Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Ma

She must have been waiting for Buzz and Todd.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Birmingham Alley

above from skyshaper
More on Birmingham Alley, which no longer exists but which at one time linked Henry and Madison Street. Shown above is the corner of Madison and Mechanic's Alley (formerly Birmingham)
from Bowery Boogie
Mechanics Alley is one of the skinniest streets in NYC, still running east to west between Cherry and Henry Streets, and north to south between Pike and Market Streets. The section of the alley between Henry and Madison Streets was known as Birmingham Alley. The original Mechanics Alley ran only between Cherry and Monroe Streets directly under the Manhattan Bridge, not just south of it (as it is today, on the path of the old Birmingham Alley). The original Mechanics Alley disappeared after 1905 when the Manhattan Bridge was constructed. There was a Mechanics Place behind 359 Rivington Street between Lewis and Goerck Streets.
Builders who worked as artisans, artificers, craftsmen and tradesmen were once called mechanics. Because they had the skills to build new settlements, mechanics who immigrated to the New World in the 17th century were promised free ship passage, free land, and exemptions from taxes and military service. Carpenters, bricklayers, masons, glaziers, painters and plasterers came to NYC and received great wages as they built and rebuilt the constantly growing city.
on the name origin of Birmingham Alley? The English city name origin:
There are many theories and we will never really know where it came from. However, most people argue that the name 'Birmingham' comes from "Beorma inga ham", "meaning farmstead of the sons (or descendants) of Beorma"
Beorma variously means, in Old English, "fermented", "head of beer", "yeasty" or "frothy",[4] from which the modern English words barm and barmy are derived.[5] The assertion that Beorma was the founder of Birmingham arose from a post-war challenge to the way Anglo-Saxon place-names had been constructed. It was not until 1940 that Eilert Ekwall noted that.

John Monforte, Dean Of Sing Sing's Prisoners

Evidently John, who was in the rogue's gallery of the previous post, returned to the free world in 1921.

Early NYC Arrestees

from the nytimes of 8/14/11
Arrested 1900
I did a search to see if any of these came from the "crime laden" Fourth Ward.
Only possible hit was John Alexander, who in 1920 was living in a flophouse at 100 Bowery. His ancestry was from Russia.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Eric Ferrara's New Guide Book

I confess prejudice. I know Eric and have worked with him.  He's a great guy, a genuine lower east sider and a tireless chronicler of its history. I urge you to support his great work. A lot of info here on KV and its environs.
My amazon review:
While there is no shortage of books about the Mafia this one is unique in that it is laid out in a block by block fashion. It also gives information about individuals who are often never mentioned in books that tell about the "all-stars" like Luciano, Capone, etc. These are the guys who did the "real work" that allowed others to lead their more luxurious lives. Told in a clear, lively and informative fashion that deals with facts and not sensationalism. For another excellent source see Joe Bruno's book.

Is There Poetry At The Current Walhalla Hall Site?

The Poetry Of Walhalla Hall

from Olde love and lavender & other verses

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Walhalla Hall

This is a 1879 map. The Hall is located on Orchard between Hester and Grand. Visible is the pre-Hester Street PS 42 and the foundry site which would later be the Eldridge street synagogue. The foundry site may have been owned by George Bruce

Emma Mistrusts Labor Leader Persky: 1895

This refers to the lockout mentioned in the previous article. Walhalla Hall, on 52 Orchard Street is mentioned.

Tailors Locked Out: 1895

Tailor Lock Out
There is mention here of the fire from the previous post which created
excess labor which would favor the contractors (bosses). Kudos to Abraham Wolf of 106 Attorney Street who honored the contract. A meeting of the locked out tailors took place at Walhalla Hall.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pelham Street Fire: 1895

Pelham St Fire 1895                                                                                                   
Evidently this section of the 7th Ward was considered the heart of the sweat shop district at the time and employed many "Hebrews." The fire was, like many others, a junior precursor to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. There was also some suspicion of arson. The fire spread from the rear of 7 Pelham to the Fay Soap Factory on Cherry Street

Benjamin Boobis: 1918

Boobis had the jewelry store at 45 Catherine as early as 1918 and he lived in the building as well. His neighbor was a 12 year old Thomas Simmons. I wonder whether that was the same Tom who helped coach LMRC?

45 Catherine Street: 1929

The name was Boobis, not Boovis. Notice the reference to the drug store next door. There's another article in the times' archive about a 1924 robbery. I guess he had enough because in 1942 Mr. Boovis set up shop out on Liberty Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Catherine Street: 1941, Showing Gogel's, Rich's Pharmacy and The Fruit Market

Catherine Street: 1938

< Just south of  the site of Gogol's and the Brokowsky Fruit Market. from the mcny collection

Catherine Street: 1941

The view from approximately 60 Catherine Street looking SE towards Monroe Street.
from the mcny collection

Mariner's Church History: 1895

Mariner's Church 1895
Learned something new here. Lettish is a term for natives of Latvia. Also note the multi-ethnic nature of the area due to its proximity to sailors frequenting and living in the area.

Mariner's Church 1915: Close Up View 2

from the mcny collection

Mariner's Church 1915: Close Up View 1

Looks like a motorized bike. A sign saying, "Reading Room," is visible on the church.

Mariner's Church 1915, Another View

This time we're looking west from Madison towards Catherine. from the mcny collection

Mariner's Church 1915

The view is from Madison Street looking towards Catherine. from the mcny collection

As Promised: Pelham Street History, part 2

This is the soap factory visible in this map

As Promised: Pelham Street History

The name derives from the Pell family

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Those Lazy, Crazy, Hazy Days Of Summer

with lyrics by Charles Tobias. #5 in 1963. What an awful song.
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer
Just fill your basket full of sandwiches and weenies
Then lock the house up, now you're set
And on the beach you'll see the girls in their bikinis
As cute as ever but they never get 'em wet
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You'll wish that summer could always be here
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer
Don't hafta tell a girl and fella about a drive-in
Or some romantic movie seen
Right from the moment that those lovers start arrivin'
You'll see more kissin' in the cars than on the screen
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You'll wish that summer could always be here
You'll wish that summer could always be here
You'll wish that summer could always be here

The Tobias Brothers On Monroe Street, Map View

Note the soap factory on Pelham Street. More on that to come.

The Tobias Brothers On Monroe Street

 The Tobias brothers included Harry, George and Charles. In 1900 they lived at 100 Monroe Street which was between Pelham and Rutgers Street.
About Harry Tobias
Lyricist Harry Tobias was born in New York City on September 11, 1895. He grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts with brothers Charles and Henry, also songwriters.
Harry began writing songs in 1911, at the age of 16. As he recalled in Henry Tobias’ autobiography, “Music in My Heart and Borscht in My Blood”, “I wrote a little poem and then read an article, ‘Write a Song and Make a Fortune’”. Harry paid the advertising sheet music publishers $25 to add a melody and produce 200 copies of sheet music. The song was entitled “National Sports” and was the beginning of a 7 decade career.
Harry’s first major hits came in 1916 with the songs “Take Me to My Alabam” and “That Girl of Mine”. Enlisting in the US Air Force in 1917, he spent time in World War I shouting song lyrics into megaphones to entertain the troops. Returning to the States after the war, Harry joined his brother Charles’ music publishing company and the two brothers began collaborating.
In 1929, Tobias went to Hollywood and from that time through the 1940’s, worked for studios musicals. His filmography includes such hits as Blondie of the Follies, Dizzy Dames, The Old Homestead, Daniel Boone, Trail Dust, One Rainy Afternoon, Criminal Lawyer, Sing While You’re Able, Sweetheart of the Navy, Meet the Boyfriend, Roll Along Cowboy, Knight of the Plains, Pride of the West, The Girl From Rio, Rancho Grande, Carolina Moon, Let’s Go Collegiate, She Has What it Takes, Sensations of 1945, Two Girls and a Sailor, I’ll Remember April and Moonrise.
The Harry Tobias catalog includes the standards “Miss You”, “Sweet and Lovely”, “It’s a Lonesome Old Town”, “Sail Along, Silv’ry Moon”, “No Regrets”, “I’ll Keep the Lovelight Burning”, “At Your Command”, “I’m Sorry Dear”, “In God We Trust”, “Oo-oo Ernest”, “Lost and Found”, “Wait for Me, Mary”, “The Girl From Rio”, “I’m Gonna Get You”, “That Girl of Mine”, “The Daughter of Peggy O’Neill”, “Go to Sleepy, Little Baby”, “Brother”, “The Bowling Song”, “Take Me to Alabam’”, “When It’s Harvest Time”, “Somebody Loves You”, “That Girl of Mine”, “Wild Honey”, “The Broken Record”, “Love Is All”, “Rolleo Rolling Along”, “Girl of My Dreams”, “Thy Will Be Done”, “Star of Hope”, “I Want You to Want Me”, “Take Me Back to Those Wide Open Spaces”, “So Divine” and “Oh, Bella Mia”.
Throughout his career, Harry collaborated chiefly with Charles and later with Henry. He also worked with his son, Elliot Tobais, Will Dillon, Gus Arnheim, Neil Moret, Jules Lamare, Phil Boutelje, Percy Wenrich, Al Sherman, Harry Barris, Jean Schwartz and Jack Stern.
Harry Tobias died in St. Louis, Missouri on December 15, 1994
About Nettie Rosenthal who was a Triangle Shirtwaist fire victim

30 Rutgers Street: 1942, Jackie Mason's Father

30 Rutgers Street: 1930

Who's Almost Who In KV History: Jackie Mason

an excerpt from a 1987 issue of People Magazine
On a stage, Mason seems to shed weight and worry. And years, although the question of his age is touchy; he insists that he's 51 in spite of good evidence that he is 55. There is a protective conspiracy in the family to hide Jackie's birth date. His brother, Rabbi Bernard Maza, who is quite willing to say that Jackie was, from youth, a comic and an intellectual nonentity in the family ("You didn't know he existed") is unwilling to reveal Jackie's age. "We don't believe in numbers," the rabbi explains. "It's bad luck to count your blessings by numbers. But getting back to Jackie's comedy. Now we think he's a genius. Then...?"
Jackie Mason was born Jacob Maza to a rabbi who came from Minsk and eventually settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. "My father, Eli, and my father's father, and my father's father's father—as far back as anyone can remember, all rabbis," says Jackie. There were two younger sisters (Gail and Evelyn) in addition to three brothers (Joseph, Gabriel and Bernard). "My three brothers all became rabbis, and I became a rabbi. I had no choice. It was unheard of to think of anything else. But I knew, from the time I'm 12, I had to plot to get out of this, because this is not my calling. I am not so sure about God, but I knew for certain that I worshipped the young girls, and this could get me into big trouble."
Jackie's gift for satire appeared relatively late in his life. "He was always the most serious person at the table," says his sister-in-law Malka Maza. "He only wanted to talk politics." Says Jackie: "My brothers were all brilliant and I was a shmuck. Every time I opened my mouth they told me to shut up. So I hung out with guys on the corner—Sol, Nat, Irving. Compared to them I was a genius."

84 Madison Street History

It makes sense that James Mazzarese entered from the rear fire escape, because if the Mazzarese family (according to the 1930 census) was still living at 9 Monroe then the adjoining back yards made access possible.

84 Madison Street

The address is the pre-KV home of reporter Shirley Lew, who wrote this recent article about summer memories. It includes a mention of Savoia Bakery.  Shirley now resides in New Jersey. Like KV "brother" Paul Levine, she was a former editor of the Seward World.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

211 Madison Street Today And In 1996

Located in the basement
At the ER Lounge, we comfort and take care of you with live entertainment every Thursday through Saturday, billiards, live bands and a growing list of top drinks/shots/shooters. Dance the night away while the live band performs the newest Latin hits on Saturday or come for Happy Hour on Thursday from 8pm-10pm and Friday from 5pm-10pm. Whether a dj or live band, the music caters to all. Celebrate your birthday there: parties of 10 or more get a complimentary bottle of Moet and a cake.
an excerpt from a 1996 nytimes story
For Poor, Life 'Trapped in a Cage'
On a corner of Clinton near Delancey, up a narrow stairway between a pawnshop and a Dominican restaurant, Ana Nunez and her three children live in a single, illegal room that suffocates their dreams of a future.
It is a $350-a-month rectangle, with no sink and no toilet, that throbs at night with the restaurant's merengue music. Ms. Nunez's teen-agers, Kenny and Wanda, split a bunk bed, while she squeezes onto a single bed with little Katarin, a pudgy 4-year-old with tight braids. Out the door and down the linoleum-lined hallway is the tiny bathroom they share with five strangers.
In this cramped room on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Nunezes suffer the consequences of their poverty in ways that eerily recall the pathologies of turn-of-the-century tenements. Last winter, tuberculosis traveled from Kenny to his mother and younger sisters in a chain of infection as inevitable as their bickering. Inevitable, too, is their fear of fire: life in 120 square feet means the gas stove must stand perilously close to their beds.
This so-called apartment, this life, preys on them all, but most of all on Kenny, who, at 18, is a restless young man in a female household. Ask him what bothers him most and he flatly states that he has only one way to get some privacy: ''I close my eyes.'' Partly because he had nowhere to study, much less to think, Kenny dropped out of school last year, a fact that his mother found herself too depressed to lament. She changed the subject instead.
''At night,'' she said, ''when the mice crawl over us in bed, it feels even more crowded.''
Across the city, tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of poor families like the Nunezes live in miserable, crowded conditions from which they can see no way out. But they suffer privately, captives of a hidden housing crisis that has been masked for years by the more public crisis of homelessness.

211 Madison Street: 1904

R.I.P. Bobby "Fish" Billelo

I had the pleasure of meeting Bobby at Sloan Kettering this past December. He was holding court in the waiting area. We struck up a conversation and when I told him I grew up on the Lower East Side he asked, "Where?" When I described the area he said, "Oh, the Fourth Ward." I knew immediately then that he was the Real McCoy. He said he visited there often because of his fish and restaurant business and that he knew some of the neighborhood old timers.
an excerpt from the nydaily news:
Bobby "Fish" Bilello, 54, was loved in Brooklyn by his friends, family and business associates.
He sleeps with the fishes now but the Fish tale continues.
When they filed into Scarpaci Funeral Home in Bensonhurst last week for the wake of Bobby "Fish" Bilello, 54, two elderly Italian women approached his bereaved wife, Connie, and offered condolences.
Then the two ladies in black walked with old-fashioned solemnity to the casket where the once 470-pound fish wholesaler from Brooklyn lay in repose at a trim 260, dressed in a black Fila track suit, Pink Floyd T-shirt, with black baseball cap with the name B. Fish and a swordfish emblazoned on the crown. They looked down at a bunch of La Hoya cigars scattered around his coffin, knelt to say a prayer, and the strains of "My Way," by Frank Sinatra - triggered by the knee rest - began playing from hidden speakers.
"And now/The end is near/And so I face/The final curtain..."
"That's Fish," says Downtown Ronnie Califano, one of Fish's best friends, smoothing his custom made Louis Roth suit. "He's still making people laugh from his coffin. Old ladies come in, mascara like mud slides, and when they kneel they get blasted with Sinatra, Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson. They look all around, astonished, like "Who's blaring the radio in the parking lot?' But that's just Fish's way of saying, 'Hey, I'm dead but I ain't gone, baby. The Fish tale continues.'"
The funeral parlor was a floral aquarium of bouquets designed like giant tunas, swordfish, lobsters. A 6-foot cigar leaned on one end of the casket.