? Maybe too many people came in, stayed too long. Must be some reason why they're closing up.

CUSTOMER: If they close this place where can we go?

CUSTOMER: Where's a poor man gonna go? Where's the average person gonna go?

CUSTOMER: They've taken a home away from people that love it so much. Makes me cry. So many years...

ISAY: At six o'clock the manager locked up the two large revolving doors at the front of the Automat, a couple of hours before usual closing time. Customers arriving for dinner pushed at the door, which budged a bit, but wouldn't turn, shrugged their shoulders and walked away. The manager put up a small sign: "Closed for Alterations." Those few, who were still left sitting at the tables inside, read, chatted, and lingered over a last coffee, pouring what spilled over onto their tray back into their cups to make it last, just a little longer.

The Modern Automat

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I found this clip and the accompanying text on youtube:
American cities are filled with fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Subway. As a result, modern restaurant entrepreneurs have to think creatively to separate themselves from the pack. Bamn!, a new restaurant in New York City, has found a way to stand out, by reverting back to the past.

new hot spot has emerged in New York -- Bamn! -- a restaurant without tables or chairs. Instead, this 55 square meter restaurant features a wall of coin-operated window boxes full of all sorts of tasty treats, from grilled cheese sandwiches to corn dogs.

Tucked in between Japanese restaurants and tattoo parlors, Bamn! is a modern twist on the popular 20th century automat. David Leong and Nobu Nguyen, the founders of Bamn!, say that they want a new generation of New Yorkers to experience the historic automat.

But Bamn! is no relic from the past. With hot pink walls, neon signs and Asian and American cuisine, Bamn! is every bit a new establishment. Bamn!'s contemporary decorations and finger-friendly menu make the restaurant unique, even in a city as colorful as New York.

The entrepreneurs place great value on efficiency, by shortening the amount of time it takes for customers to purchase a meal.

The founders of Bamn! have ensured that the dishes they sell in the coin operated compartments will not taste like they come from a vending machine. Leong and Nobu hired Kevin Reilly, the executive chef at the Water Club in New York, as their consulting chef. Reilly says it was their commitment to use restaurant-quality ingredients that convinced him to join the Bamn! team.

As consumer demands evolve in the 21st century, it is difficult to predict the direction of the restaurant industry. However, Bamn!'s success and the returning popularity of the automat suggests that the "fast food" industry may need to look to the past in order to remain competitive.

Happy Birthday: Automat Style


Jack and Yetta Karney's son celebrates his 60th birthday tomorrow (the 27th). May he have many more. Rich tried to convince his wife to join him for his favorite meal (fish cakes) at the Automat on Park Row, but no sale. Besides it's long gone. Our "KV" Automat was in the basement of City Hall Bowling. The guys had a ritual lunch there every Saturday after league bowling in the early 1960's. Now it's all part of the J&R complex. Maybe this fantasy lunch above will suffice.
An Auto-Birthday Card from Marty B (who had evidently forgotten Rich's predeliction for fish cakes):
Happy birthday Rich. The big six oh. You're lookin' good kid. Many happy returns. And as far as the automat goes - along with the beans and mac and cheese which were superb, didn't I notice you scarfing down a salisbury steak, mashed potato plate smothered in gravy with a cup of cocoa that you got from pressing the mane of the lion fountain at the side where the dishes came out of their little display case. Yes I think that was you. Happy B-day.

Some Automat History:
An Automat is a fast food restaurant where simple foods and drink are served by coin-operated and bill-operated vending machines. Originally, the machines took only nickels but modern automat vending machines accept bills. In the original format, a cashier would sit in a change booth in the center of the restaurant, behind a wide marble counter with five to eight rounded depressions in it. She would serve many customers at once, taking their money from the depressions and dropping nickels in its place. The diner would insert the required number of coins and then slide open a window to remove the meal, which was generally wrapped in waxed paper. The machines were filled from the kitchen behind. They are still very common in The Netherlands, but outside of there, few exist. The last one closed in the United States in 1991. However in 2006, an automat opened in New York City's East Village.

Unlike modern vending machines, food was served on real crockery with metal utensils, and drinks in glasses.

Inspired by the Quisiana Automat in Berlin, the first automat in the U.S. was opened June 12, 1902 at 818 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia by Horn & Hardart. The automat was brought to New York City in 1912 and gradually became part of popular culture in northern industrial cities. Horn & Hardart was the most prominent automat chain.

The format was threatened by the growth of suburbs and the rise of fast food restaurants catering to cars (with their drive-thru windows) in the 1950s; by the 1970s their remaining appeal was strictly nostalgic. Another contributing factor to their demise was undoubtedly the inflation of the 1960s and 70s, making the food too expensive to be bought conveniently with coins, and in a time before bill acceptors commonly appeared on vending equipment.

Another form of the Automat was used on some passenger trains, the last United States example being an Automat car on Amtrak's short-lived service to Janesville, Wisconsin in 2001. These were limited by mechanical problems, since the machines weren't necessarily intended for the bumpy ride on the rails, and state laws that prohibited alcoholic beverages from being sold by a machine.
The automat food format is still popular in some other countries. For example, FEBO stores in The Netherlands, where the automat is called Automatiek, provide a variety of burgers, sandwiches, and krokets in vending machines that are back-loaded from a kitchen.