Thursday, January 27, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy - Home is where the elevator is

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My parents Daisy Schwartz Burk and Harold Burk lived their entire lives in New York City apartments and I was brought up here, one of twin apartment buildings just a block from a huge park in the Bronx. Getting into an elevator every day (many times a day) was part of the experience. 

In the summer, when we were playing in front of the building and the Bungalow Bar ice cream truck came around, we'd yell up to my mother to ask for money. She'd tie two dimes in a handkerchief and float it out the living room window to the street below, where we picked up the bundle and bought choco-covered pops. (Mister Softee trucks came later.)

When my mother tried her hand at writing children's stories, she wrote about children going to visit their grandparents and vying to push the elevator button for the right floor . . . exactly how we visited our maternal grandparents (Teddy and Minnie Farkas Schwartz) every other Sunday for dinner. They lived in an apartment building near Tremont Avenue in the Bronx.

My paternal grandmother Henrietta Burk lived just a few apartments away on the same floor where we lived here on Carpenter Avenue in the Bronx. In fact, as I've noted elsewhere in this blog, most of my father's family lived in this apartment building: His older sister Millie Lang lived on the top floor with her husband and my cousin Elliot, his brother Sidney Burk lived with their mother Henrietta on our floor. (Grandfather Isaac Burk had died 7 years before my birth, so I never knew him, but my cousin Ira is named after him.) Only my father's younger sister lived elsewhere, in Queens.

When I was growing up, this part of the northeast Bronx was a "suburban" area, where one-family homes dotted the side streets and apartment buildings dominated many of the corners and avenues. Because the elevated subway line was just a few blocks away, it was an especially convenient location for commuters (like my father) going to work an hour away in Manhattan. 


  1. I love this post - it reminds me of my husband's memories growing up in a duplex in Brooklyn. And I remember my daughters fighting for the privilege of pushing the elevator button when we would stay in hotels on our travels.

  2. Greta, many thanks for reading and commenting. Don't you love the "52 weeks" prompts? Best, Marian

  3. Never having lived in a big city high rise, I don't think I've ever thought about the kids who did.

    What a cool memory (in more ways than one) about your mom floating the dimes in a hanky down to you to buy your ice cream treats...

  4. Hi Dee, thanks for reading and leaving me your note. You probably have some idea how long ago this was because ice cream pops cost 10 cents each! Best, Marian

  5. Wow! What a different experience than I had. I can't even imagine living in an apartment building like that. It must have been very hard to get things up and down the stairs! What a neat experience though to have so many family members living right there in the same building with you!!

  6. Jennifer, I'm so glad you stopped by! I've been enjoying your blog and I look forward to reading how you've been climbing your family tree also! - Marian