The Last Time to the Big Ball Park in the Bronx and a Drive to Coney Island- 8-1708

The Last Time at the Big Ball Park in
the Bronx

and a

Drive to Coney


Richard J. Garfunkel

August 17, 2008

This past Saturday, August 16, 2008, Linda, Dana I headed
off to the old Yankee Stadium for our last visit. We expected to be accompanied
by Jon, but he was held up in Boston
for an emergency weekend work at his firm. C’est la vie! We headed down to the
“Big Ballpark in the Bronx,” as the late great
Mel Allen used to say. It is sort of hard to believe that Mel, “The Voice of
the Yankees,” was let go before the 1964 World Series. That ignominious event
coincided with the decline of America’s
greatest sport’s franchise. He made his way back to the Yankees in 1976, after
a thirteen year exile, under the aegis of George Steinbrenner, and until his
death in 1996 he was again part of the Yankee family. Funny when Mel came back
the Yankees returned to respectability with their first pennant since his

As usual we always go south to the Stadium by the Bronx River Parkway to the Mosholu Parkway in
the Bronx to the Grand Concourse. The road was
first conceived in 1870, as a means of connecting Manhattan
to the parkway in the northern Bronx.
Construction began on the Grand Concourse in 1889 and it was opened to traffic
in November 1909. Built during the height of the City Beautiful movement, it was modeled on
the Champs-Élysées in Paris but was considerably
larger, stretching four miles in length, measuring 180 feet across, and separated
into three roadways by tree-lined dividers.

The cost of the project was $14 million, the equivalent to $310 million by
today's standards. The road originally stretched from the Bronx Borough Hall at
161st Street north
to Van Cortlandt Park, although it was later
expanded southward to 138th street
after Mott Avenue
was widened to accommodate the boulevard. In 1923, Yankee
opened near the Grand Concourse at 161st Street. South of Fordham Road, the
palatial Loew's Paradise Theater, at one time the largest movie theater in New York City, was
constructed in 1929.

Although the Great Depression ended the period of tremendous
growth, privately financed apartment buildings continued to be constructed.
During this period, The Bronx had more amenities than other boroughs: in 1934,
almost 99% of residences had private bathrooms, and 95% had central heating. In
the 1939 WPA guide to New York, the Grand
Concourse was described as “the Park Avenue of middle-class Bronx residents and the lease to an apartment in one of
its many large buildings is considered evidence of at least moderate business
success.” Over the years one could see thousands of residents congregating near
the Concourse, on the benches that abutted the road and in and around the parks
that flanked the western part of the road.

Of course the Concourse went through many changes in the
post war years as many of the Jewish residents moved north to Westchester.
At one time there numerous synagogues lining the broad street, but today most
are gone and they are now mostly Spanish iglesias or Pentecostal churches. Over
the decades the road has been torn up repaired and torn up again. But today,
with the coming of the new Yankee Stadium, and an improvement of the economy of
the region, the Concourse is in marvelous shape. New curbs, tree-lined
sidewalks and a newly paved roadbed made the trip a breeze. No longer does one
have to dodge the limitless potholes, the open sewer digs, and the various road
hazards that used to make driving there a dangerous and risky adventure.

We parked in a lot along the corner of 164th Street and Jerome Avenue, just
north of the old Stadium and right next to the new Yankee colossus that is in
its final stages of completion. The address is just about the same. The new
Stadium will be on the north side of 161st
Street and still on River Avenue. Of course the new Stadium
is on the site of the old Babe Ruth Field. It was the site of many Babe Ruth
league and high school baseball games over the decades. I even played one or
two with the Bronx Red Wings and faced the legendary Rod Carew, who was from
the Bronx, via Panama.

Before there was a Yankee Stadium and in fact before they
were known as the Yankees, they were originally known as the Highlanders, who
owed their name to the location of their ballpark and the fact that their owner
Joseph W. Gordon’s name reminded some folks of the famed British Army unit
(Gordon’s Highlanders.) In 1913 the current owners (Farrell and Devery) of the
Highlanders, who were quite often referred to in the press as the Yankees, were
unhappy with their antiquated park, and therefore accepted an invitation to
play in the Polo Grounds. But moving to the Polo Grounds did not bring the
Yankees or their owner’s financial or artistic success

Therefore, the modern Yankees are really traced to the
partnership of (NY National Guard honorary) Colonel Jacob Ruppert, (aka The
Prince of Beer) who owned the Ruppert Breweries. He was a former four-term Democratic
Congressman (1899-1906 from NY’s Silk Stocking District!) and reputedly worth
between $50 and $75 million, who teamed up with one (retired Army Corp of
Engineers) Colonel Tillinghast l’Hommedieu “Til” Huston, to buy the team.
Huston, a construction millionaire and Ruppert bought the Yankees in 1915 for
the astronomical sum of $460,000 from Big Bill Devery and Frank Farrell, who
had paid just $18,000 for the Baltimore franchise in 1903 before moving it to
New York, (The Yankees had a previous 12 year losing record of 861-937, and an
average attendance of 345,000 fans per season.) Of course, it was the
innovative Ruppert, who supposedly designed the team’s brand new pinstriped
uniform in the 1920’s. He thought pinstripes would make the Babe, who had a
tendency to expand his belt-size, look slimmer. Ruppert liked to win and told
his new business manager “I want to win.” He also said, “Every day I want to
win ten to nothing. Close games make me nervous.” I always heard that Ruppert,
the proto-typical Yankee fan also said, “I like to see the Yanks score nine
runs in the first inning and pull away gently!”

The Yankees stayed there as tenants of the Giants until
1922, when John McGraw asked the Colonels Jacob Ruppert and Til Huston to take
their team and leave. It is a mystery why he did that. The Yankees were big
draws and outdrew the Giants in 1920 (in this year the Yankees set a major
league record, drawing 1,289,422 into the Polo Grounds, 350,000 more than the
Giants), 1921, and 1922 and most would have thought that the added revenue
would have been hard to resist. Maybe the Giants felt that they were being
overshadowed by the presence of the Yankees new star Babe Ruth. John McGraw, an
exponent of “inside” baseball or “little ball” as they term it today, hated
Babe Ruth and his home runs. He said in 1921, “The Yankees will have to build a
park in Queens or some other out-of-the-way
place. Let them go away, and wither on the vine.”

They moved directly across the Harlem
River and built “The House that Ruth Built.” The 58,000-seat
concrete and steel edifice, opened up on April 18, 1923, at the cost of $2.5
million. It was built in 258 working days and featured the first triple-deck
grandstand. The Opening attendance, with Governor Alfred E. Smith throwing out
the first ball, was reputed to be over 74,000, but later on it was revised down
to about 60,000. John Philip Sousa and the Seventh Regiment Band led the
procession of Yankee and Red Sox players to the centerfield flagpole for the
raising of the 1922 pennant. There were a few changes since 1923. The right
field triple deck grandstands were extended around the foul pole to the
bleachers in the late 1930’s, and some of the outfield distances were
re-adjusted before the great re-building in 1974-5. Originally center field in
the old ballpark was 490 feet. It was later reduced to 461 feet and to its
present day 408 feet. Deepest right center was an astronomical 550 feet, but
quickly reduced to 457 feet and to its present day 420 feet. The right field
foul line remained at 296 feet until the renovation where it was lengthened to
314 feet and the fence was raised from 4 feet to 8 feet. Left field was
originally 280.5 feet but was quickly adjusted to 301, and it is presently 318
feet with and 8-foot wall. Ironically, in 1923, when the new ballpark opened,
and the Yanks won their first World Series, they only drew 1,007,006 fans,
which was far less than the 1,289,422 they drew to the Polo Grounds in Ruth’s
first season. They would not break that franchise record until 1946!

The Yanks still remain on property purchased from William
Waldorf Astor for $600,000 and the Giants, who eventually went broke, left in
1957, and currently play in San
Francisco. Many years later, in 1974-5, when Yankee
Stadium was being re-constructed, they moved over to Queens and became guests
of the City of New York,
in Shea Stadium, for two unhappy seasons.

But growing up in New
York, in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, was a great era
to be a young boy and a Yankee fan. It seemed every year the Yankees were
winning the pennant and fighting for the World Championship. The old stadium
was quite caverness, and even though it was smaller than in the Babe’s day,
center field was still 461 distant feet away. It was so deep that the three
massive monuments, erected for Miller Huggins, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, could
sit majestically in center field without anyone ever worrying about them being
in play. It did happen, once in a while, and even the flaky Red Sox center fielder,
Jimmy Piersal, wound up hiding behind the monuments in the waning innings of a
dull Yankee-Red Sox game. It even was said that one or two baseballs were
caught behind the monuments.

It was 57 years since I made my inaugural visit to the old
Yankee Stadium. I certainly don’t remember much about that game with the Red
Sox, but I do remember being very impressed with Johnny “Big Jawn” Mize, the
Hall of Famer, who loomed bigger than life at first base. Mize originally made
his name, in the late 1930’s, with the latter edition of the Gas House Gang,
Cardinals from Saint Louis.
Mize, after his salad days with the Cards, was traded to the Giants in 1942.
After serving three years in the service during World War II, he came back to
the Giants in 1946. His bat seemed to like that “short porch” in right field.
By the next year, he hit 51 homeruns. This remained the National League record
for left handed hitters for many, many years. Of course, times were a changing,
and Leo “The Lip” Durocher, the new Giant manager, switched boroughs and teams,
and wound up in the Polo Grounds after a decade in Brooklyn.
Leo wanted to make his mark on the lumbering Giants and one of his earliest
moves was to bench big John Mize. Mize was not to happy riding the bench, and
gathering splinters, so as to shut him up; Durocher shipped him over to the Bronx.

In the hallowed grounds of the “House that Ruth Built,” Mize
blossomed as one of the premier pinch-hitters of all-time. In reality he hit
only .284 as a pinch-hitter in those five years, but his 53 hits and numerous
homeruns were usually in the clutch. He wound up with 25 home runs in 1950, an
amazing pace of one home run per every eleven at bats. Mize was one of the few
Yankees to play on their five straight World Series championships teams from
1949 through 1953. No wonder I liked him from my earliest days as a fan!

One of my great memories of Yankee Stadium was with my
grandfather, who was a member of the American Millinery Men’s Association, and their
trade group bought an entire block of tickets for a game on Friday night,
September 1, 1961. One of the highlights of the early part of the evening was
the entrance of the then welterweight champion of the world Emile Griffith, who
strode into our section of the mezzanine. Griffith
worked in that industry. (One may recall the famous Griffith-Benny “the Kid”
Paret fight of early April, 1962, where during the weigh-in, Paret impugned Griffith’s masculinity by
calling him a “maricon.” Some say, as a result of that remark, Griffith gave an extra
beating to Paret who was trapped on the ropes as referee Ruby Goldstein watched
and watched. Paret suffered massive head injuries resulting in his death on
April 3rd). But aside from that future situation, this was the year of the home
run. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were making their famous two-player assault
on one of the most sacred of the Bambino’s records, his 60 home runs in the
legendary baseball year of 1927. By the time September 1st came
along, the Detroit Tigers had turned into a powerful hitting machine with Norm
Cash, Rocky Colavito, Al Kaline, Billy Bruton and their ace pitcher Frank Lary
(23-7) who beat the Yankees almost every time they faced him. On that night
they had the old veteran Don Mossi (15-7) facing the Yankee ace Whitey Ford
(25-4). It was a warm night, the Yanks and Tigers were tied for first, and
there was a sell-out crowd of 65,566. Whitey Ford hurt himself and Bud Daley
relieved in the 5th inning. Late in the game, Yogi Berra, who was
playing left field, because Elston Howard had become the regular catcher, made
a remarkable play in left field and threw out Al Kaline, who was attempting to
stretch a single into a double. Luis Arroyo relieved late in the game as the
contest remained scoreless, until the bottom of the ninth when Bill ”Moose”
Skowron hit a single through the left side that scored Elston Howard with the
winning run in the 1-0 victory. It was the turning point of the season for the
Yanks. The ballpark, which had been hushed into silence through most of the game
exploded. Later the “Moose” credited 3rd base coach Frank Crosetti
for tipping him off on Don Mossi’s pitches. The Yanks next swept the Senators
four straight and the Indians five straight. They beat the White Sox and then
finally lost a double-header to the Pale Hose after reeling off 13 straight
victories. By the time they met the Tigers again, their lead had been expanded
to 10 games, and they never looked back. By the end of the season Maris had hit
61 homeruns, and Mantle was in the hospital with an abscess on his hip. The
Mick had finished with 54 round-trippers. The Yanks had won the pennant with
109 victories to the Tigers 101 and went on to crush the Reds in the World
Series 4 game to 1.

By the way, in that year the box seats cost $3.50, reserved
went for $2.50, the grandstand $1.50 and the bleachers were 75 cents! Parking
cost $1.00 and a program went for 15 cents. They served Ballantine beer and the
hot dogs went for 25 cents 

Times are a bit different these days. After many years of
success, the Yankees have become an incredible attraction. They are drawing
fans at an incredible pace over the last number of seasons, and this year,
2008, they also will draw over 4.3 million. It wasn’t always like that. Back in
1961 they led the league with an attendance of 1,745,725 or 21,444 per game.
But to be fair, in those years they played a number of double headers,
especially on the holidays like July 4th

The Depression did not hurt attendance in the Bronx as badly as their neighbors in the other Boroughs
because of their great lineup of stars, winning ways, and bigger ballpark. But,
also in the war year of 1943, with people working double shifts in war plants,
attendance shrunk to only 618,330 and they still led the league! After the war,
baseball fan interest erupted, and the Yankees started a remarkable run of five
years of 2 million plus fans in 1946. That explosion in fan interest peaked
with a then New York City
baseball record of 2,373,901 in 1948, a year where the Yanks finished in 3rd
place. In those five years they drew 11,183,406 fans to the Bronx.
The Yankees would not match those numbers again until 30 years later

So finding parking, getting into the Stadium and moving
around inside the ballpark is an incredible effort. Dana wanted to go to Monument Park in left center field. In the old
Stadium, before its overhaul in 1974-5 there was no monument park, just
bleachers. Way out in centerfield were three large marble monuments dedicated
to the memory of Miller Huggins, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. As the years went by
the Yankees put bronze plaques on the walls near the monuments, and in the
1950’s and 60’s, after the game, one could walk across the vast Yankee Stadium
outfield, out to the 467 foot mark on the wall and then exit on to 161st
Street. But unfortunately thousands of others had the same idea and by the time
we reached the entrance far back in the recess of left field, the park was

A bit dejected, we fought and squeezed our way through the
mass of Yankee faithful and eventually found our Field Box seats in Section 15,
box 53K.
We settled in with our sandwiches, peanuts, pretzels, bottles of water we
purchased outside, to what would prove to be another long afternoon of
frustration. Unfortunately, as it is widely known, the Yankees have been
playing dull and uninspiring baseball all year. Against the lowly, lack luster
Kansas City Royals, who had defeated them the two nights before, they could
hardly scratch out a run. By the 9th inning when we headed home the
score was 2-2 and it would take the Yanks to the 13th inning to
finally eke out a victory. They had left many, many, runners on base, could
obviously not hit in the clutch and overall looked pretty miserable for a team
with a $200 million dollar payroll. But Yankees Stadium had another sellout of
over 54,000 and it remains America’s
biggest cash register. Meanwhile the weather was beautiful, it was filled with
many fans who were obviously guests of ticket holders that chose not to come to
the ballpark and nobody seemed to complain. The amount of people with Yankee
logo shirts and hats was incredible. The Stadium was like a sea of dark blue,
with every type of shirt and hat imaginable. I am not immune to fan silliness,
and I always where my white Yankee hat with its blue brim, which is festooned
with all sorts of metal pins commemorating Yankee feats from the past.

But, it wasn’t like the old days when the park was filled
with smaller crowds of hardcore fans who would vent their frustrations and
anger with noisy catcalls, boos, and hardy invectives. Those days seem to be
over at the moment. This generation of fans enjoys the atmosphere of a
“happening” and the score seems secondary to most. The ballpark certainly wasn’t
rocking, and maybe that could be attributed to the score and the lack of real
action. These types of Saturday afternoon Yankee fans are the more gentile and
laid back variety with their young kids in tow or their girl friends and they
are more interested in eating hotdogs then chugging beer. Dana wanted to stay
until the 9th inning, which we did, and then we made our way out to
the parking lot, took some pictures of the new Stadium and made our way to the
car. Most of the cars were still in the lot, and getting out was a lark. Our
escape from that steel and concrete edifice was seamless and and in no time we
were back on the Grand Concourse.    

PS:  Our Visit to Coney Island

Dana is a real adventurer at heart and not only did she
venture this spring to Israel on her own, but just the other day she took the
train into New York, made her way down to the Battery Park and took a boat ride
to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In all my years here I have yet to
do that. She asked me to go along, but for some silly reason I declined.

The next day we were talking and I had some regrets that I
didn’t go with her to see the Lady in the Harbor. So I suggested that we drive
out to Coney Island. So without any real
planning, we hopped in the car, and headed down the Saw
Mill River
to the West Side and the Brooklyn Battery
Tunnel. The trip was uneventful and we passed “ground zero” and the new Stuyvesant High School, which when built, was the
most expensive secondary school constructed in the world. Interestingly the old
Stuyvesant High
School, built between, 1905-7 was located at 345 E.15th Street
and my father, who lived on Kelly
Street in the Bronx,
commuted there every day. Later on he told me it was his greatest mistake. My
father was friendly with at one time with George Raft, the famous actor, who
was originally from Washington
Heights. He also was a
graduate of Stuyvesant
High School, but was nine
years older than my father, who was born in 1904. My father “hung out” with a
wannabe actor named George Repp, who was friendly with Raft, who was a dancer
with a stage act at Texas Guinan’s saloon, the 300 Club, located at 151 W.54th Street.
She was known for her famous greeting, “Hello suckers!” The police “busted” The
300 Club often for violation of the Volstead Act, and at times for the exposure
of a bit too much epidermis. Guinan always claimed she never sold liquor in her
establishment, but that guests must have brought their own. Unfortunately for Texas, who was born in Waco, and had been a silent film star, known
as the “Queen of the Westerns,” she died at age 49, of amoebic dysentery, in
November, 1933, only one month before the repeal of Prohibition.

As to Raft, in the early 1930s, Tallulah
nearly died following a 5-hour hysterectomy
for an advanced case of gonorrhea, she claimed she got from Raft. Only 70 pounds when
she was able to leave the hospital, she stoically said to her doctor,
“Don't think this has taught me a lesson!”

In 1929 Raft moved to Hollywood and took small roles. His success came in Scarface (1932), and Raft's convincing
portrayal led to speculation that Raft himself was a gangster. He was a close
friend of several top organized crime figures, including Bugsy Siegel,
Owney Madden
(who owned the Cotton Club) and Siegel's suspected killer, Meyer Lansky.
Raft was considered one of Hollywood's most dapper and stylish dressers and he achieved a
level of celebrity not entirely commensurate with the quality or popularity of
his films; Raft became a pop culture icon in the 1930s matched by few other
film stars.

He was definitely one of the three most popular gangster actors of the
1930s, along with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson (Humphrey
never matched Raft's stardom during that decade). Raft and
Cagney worked together in Each Dawn I
(1939) as fellow convicts in prison. His 1932 film Night After
launched the movie career of Mae West
with a supporting part as well as providing Raft's first leading role (Raft and
West would die within two days of each other 48 years later and their corpses
would wind up in the same morgue at the same time.)  By the way, my father’s brush with baseball
immortality came when he played for the “Peg Legs” (Stuyvesant’s school
nickname) against Commerce
High School and the great
Lou Gehrig.

As to the Brooklyn Batter Tunnel, Robert Moses, whose career
was remarkably chronicled by Robert Caro in his masterpiece, The Power Broker, wanted to build a
monstrous bridge from Manhattan to Queens, but reason prevailed, or was it powerful
opposition from his only foe that had more power.

Robert Moses, the chairman of the Triborough Bridge Authority, attempted to
scuttle the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel proposal and have a bridge built in its
place. Many objected to the proposed bridge on the grounds that it would spoil
the dramatic view of the Manhattan
reduce Battery Park
to minuscule size and destroy what was then the New York Aquarium at Castle
. To spite everyone in New
York who loved the Aquarium, Moses shut it down for
years (1941-1957) as he obfuscated and delayed the tunnel’s plans. Of course he
was opposed to the tunnel because it wouldn’t fall under his control, and his
brother was a world famous tunnel designer, and he hated him.

Moses remained adamant, and it was only an order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, via military
channels, which restored the tunnel project, on the grounds that a bridge built
seaward of the Brooklyn Navy Yard would prove a hazard to
national defense. This edict was issued in spite of the fact that the Manhattan
and the Brooklyn Bridge were already seaward of the
Navy Yard. By the way FDR was ably assisted by wife Eleanor, who wrote a
scathing piece in her My Day column about
the “bridge” concept and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes who took on the
mighty Moses when no one else would or could.

Meanwhile, the 9117 foot long tunnel, the longest in North
America, was designed by Ole Singstad
and partially completed when World War II brought a halt to construction.
After the War, Moses's Triborough Bridge Authority was merged
with the Tunnel Authority, allowing the new Triborough Bridge and Tunnel
to take over the project. Moses directed the tunnel
completion, by 1950, with a different method for finishing the tunnel walls.
This resulted in leaking and, according to author Caro, the TBTA fixed the
leaks by using a design almost identical to Singstad's original. Moses was a
stubborn bastard who basically opposed the tunnel because he wouldn’t have been
able to control the project’s revenue.

Once on the other side of the tunnel we approached the Prospect Expressway
which was jammed by the usual construction, but made our way around and
eventually we merged into Ocean Parkway, 100 block long and 210 foot wide
thoroughfare that was originally conceived by Frederick Law Olmstead, who
created Central Park, Prospect Park, and the Eastern Parkway. The roadwork was
started in 1874 and completed by 1880. Houses started to be built around 1900
and horse racing was even held there until gambling was banned in 1908.

Once on that magnificent road, there was heavier traffic then I would have
normally expected. But we moved along, and within ten minutes or so we covered
the five mile stretch and drove under the Belt Parkway and into Coney
Island. It was once an island that was separated from the mainland
by Coney Island Creek. (It was called Conyne Eylandt, a Dutch name for Rabbit Island
back in the mid 1600’s.)  But the land
was filled in to support the Belt
Parkway and it is now a peninsular, and only an
island in name. Of course, Coney Island’s most famous attraction, aside from
the beach and the Cyclone Roller Coaster, a thrill ride that dates back to
1927, is the original Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog restaurant, which still sits on
the corner of Surf and Stillwell. It is not only the home of the best “hot
dogs” on earth, but is the venue where the world’s most famous frankfurter
eating contest is held in front of thousands of local fans and millions more on

The 93rd annual contest was held this past July 4, 2008. Six-time champion Takeru
“Tsunami” Kobayashi
and defending champion Joey Chestnut,
were tied with 59 hot dogs eaten after the new ten-minute time limit, but
Chestnut prevailed by winning a five-dog “eat off” held immediately after the
contest. Both the contest and the eat-off were televised live on ESPN, which has held the
broadcast rights for this event since 2004.

We arrived a bit early for lunch, so we made our way to the famous boardwalk
and made our way over to Astroland, the Ferris wheel and the Cyclone, one of
the oldest roller coasters still left. Dana was game for a ride, but I wasn’t
up for the action, and the $8 cost seemed extreme. So we sauntered around like
real tourists, took a number of pictures and we played a couple of skeeball
games, and was roundly beaten by Dana. It was a bit empty, but there were a
number of kids with their day camp shirts, a few Russian gals with their
bikinis and some teenagers shooting paint ball guns at a poor victim in
protective garb with a shield. It was an interesting experience, and we decided
to make our way back to Nathan’s for the obligatory “hotdogs.” We only had one
“dog” apiece.

After our gastronomic delight we headed back to Surf Avenue, turned around and headed
back under the “El” to Brighton
Beach, which is locally
known as “Little Odessa.” Brighton Beach was dubbed “Little Odessa” by the
local populace long ago, due to many of its residents having come from Odessa, a city
of Ukraine.
In 2006,
Alec Brook-Krasny was elected for the 46th
District of the New York State Assembly, the first elected
from Brighton Beach.

Brighton Beach was developed by William A. Engeman as a
beach resort in 1868, and was named in 1878 by Henry C.
and a group of businessmen in an 1878 contest; the winning
name evoked the resort of Brighton,
. The centerpiece of the resort was the large Hotel Brighton (or
Brighton Beach Hotel), placed on the beach at what is now the foot of Coney Island Avenue and accessed by the
Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Coney Island Railway, later known as the BMT Brighton
, which opened on July 2, 1878. The village was annexed into the 31st Ward of the City of
in 1894.

There’s not much that meets the eye as one travels down Brighton Beach Avenue. A good deal of
their shopping lies shadowed by the “El” tracks that looms like some giant iron
beast overhead. On this bright day prisms of light checkered the road and the
sidewalks as strollers and shoppers weaved their way in and out the various
shops that line both sides of the street. Finally when one escapes the eerie
light patterns of the “El” the rest of Brighton Beach
opens up, and one can see the beach on the right along with the expensive high
rises and the better stores and restaurants on the left.  This area is famous for Russian, Ukrainian
and other eastern European cuisine and delicacies. Maybe we should have
stopped, but time was of the essence and we didn’t see any places to park
anyway. So our quick spin through the beach front area was over, and I headed
back towards where we started via Coney
Island Avenue which parallels Ocean Parkway. Unlike Ocean Parkway which is purely
residential, Coney Island Avenue
is all commercial. My purpose was to reach Beverley Road, where I was born at number
707, which connects both Coney
Island Avenue and Ocean Parkway, and it is where my parents
lived from 1936 to just after VJ Day, when we moved to Mount Vernon. The apartment building is still
in good shape for an edifice that is at least 70 years old. It doesn’t look
much different from the old black and white pictures my parents took in those
World War II days. There’s little nostalgia for me with that building. I know I
lived there as a pre-toddler, but I know nothing about it from my parents. They
never talked about 707 Beverley Road even though they lived there close to ten
years I believe.

We then headed across Ocean
Parkway to Church Avenue and wound our way over to 13th Avenue
and Borough Park. This neighborhood is home to one
of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities outside
of Israel.
With an estimated population of as many as 250,000 Jews (though estimates vary
drastically and this number is bound to increase in the coming years), which
includes many Hasidic and Hareidi
Jews, Borough Park has one of the largest concentrations of Jews in the United
States and is among the most Orthodox neighborhoods in the world. And
considering the average number of children in Hasidic
and Hareidi
families is close to seven, Borough
Park is experiencing
phenomenal growth.

Its heart lies between 12th and 18th Avenues and 40th and 55th Streets. Boro Park
has grown and expanded so much that the residents define the borders as 8th Avenue to 22nd Avenue and 36th Street to 68th Street. I used
to travel there every once in a while to see a few of my customers when I was
in the textile business. Dana wanted to stop and get a bottle of water, so we
parked on 13th Avenue,
the heart of their shopping area. One can get all sorts of food in that area,
as there are restaurants, and specialty shops sprinkled up and down from 38th Street
to 49th Street.
One can also find an incredible variety of Jewish religious items from Seder
plates to tallit to kepos. I wanted to stop in at D’Rose, a linen store on the
corner of 47th Street,
and see the Rosenblums who I have known for many years. I was able to park in
their driveway, hop out and visit with Mrs. Rosenblum, who was there with a few
of her sons. Unfortunately her husband was in the hospital and their oldest son
was not there. C’est sera! Dana, who was wearing shorts, decided discreetly to
wait in the car. The hello and goodbye lasted five minutes and it was back into
the car as we headed to 12th
Avenue which heads back to Ocean Parkway. We didn’t stop at Linda’s
old home which was located on 50th near 16th Avenue, but I had seen it
many times before. The trip home was a lark. Traffic was very light and before
long we had re-entered Manhattan
and at 2:30 PM we flew up the FDR
Drive in record time. I even decided to take the
Major Deegan north instead of the Bruckner Expressway, and before long we were
back in Westchester. Yes it was an enjoyable
time. It was our first real trip together where it was just the two of us!
Where has all the time gone?     







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