Saturday, September 15, 2012

Memory Lane and Granny Park

The Dowager Duchess lives in a co-op apartment in Brooklyn — five 24-story buildings, each with three sections with two elevators per section; 2,500 apartments total. It's its own little city with a population greater than that of the town in Minnesota where San Geraldo's parents lived when I met them 30 years ago.

SOCIAL SECURITY CIRCLE.

On the property, in addition to two large playgrounds for kids and small sitting areas with benches, is a very nice park comprising a large landscaped circle with benches all around and a long S-shaped path planted in the middle with benches on opposite sides. Somehow that park became designated as the place senior citizens could sit without being bothered by noisy kids. We moved to the brand-new co-op when I was 10, and if my friends and I ever set foot into that park, some "crotchety old fogey" would invariably tell us to get lost. The park quickly became known by what we thought were very appropriate names. 1) Granny Park; 2) Social Security Circle; and 3) Medicare Lane. (I'm sure there were other variations on that theme.)

GRANNY PARK.

The park used to be planted with lush, colorful flower beds. The co-op has moved to more low-maintenance landscaping as the years have passed, but many of the trees are now old and grand. As an adult (which I understand is what I'm supposed to be now), and being so very politically correct, I have called Granny Park "The Circle." So, I was surprised on September 11 when My-Mother-The-Dowager-Duchess mentioned that the flag in "Granny Park" was at half-staff. If The Duchess can call it Granny Park, so can I.

THE ELEVATED TRAIN (EL) ON BRIGHTON BEACH AVENUE.

On my walk Wednesday morning, I decided to take a peak at some of the places that held special meaning for me when I was a kid. One was the building across the street from the Brooklyn Public Library in Brighton Beach. My great-aunt (my paternal grandfather's sister) lived there. Tante Shenka came from Russia in 1911 to join her husband who had been in New York for two years. I remember her as a sweet, tiny lady with striking eyes — the same color as the sky and clouds in the picture below (now that I think about it, the same color as San Geraldo's eyes). I was named for her husband who died just before I was born. I went to the library a couple of times a week and would always stop to visit her. She liked to sit outside below her living room window on a folding chair. She had a pet parakeet whose cage she would place on the windowsill when she sat there.

TANTE SHENKA'S BUILDING. HER WINDOW IS TO THE LEFT OF THE ENTRANCE.
AT THE END OF THE STREET IS THE BOARDWALK.

There's an old park and playground in Brighton Beach right alongside the Boardwalk. I thought it would be fun to grab some pictures of the men who sit at the cement tables and play checkers, cards, and dominoes. As I was about to snap my first picture, a slick-looking man sitting at one of the tables looked me hard in the eye and then glanced at a couple of muscled goons standing nearby. He gave his head a toss in my direction. They turned and set steely gazes on me. I pretended to focus in on the boardwalk, snapped one picture and walked away. I checked over my shoulder a couple of times and saw that he, the goons, and several other men at nearby tables were monitoring my activity. I made a show of taking touristy pictures before quickly moving on. I continued to look over my shoulder for quite some time. So glad my camera and I are still in working order.

CARDS, DOMINOES, AND CHECKERS.
IF ANYONE ASKS, I WAS NEVER THERE.

Speaking of tough guys, before the advent of the google-plex movie theater, we went to grand old theaters in New York. There were a few within walking distance. One was called the "Oceana," which opened in 1934. Ushers and matrons still walked the aisles in the 1960s. One matron was particularly authoritarian. She would patrol the aisles and slap the backs of our chairs with her flashlight ordering us to "Stop slouching and sit up straight!"

THE OCEANA THEATRE (FAR LEFT).

The Oceana eventually became a terribly chopped up six-movie multiplex, but it's now been reborn as the Millenium and is the home to live Russian dinner theater.

When I was 11, I went to the Oceana with a group of my friends to see the film "Our Man Flint." The cost of a ticket was 25 cents if you were under 12, and 75 cents if you were older. I was the youngest — and the tallest — of the group. Each of my friends, two of whom were already 12, went up to the window and said "One child." They slid their quarter across and received their ticket. I walked up to the window and said, "One child" and was told "One adult. 75 cents." I said, "But I'm only 11." The woman said, "Prove it." Of course I couldn't. I gave her a dollar and she gave me change and my ticket. It still irks me. Maybe I should have said "please."

HARD TO BELIEVE THIS WAS MY IDOL IN 1966.
(HE OWES ME 50 CENTS.)

18 comments:

  1. Love your pictures of Brighton - brings back memories!

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    1. Carole:
      I do love walking there. Brighton Beach Avenue always felt foreign to me. Now, even more so. The Boardwalk and beach were wonderful with the summer season being over.

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  2. How interesting it is to take a stroll with you down memory lane. I think it's great that landmarks from your childhood are still there for you to enjoy. I grew up in California where nothing lasts for long. A building is old and considered worthy of being torn down after twenty years. There's virtually nothing left from my childhood. Maybe this is why I spend so much time recreating my youth in my stories. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Stephen:
      New York has retained a lot of its history, despite so much being gone. And living in California -- after moving from the even more historic city of Boston -- was a revelation. Now, Sevilla makes Boston seem completely contemporary.

      Delete
  3. I am loving these post...a look into a magical city through your eyes...

    thank you :)

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    1. Monkey Man:
      So glad you could join me. It seems a lot more magical to me when I start writing about it.

      Delete
  4. Wow! No slouching at the movies!? I'd be scolded constantly.

    I love grand old theaters. So few survived all of the chopping in the '80s and '90s.

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    1. Michelle:
      I was scolded at least twice a show and I would be now, too!

      I went to the Oceana once after it was chopped up. It was hideous. Not only did they chop it, but they did the worst job possible. I wonder if it's been restored now that it's a dinner theatre.

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  5. What a grand tour of your past haunts. I loved all your pictures and memories--well done!

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    1. Ms. Sparrow:
      Thanks! I had a great time doing it.

      Delete
  6. Goons? In Brooklyn? Stayin' alive, stayin' alive, ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive... ;)

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    1. Walt the Fourth:
      In this case the song would be, "остаться в живых. остаться в живых."

      Delete
  7. I really enjoyed that tour and the memories, throw in that element of danger and injustice and it becomes a best-seller. Lovely photos too!

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    1. Elaine:
      Just imagine if I had been roughed up!

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  8. Tante Shenka seems rather severe in the photo .. but I don't think most people smiled in photos from that era! I love how you're visiting and connecting with your past.

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    1. Jenners:
      That photo was taken in Russia well before she was married, and at a time when you had to completely freeze for the camera. I remember her as being warm and sweet, and always smiling.

      Delete
  9. Our Man Flint....so 60's!!! Love it!
    LOL! I can just see you pretending to be a tourist with all those 'eyes' on you!! Oh NYC, you don't wanna mess with some of those people!
    The coop looks and sounds like a great place to grow up....secure and close to the 'good places' for kids.

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    Replies
    1. Jim:
      The co-op did have its benefits. After spending most of my first 10 years in the suburbs, living in the city gave me lots of freedom much earlier than I would have had it. But I doubt that kids at that age now have the same amount of freedom.

      Delete

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