Saturday, October 22, 2011

Who's Almost Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Abe Beame, 176 Forsyth Street

Abraham David Beame was born in London on March 20, 1906, to Polish-Jewish parents who had fled Warsaw, then part of Czarist Russia. His father, Philip Birnbaum, a Socialist revolutionary who barely escaped arrest, went directly to New York, while his mother, Esther Goldfarb Birnbaum, stopped in London to give birth and joined her husband three months later. In New York, the family name was changed to Beame. Abraham's mother, who had two more sons and a daughter, died in 1912; his father remarried and had two more children. The boy, called ''Spunky'' for his scrappiness, grew up in a crowded cold-water flat on the Lower East Side. Childhood friends said he was an outstanding student at Public School 160. At the High School of Commerce, where he graduated at the top of his class, he had perfect scores in the state Regents bookkeeping exams and showed an extraordinary ability to absorb data and memorize facts. He was always working. One early morning job was to go through tenements, waking people who had no alarm clocks. During his high school years, he worked evenings in a paper factory, studying during his dinner hour. He roller-skated to school and work to save subway fare. His father took him to Socialist party meetings, and he remembered Eugene V. Debs, who ran for president five times. At 15, he met Mary Ingerman over checkers at the University Settlement House on Eldridge Street. Seven years later, after he graduated from City College with an accounting degree in 1928, they were married. They lived in Brooklyn for the next 45 years, first in a two-family house in Crown Heights, where they raised their sons, then in a modest apartment near Prospect Park. They spent summers at rented cottages in Belle Harbor, on the Rockaways in Queens.
My rational, he was a Birnbaum before his named was changed to Beame.

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