Mount Vernon on a Clear Cold Winter Day 2-10-06

Mount Vernon on a Clear Cold Winter Day


Richard J. Garfunkel

February 19, 2006


Saturday I played in my regular tennis game in the bubble over the municipal courts at Memorial Field. I had been playing there for a number of years now as our game meandered down from the courts at Harbor Island, Mamaroneck. It was a cold, dark, and dank day, and though I thought I would take some photos of my old home town, a snow squall erupted with a sudden sense of ferocity and it convinced me that discretion was the better part of valor and I would therefore head home.


Today, I played in Yonkers, and though the day was still pretty chilly the light and air was pristine. Since I had thoughts about looking for some fabric in Mount Vernon I decided to take a drive around my old haunts.


After getting back to Tuckahoe Road, I found the New York State Thruway south entrance and in short order I was exiting at Mile Square Road and Central Avenue and heading east on the Cross County Parkway to Mount Vernon’s first exit at Fleetwood Avenue. Once off the parkway I headed over to W. Grand, North Terrace and North High Streets. I had never been on N. High Street and I had remembered that my friend Mike Rosenblum mentioned that it was near his boyhood home. I also knew that I would like to find the old Charles Nichols Junior High School. I had never really had seen Nichols except from the AB Davis’s ball field. I found Nichols easily and was pretty amazed on how impressive it was as a building. Funny that I had never seen it before with all the times I had been in and around Davis and Gramatan Avenue. After taking a few pictures I headed over to West Lincoln and onto Gramatan Avenue.


The City of Mount Vernon is rebuilding the old circle that sat upon the intersection of Gramatan and Lincoln. Once called the MacArthur Circle, it featured a large statue of a soldier from the Spanish-American War. It’s really an incredible engineering effort. There had been a circle there when we went to high school in the early 1960’s and there is evidence of it in an old post card I have showing Hartley Park and the Columbus School. I ventured over to the Columbus School, built in 1908, and took pictures of the now re-located monument and the unfinished work on the new circle.


In 1994 I had photographed the monument when it was in its then new location on the grounds of Hartley Park. Of course then, across the street from that corner of the park, was a little shopping area where the locally famous Knopf’s Delicatessen had once existed. In fact, after Mr. Knopf died, and his deli counter men Fred and Ted decided to retire, our old 1963 classmate Mike Viggiano took it over. Well not only is Knopf’s gone, but the whole row of stores burned down a few years ago. The wrecker’s ball has reduced the remains to a pile of rubble. Oh how I can still remember those great roast beef wedges inundated with coleslaw and smothered with Russian dressing for 75 cents. I can still conjure up their taste.


I wanted next to go over to Prospect Avenue and my old homestead, so facing south on Gramatan, I drove to Sidney, made a left and headed over to Archer Avenue where I made a right turn. Mount Vernon is a city of one-way streets. Archer was a good cut through to Prospect and since I knew someone who lived on Archer I was happy to go down that old street and take some pictures. Its always fun passing old homes and expecting someone you once knew to pop out and say hello. No such luck today.


Once on Prospect I drove up and down its sloping curves to my old red brick home at number 500. I lived there from 1945 until about 1966, when my parents moved out while I was in college. I never really had a chance to say a proper goodbye. When I came home they were gone and many memories were carted away by the Salvation Army trucks. But I’ve been back on that street, countless times. So it was up and down Sycamore, where I took some more pictures, of the Perleman, O’Hara and Bromley homes, and then I made may way across Lincoln to Sheridan and down to the old Traphagen Junior High School. The old school was replaced by a section of the Cross County Parkway and a new school was erected many years ago at the foot of old Ehrbar and Ellwood Avenues. I drove into the old parking lot and then parked on where our old “no-longer there” basketball courts used to be located. The old retaining wall was still there holding up the backyards of the houses that faced Sheridan. The fence on the top of the wall and the shrubs are still there that used to screen off the noise and the continuous basketball action that dominated that little square macadam for decades. I was there many times with the likes of John van Bargen, Bob Trupin, Make Ansbro, Ken Ackerman, Richie Shapiro, Jack Bromley, Warren Adis, Bobby Danetz, Charlie Columbus, Cary Fields, Barry Berkule, Mal Gissen, Ronnie Rothstein, Mickey Fuchs, and many others. There were some great games as the heyday of Jewish Mount Vernon basketball disappeared from view. There are only now ghostly shadows of a youth that has been lived and the noiseless echoes of times past.


But of course the contingents from AB Davis High School never produced the countless stars like the McCray and Williams Brothers, Earl Tatum, Bill Pleas, and the newest sensation Ben Gordon.


Well another day of memories passed into the portals of history. As Thomas Wolfe said, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” ‘Tis true, it is never really the same. The streets, houses and trees sort of look the familiar. They age a bit differently, but, all in all, it’s the people that come and go that really count. What is life really to us but people? There was loneliness in my car. It was the stark reality that time has passed and that the events of life won’t be repeated. We pass through once, and as we do we come into contact with all sorts of people and happenstance. But like my many trips back to the memories of times past a short drive home brought me back to the reality of today.



8 thoughts on “Mount Vernon on a Clear Cold Winter Day 2-10-06

  1. Thanks for the memories…A.B. Davis High Class of 1960. My Father owned the Rosewall deli on Prospect across from the train station and befoe then, Epstein & Epsteins at Columbus and Elliott St. across from Minnie S. Graham Elementary and Jr. High. I lived behind the store and went to school there.

    • Barry I do remember the famous “Epstein’s Deli” on Columbus Ave, I remember the pickle wagon would come every week(don’t remember what day), but us kids that lived on Dunham Ave would make sure we were at the Deli, we would get a free pickle, from the back of the horse drawn cart with the barrels of pickles!!!!! Great childhood memories!!!

  2. Barry remember when we were kids in elemetry school one of our parents would drive us to the movies and then wed got to yours fathers deli on prospect ave he would feed us not charging us a dime yes ur father Irving was quite a guy the kids i remember going there with us we benjamin gold freddie wiser charlie hanin you and me those were the good old days then all you guys went to ab davis and i went to edison i met the love of my life gerrie after high school i worked for uncle sid then i went in the marine corp i was in the a/c and refrigeration business went i inlisted in the marines uncle sid watched my business

  3. I too with longing remember the unbelievable roast beef wedges. I have tried on a number of occasions to make my own. I use the rarest roast beef available Ang Cole slaw and thick Russian dressing. They are probably as good as Knoffs, but I think it was the time we spent with our friends at AN Davis. I wrote and had published a short story called “Saddle Shoes” and I also referenced Thoma Wolfe’s famous novel “You Can’t Go Home Again”. I was living in Asheville, NC the birthplace and home of Wolfe. Today we get hoagies!!. I believe Ritchie Shapiro died very young. I still talk once or twice a year with Dennis Plaut. Recently I was walking down 5th Avenue in NYC, and I litterely bumped into Richard Roundtree. In my junior year I spent a lot of time with guys and guys from New Rochelle High. Anyway I see that you published this more than 10 years ago. I was googling something about My. Vernon and your article popped up. I hope this note finds you and your family in good health.

    • Yes, I loved Knopfs-I played a lot of basketball with Richie, knew many of his friends and he did die young. Barry Berkule who played with him died a few years ago. Yes, I have written a lot about MV and those old pieces are on this site. rjg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *