Showing posts with label Bronx. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bronx. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Hennery Brown Eggs" Cost 73 Cents in 1934

Tivador Theodore Schwartz (1886-1965) in the Bronx, New York
From about 1917 until the late 1940s, my maternal Grandpa Tivador Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965) and maternal Grandma Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) owned one small dairy grocery store after another in the Bronx, New York.

They would operate a store for a number of years, sell it, and buy or open another in a busier or more convenient neighborhood. It was not an easy way to make a living, keeping the store open early and late, even on weekends, to accommodate local shoppers.

The first record I have is of their 1917 grocery store at 985 Avenue St. John, near Southern Boulevard in the Bronx (thanks to Grandpa's WWI draft registration card). The store shown at top, with Grandpa Teddy at the counter, is a later store. This one was located at 679 Fox Street, just a few steps from the apartment building where my Schwartz grandparents lived. (The address was written on the back of the photo, and another copy of the photo included a 1934 date.)

"Hennery Brown Eggs" at Teddy's Dairy Store 

Teddy's Dairy sold at least five different types of eggs in 1934, ranging in price from 63 cents for "good using eggs" to 79 cents for "brown eggs." Apparently "hennery brown eggs" at 73 cents were different from and less desirable (meaning cheaper) than the more generic-sounding "brown eggs."

Assuming eggs were priced by the dozen, the "hennery brown eggs" that sold for 73 cents in 1934 (85 years ago) would cost $13.89 in 2019! Try the inflation calculator for yourself here.

Selling the "Gold Mine"

At right, the outside of Teddy's Dairy, circa 1934. Grandpa is standing at the right, near his name on the window, "Notary: T. Schwartz." The store was still in this location in 1940.

Standing on the other side of the display window is Grandpa's long-time assistant, John. According to family legend, John called the store "a gold mine" and eventually bought the business from my grandparents.

Once they retired from retailing, Grandpa and Grandma went on a much-delayed honeymoon. Married in 1911, parents by 1912, parents again in 1919, they finally got to Florida to relax and recuperate from selling eggs more than 35 years after their small family wedding.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt of "12."

Friday, February 22, 2019

Happy Twin Birthday!

So excited to be celebrating another twin birthday! Happy birthday to my special Sis. And many more!

Here we are in our twin bonnets, out for an outing in the twin baby buggy. Lots of blonde hair sticking out of those bonnets.

This photo was taken alongside the Bronx apartment building where we grew up, one block from a big park. It felt like suburbia back in the day.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Looking for Teddy's Dairy in 1940

Click here to look for NYC building photos in the tax records
Wouldn't it be fun to go back in time and see what the residences and businesses of our ancestors looked like in, say, 1940? My ancestors on both sides were in New York City at the time, mainly in the Bronx, and I'm lucky that at least some photos are available in books (like Lloyd Ultan's The Beautiful Bronx, 1920-1950).

But not every building on every block is in those books. Even the New York Public Library's excellent digital photographic collection doesn't have every building on every street.

It turns out there is a super source of photographs of NYC buildings from 1940. It's free and it's online.

Photos in the NYC Municipal Archives

The NYC Municipal Archives holds these building photos, part of a database of 1940s tax records for all five boroughs. The photos were originally used to support property value assessments for every building in the city.

Now the digitized collection is a wonderful resource for genealogists whose ancestors lived in (or had a business in) New York City at that time. It's like Street View on Google Maps but set in the past of 1940, and only in black-and-white.

Searching For a Building Photo

The main portal to the photos allows visitors to choose a specific borough as the first step. At top, my choice of the Bronx. The next step is to browse or search for a building photo.

To search, you need the specific block and lot number of the property. That's not the same as the address. To find block and lot, click on the link on "NYCityMap" link and enter the street address and borough. Above is the result I got when I searched for 679 Fox Street, the Bronx address of the small grocery store called Teddy's Dairy, operated by Grandpa Teddy Schwartz and Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz in 1940.

Finding Teddy's Dairy

To see the actual photo, I plugged the block and lot number into the search box of the tax-photo page for the Bronx. Up came a black-and-white image of an apartment building with ground-floor retail space (see below). People are walking along, oblivious to the camera, and cars are parked along the curbs. It's an ordinary day in 1940.

Which storefront is Teddy's Dairy? The signs in the 1940 photo aren't crystal-clear. So I used Street View on Google Maps to confirm that the address is the corner store, with the entrance slightly up the street on the left. Today, that space is occupied by a food store, as it was in 1940, when my grandparents ran the corner store.

High-quality photos are for sale, but anyone can look at any building photo with a few clicks. More photographic time-travel is in my future as I click merrily through the Archives to see the buildings where these and other NYC ancestors lived and worked in 1940.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "At the Library."

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Heirloom Story: My Parents' Bedroom Set

My parents, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981) and Harold Burk (1909-1978), married on Thanksgiving weekend in 1946. They had gotten engaged on the last day of 1945, following a whirlwind courtship after being set up by his aunt (Mary Mahler Markell) and her aunt (Rose Farkas Freedman). Harold had returned from more than three years in the Army during WWII and wanted to settle down...Daisy wanted to marry and raise a family. Love blossomed!

Due to the post-war housing shortage, however, they had a long wait to find an apartment in New York City. They began married life in a basement apartment of a private home in Queens, more than an hour's subway ride away from their relatives in the Bronx. Daisy was most unhappy in this dark, cramped apartment, and they continued to look for something larger, something closer to family.

The Farkas Family Tree (my mother's family tree association) minutes from the meeting of May 2, 1948, includes a sentence in which my mother is quoted as saying to the "Good & Welfare Committee" that "for her good and welfare, she must find an apartment."

In the family tree minutes from June 13, 1948, the secretary says my parents "got a telephone but now want an apartment to put it into."

In the family tree minutes from October 10, 1948, my father is listed as having won at a "bazaar--a radio, meat slicer, Mixmaster, and several other things." But still not the apartment they truly wanted. By the end of 1948, no luck: "Daisy and Harry Burk are still looking."

Yippee! By March 6, 1949, my parents were reported to be in their new apartment, according to the Farkas Family Tree meeting minutes. This was on Carpenter Avenue in the northeast Bronx, corner of E. 222d Street. Not coincidentally, it was an apartment building in which my father's sister, brother, and mother were living. Surely that's how they heard of the vacancy of the apartment on the fourth floor of this building one block from a big park.

And the Farkas Family Tree minutes of June 5, 1949 crow: "Daisy & Harry Burk finally ordered furniture!!!" Yes, the exclamation points are in the original. It was now 2 1/2 years after their wedding.

At top, a photo of the high-boy bureau from this original mahogany bedroom set. The set was carefully crafted in the Bronx. I had it refinished in 1990, nearly 41 years after it was made, to restore it to its original beauty. The restorers admired the dovetail corners and the fine wood quality.

The high-boy, along with the vanity dresser and bench, hanging mirror, low bureau, and a night stand are in my bedroom, cherished family heirlooms that I use every day. Some lucky descendant will inherit this heirloom set, along with the story of how long Daisy and Harry fell in love, waited to marry, searched high and low for an apartment, ordered furniture, and then started their family.

PS: It's important to share our ancestors' stories now, before we join our ancestors! For more about safeguarding our family's past, please take a look at my affordable book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback or digital edition.

Friday, October 19, 2018

My Farkas Family on December 7, 1941

Last year, I wrote a three-page memory booklet in which I used genealogy research techniques to confirm my husband's memory of being a tyke sitting around the family radio, hearing the news of Pearl Harbor being attacked on December 7, 1941.

Thanks to the kindness of a second cousin, I now have monthly minutes from my mother's Farkas Family Tree meetings during the early 1940s. The tree consisted of adult descendants of Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas (my maternal great-grandparents) who lived in and around New York City. To have the largest possible attendance, meetings were held on Sunday evenings.

As I was scanning minutes and indexing the names of those present each month, I wondered what happened in the family tree at the time of Pearl Harbor. Sure enough, I found a page of minutes from December 7, 1941 (excerpt above), when the meeting convened in the Bronx.

By dinner time on that Sunday evening, almost certainly tree members would have heard the news of Pearl Harbor. Washington announced the attack in the afternoon, East Coast time, well before the family-tree meeting started at 6:05 pm. News accounts say many New Yorkers were suddenly nervous, feeling the city was a possible future target, due to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other operations in the five boroughs.

The minutes never mention the December 7th attack as such.  The minutes do say, almost in passing, that a 16-year-old male first cousin of my mother was in the Pershing Rifles Auxiliary, and a 14-year-old female first cousin had joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Minutes from earlier in 1941 say family members were learning Air Raid procedures and making things to donate to the Red Cross for overseas.

Even without the words "Pearl Harbor" or "war" being mentioned, I believe the tree was well aware of what was happening that day. My aunt Dorothy Schwartz was secretary for the evening, because her twin sister, Daisy Schwartz (hi Mom!) was ill. Auntie Dorothy writes later in the minutes that for the January, 1942 meeting, "family members who have uniforms should wear them."

Genealogy research indicates that family members (male and female) quickly began to enlist. My aunt, in fact, enlisted in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on September 11, 1942. Some of her female first cousins held "Rosie the Riveter" jobs while a number of male first cousins joined the Army Air Corps or Army (no Navy or Marine men) in the months after Pearl Harbor.

During Family History Month, I am thankful for the sentence (shown in excerpt above) that says: "It was especially recommended that all surnames be mentioned in future minutes." The minutes are filled with multiple relatives and in-laws having the same given name. My mother was Daisy, and so was her sister-in-law. The tree included multiple Roberts and multiple Georges, among other names. Happily, it is usually clear from context who's who in the minutes. And so the scanning and indexing will go on and on.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

My Close-Knit Mahler Family in the 1920s

My maternal grandmother's Mahler family was incredibly close-knit. They helped each other out and they lived near each other, often in the same apartment building.

At left, the 1924 New York City Voter's List* showing voters in a now-gone apartment building, 2347 Morris Avenue in the Bronx. Seven of my Mahler family and in-laws were then living in that apartment building.

Joseph A. Markell is on top in this excerpt of the 1924 voter's list, with his wife Mary Mahler Markell shown about halfway down the list. (Mary was the youngest of my Grandma Henrietta's sisters.)

Directly below Joseph's name is Morris Mahler, the brother of Mary and Henrietta. A handful of names below Morris is his brother-in-law, Louis Volk. Louis was married to another Mahler sibling--Ida Mahler Volk, whose name appears on the voters' list a little further down from her husband Louis.

Finally, Dora L. Mahler is at bottom of this excerpt from the list. She's another sister of Morris, Mary, Ida, and Henrietta. Four siblings plus two spouses in one apartment building.

Not shown on this voter list is Tillie Jacobs Mahler, the matriarch of the family, who also lived at 2347 Morris Avenue at the time. Widowed in 1910 when Meyer Elias Mahler died, she stayed with one or more of her children from then on--living with Morris in 1925. But apparently she didn't register to vote, even though women now had the right! (This was a Presidential election year...Calvin Coolidge easily won.)

In the 1925 NY Census, however, the Markell family had moved to a different apartment building. But not very far. The map shows 2347 Morris Ave. at left, and the dotted line shows the quarter-mile walk to 2400 Valentine Ave.

My Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk lived with her husband and children in an apartment in Jewish Harlem at the time of the 1925 NY Census. A few buildings away lived her sister Sarah Mahler Smith and Sarah's husband, Samuel, and their family. So although these two sisters lived about 8 miles away from the other siblings, they could hop a subway and be together within an hour.

Nowhere in the area: The oldest Mahler sibling, David Mahler, was a bit of a black sheep and had left New York before 1920.

*Thank you to Reclaim the Records for obtaining and posting the 1924 New York Voters' List! UPDATE: The Reclaim folks, on Twitter, reminded me that I can go ahead and request a copy of an original 1924 voter's registration form for anyone on this list. Scroll down on the Reclaim page in this link to find out more about requesting these forms, which will cost about $15 each. If I need to know the year/court of naturalization for any immigrant ancestors who registered to vote in NY, the form will very likely tell me that.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Letters Home from My Aunt, the WAAC

My mother's twin sister, Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001), joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on September 11, 1942. Her top-notch steno and typing skills earned her a spot in a cracker-jack admin company that supported Bomber Command. She became Sgt. Schwartz, honed her leadership skills, and won a Bronze Star in 1945.
Sgt. Schwartz

But Auntie Dorothy (as we always called her) never expected to be away from home for nearly three years. As World War II wore on, she felt pangs of separation from her parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, and many first cousins in the Farkas Family Tree.

Transcribing the wartime letters Dorothy wrote to the tree while in the service (see a sample V-Mail above), I learned that she loved her time stationed near London. She wrote home often about the historic places, beautiful landscape, and opportunities to meet people from other nations.

In fact, her January, 1944 letter written to her sister (living in the Bronx apartment building shown at left) states that celebrating the new year in England was a high point!

Yet Dorothy was acutely aware of what she was missing each month when the Farkas Family Tree gathered for its regular meetings and enjoyed holiday meals together.

Her letters mention being homesick a couple of times. Although family members apparently wrote optimistic letters about the war ending soon, Dorothy's answers indicate her realism, saying she didn't expect a quick end (no specifics, the censors were reading along).

Dorothy also made it clear that she felt remarkably "at home" in London, with its big-city atmosphere, subways, and theater--all familiar from her civilian life as an apartment-dweller in New York City.

This citified "Old Homestead" post is #13 of the 2018 #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow.

NOTE: Most of Dorothy's letters were handwritten, but those written at the end of 1943 and during 1944 were microfilmed and shrunk into the V-Mail format. To transcribe, I first had to photograph them and blow them on my screen, then print the enlargements so I could read them as I typed. Totally worth it! More soon on my plans for a Farkas Family Tree World War II letters booklet.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Family History Month: Three Belles in the Bronx

Until I wrote this blog post, I didn't know what to call the technique used in this reverse-glass-painted picture that graced the walls of my childhood bedroom for so long.

This appears to be a modern form of tinsel painting, a 19th-century folk art where people or objects are painted in reverse on glass, then embossed foils from cigar boxes or tea packages are placed behind the glass to add dimension and texture.

Sis and I remember that our parents knew the person who painted this mid-20th-century piece, which features three graceful Southern Belles. Her memory is that the guy was a dentist whose hobby was tinsel painting, and many people saved beautiful foil for him.

Maybe the painter didn't know it would be displayed in the bedroom of three little girls growing up in the Bronx, New York?

The photo above doesn't do justice to this heirloom. Each area of the glass has a different embossed foil behind it. The fashion details are painted just as carefully as the delicate facial features. Now these belles are being passed down to the next generation, along with the family story.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Reading the PS 103 PTA Newsletter

It was 56 years ago that my mother (Daisy Burk, 1919-1981) wrote a letter to the PTA newsletter of my elementary school, P.S. 103 in Bronx, New York.

She was urging teachers to check homework, because if they don't, students will be "indifferent to the need for doing it" (and of course, that means a harder job for parents trying to instill good study habits).

The newsletter is also a time capsule of what was happening in that school (and in education) at that time. In addition to "open school week" in November, there was a December PTA meeting to discuss science education and the "new S.R.A. reading kits."






I remember those S.R.A. (Science Research Associates) kits--self-contained units with a page or two of a reading excerpt, followed by multiple-choice questions to test comprehension. All self-paced, and different cards for different reading levels to encourage students to challenge themselves. It was a new idea at the time, being tested in 6th grade classes, thanks to a PTA donation.

Other articles talked about outstanding students, open enrollment, Trick or Treat for Unicef, community improvement, and other issues. Also of interest: ads from local northeast Bronx businesses, including: Varce Pastry, Elbee TV/Radio Service, the "Tape Recorder Specialist," North Side Savings Bank, Twin Pharmacy, Edenwald Hardware, Joseph's Beauty Salon, Arrow Cycle & Hobby Shop, Fusfield Decorators.








Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Check the Map!

Where did that ancestor live? Sometimes it's not enough to simply record the street address straight from the official document--map it and you'll often get extra insight, or at least confirmation that the address was accurate.*

Take my experience with Gussie and Michael, both living in the Bronx in 1919 when they married. I wanted to see where their residences were in relation to each other, having discovered more than once that my ancestors met or were introduced as a result of being in the neighborhood.

It was easy to find Clay Avenue on the map (see "Michael 1919" above). But no Linton Avenue seemed to exist in the Bronx. So I mapped where Gussie was living in 1915, according to the NY Census--on St. Paul's Place, a street only a few blocks long and within walking distance of Michael in 1919.

Checking the area more carefully, I noticed Clinton Avenue just a few streets away from St. Paul's Place. Nothing else even sounds like Linton Avenue. So Clinton Avenue is my best guess about where Gussie was living at the time of her marriage.

Would this couple have been introduced by family or friends? Or did they meet at a workplace or a local deli? I don't know the answer, but I do feel certain that Gussie made her home on Clinton Avenue, not Linton Avenue as recorded on her marriage license.

* As a Facebook comment pointed out, address numbers can change over the years, and streets may also go away or be renamed. Very good points! My goal in mapping addresses is to see whether the street or avenue is there--and if not, some online searching will usually turn up either evidence of its history or nothing at all (if nothing, good chance the street was not accurately spelled or listed).

Many of the tenements where my NYC ancestors lived have been torn down, but the streets or avenues are usually still to be found on the maps. Not always, but if not, I can often find them in other records (a newspaper report or a census page) to confirm the existence of that street or road in that place. And CHECK city directories, as the first comment below this blog post notes! Thanks again for the great comments.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Those Places Thursday: My Mahler Ancestors in Jewish Harlem

Professor Jeffrey Gurock recently published his authoritative The Jews of Harlem, with additional research and updates to his earlier book on the subject, When Harlem Was Jewish, 1870-1930. I got my hands on a copy of the new book after reading about it in the New York Times.

My Mahler ancestors lived in that area of upper Manhattan, during the period Prof. Gurock describes. This book gave me a window into their Jewish immigrant experience, arriving and living in the Lower East Side, then moving uptown to Harlem.

Prof. Gurock writes that the opening of the elevated subway (1904) brought many immigrants to Harlem, escaping the teeming crowds and cramped tenements of the Lower East Side. He also notes that the move allowed many to find work locally in Harlem rather than commuting to jobs in midtown or, more commonly, in lower Manhattan.

Interestingly, Prof. Gurock points out that the density of population in Jewish Harlem tenement neighborhoods was, in fact, quite intense. Later, as families had a bit more money, they moved to the "subway suburbs," including the Bronx.

My Mahler family followed this pattern. Great-grandpa Meyer E. Mahler (1861-1910) and great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler (185?-1952) originally lived in the Lower East Side when they arrived from "Russia" (really Eastern Europe). Around the turn of the 20th century, they lived on Chrystie Street and a bit later at Allen Street. Then the "el" opened and life changed.

By 1905, the NY Census shows the Mahler family at 1956 Third Avenue, between 107th and 108th Streets--a walkup tenement in Jewish Harlem. Meyer Mahler worked as a tailor in 1909 at 63 E. 117th Street. I can imagine him walking to work there, half a mile north of his residence (in a building no longer standing).  

By 1910, the family was living at 7 E. 105th Street, a much less crowded area of Jewish Harlem, as I understand Prof. Gurock's explanation. Poor Meyer died of stomach cancer that year, but his widow and children remained at that address until well after WWI. The younger son, Morris Mahler, seems to have been the main breadwinner at that point, and he commuted to work outside Jewish Harlem.

By 1925, the NY Census shows that the Mahler family had moved to the "subway suburb" of the Bronx, living at 2347 Morris Avenue (the first of a few addresses in and around the Bronx). The timing corresponds with what Prof. Gurock writes in his chapter, "The Scattering of the Harlem Jewish Community, 1917-1930." 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sorting Saturday: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Family's Story?

Tillie Jacobs Mahler
Watching the Hamilton documentary on PBS, I couldn't get one of Lin-Manuel Miranda's songs out of my mind: "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?" Who, the characters sang, would keep their stories alive?

As the genealogists of our generation, we're stepping up to tell our family's stories, and keeping the stories alive for future generations.

But we can't always sort out what the true story actually is. And I wonder, what story would our ancestors themselves tell if they could reach across time to us?

My family has two versions of a story about great-grandma Tillie Rose Jacobs (185_?-1952), born in Telsiai and married in Latvia to Meyer Elias Mahler (1861-1910) before coming to America before the turn of the 20th century.

In one version, Tillie lives to the age of 99. In the other, she is actually 100 when she passes away, but hasn't admitted her real age.

Which is the real story? Which way would she want to tell it to her descendants?

Either way, I know Tillie was a strong matriarch who outlived her husband by more than 40 years. The family often gathered at her Bronx apartment for holidays and other occasions.

Tillie had 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren at the time of her death--a large family to remember her and keep her memory alive through the ages.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Those Places Thursday: The Bronx of my Burk family

On this day 107 years ago, my father (Harold Burk) was born at home, 77 E. 109th Street in Manhattan, the second of four children of Isaac Burk and Henrietta Mahler Burk.

Until the mid-1920s, the Burk family lived in a series of tenements in upper Manhattan. Dad used to tell stories of how, on a summer's day, the family would pack a big picnic lunch and take a street car to the top edge of Manhattan. There, they would pick up a horse-drawn conveyance for crossing into the Bronx.

It was a full-day outing, between the slow transportation and then enjoying lunch and a stroll or nap in the park. A welcome change from the heat, noise, and bustle of Manhattan, he remembered fondly decades later.

By 1930, the Burk family had managed to move uptown, with three of the four children working and contributing to the household coffers. They lived at 1580 Crotona Park East in the Bronx, a leafy, "suburban" part of the city.

Today, a single family home sits on the site. But 80 years ago, 20 families lived in a tenement at that address. Looking at the 1930 Census, every family in the building was either headed by an immigrant or included an immigrant (sometimes as a boarder). Most were from Russia, Poland, Romania, or thereabouts.

The Burk family's next-door neighbor in the apartment building became a character reference for Dad in 1931. He was applying for a "fidelity bond" as the first step toward his dream of becoming a travel agent.

Two other character references shown on the bond were, in reality, family members: Louis Volk was married to his aunt, Ida Mahler; Joseph Markell was married to another aunt, Mary Mahler. Both lived on Rochambeau Avenue in the Bronx, 3 miles uptown from the Burk family.

Except for the years he served in World War II, Dad lived the rest of his life in the Bronx, where I was born and spent my early years.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Those Places Thursday: 50 Years Ago in the Bronx

Fifty years ago, in the spring of 1966, this was what the Bronx looked like after a light dusting of snow, in a snapshot taken taken from the high ground of Paulding Avenue and the Esplanade. Thank you to Sis for rediscovering this photo!*

In the foreground is the subway stop known as Morris Park-Esplanade, one stop further into the Bronx from 180th Street on the Dyre Avenue subway line.

The street heading upward in the photo is Lydig Avenue, lined with attached homes and apartment buildings. Lydig Avenue held all manner of delis and bakeries, among other retail businesses. Walk up Lydig toward the top of this photo and within not too many blocks is White Plains Road, a main street where the elevated subway can be heard rumbling overhead.

Taking a subway to Manhattan from the Bronx, Brooklyn, or Queens was known as going "downtown."

*Even though the photo is dated May '66, it's clearly from earlier that spring. Once upon a time, in the last century, people used cameras and physical film. Nobody had a roll of film developed until every shot was taken. The film cost money, the developing cost money, each print cost money. So we often waited several months or more, snapping a photo here or there and waiting until after we used up all 24 or 36 shots. Then the roll was sent out for developing, either at a local drug store or by mail. Wait a brief week (7 days!) and the prints would be back, along with negatives. Remember negatives?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Those Places Thursday: Off Tremont Avenue in the Bronx




Because I had a professional photography studio make proof sheets of faint black-and-white negatives that were part of my parents' snapshot collection, I was able to isolate and scan individual images to add contrast and view them more clearly.

That's how I saw enough detail to identify the Bronx, NY apartment building where my grandparents (Teddy Schwartz and Minnie Farkas Schwartz) lived from the 1940s until the mid-1960s. The address is 600 East 178th Street in the Bronx, just steps from the busy shopping street of Tremont Avenue.

Above left, the photo of my mother (Daisy Schwartz) in front of that apartment building during the summer of 1946. She has her suitcase, ready to go with my father (Harold Burk) to visit his favorite aunt and uncle (Ida and Louis Volk).

Notice the distinctive architectural details around the doorway behind my mother? Now compare them with the Google photo at right of the same building, taken 70 years later.

In the old days, the front door had decorative wrought-iron trim over glass, and the lobby had upholstered furniture that gradually became shabbier and finally disappeared. Today, the entrance is a solid door, although the masonry details remain from the way the building looked decades earlier.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Travel Tuesday: City Grandpa Visits the Country

After Grandpa Theodore (Tivador) Schwartz (1887-1965) left his home in Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhorod, Ukraine), he settled in New York City.

Except for a handful of vacations to the bungalow belt of New York State and one honeymoon trip to Florida decades after his 1911 wedding to Hermina Farkas (1886-1964), Teddy stuck to city life.

He never had a car and never learned to drive--why would he, with trolleys, buses, and subways steps away from his business and apartment in the Bronx?

Here are two photos from the late 1920s and 1930s, contrasting Teddy's usual daily life (below, in his Bronx grocery store, Teddy's Dairy) with two of his rare visits to the country (above).

In the country we see Grandpa Teddy with John, his assistant at the grocery. Where were they? At that time, the Bronx still had some very rural areas, so it could have been within a trolley or subway ride--or possibly in Westchester? John obviously had a car, so they may have taken a day trip even further.

The photos are undated, but judging by the amount of hair that Teddy has and his face, the one at top left looks like it was taken around the same time as the photo at bottom, where Teddy is standing with John in front of the grocery store in 1934. The photo with Teddy and John and John's car is clearly earlier, judging by the age of the car.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Those Places Thursday: The Bronx

The Bronx was where my grandparents brought up their children and where my parents (Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz) settled with my sisters and me.

Teddy's Dairy (owned by Grandpa Theodore Schwartz and Grandma Hermina Farkas) was in several locations around Fox Street and Beck Street in Bronx, NY.




Above, Teddy behind the counter. At right, Teddy and his assistant John in front of Teddy's Dairy, 1934. John eventually bought the business from Teddy.

The Bronx has a legendary mystique worldwide, it seems . . . in Japan, as well.



When hubby, Sis, friend Laurie, and I were in Kyoto in 2007, we passed a bar entrance named for our hometown.

Left, a photo of us waiting for The Bronx to open :)



We also went to a baseball game where Marc Jason Kroon, a star relief pitcher from the Bronx who made it big in Japan, saved the game for the Yokohama Bay Stars.

Right, I'm helping Marc get his pitch ready. He was driven to the mound in a brand-new tricked-out Toyota and treated to cheers from the Yokohama fans before striking out the Yakult Swallows to earn yet another win.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: PS 103 in the Bronx

My elementary school, Public School 103 in the Bronx, NY, thoughtfully provided this b/w photo at the front of the official autograph album I bought for my 6th grade graduation.

You can guess the approximate year by looking at the vehicles parked near my school!

Thankfully, I saved the album and can now list my teachers from kindergarten through 6th grade. See the photo of my teachers' names, above, written in my favorite turquoise ink. Yes, I had the same teacher in 4th and 5th grade, and no, she was no relation because my marriage into the Wood family was decades in the future!

Mr. Zantell, my 6th grade teacher, was a jovial, easy-going, smart guy and a favorite teacher too. Sis and I were in that class together, one of the rare times in our school careers when we shared a classroom. Because Mom was a twin, she understood first-hand the need to develop separate personalities and avoid too-intense rivalry over school achievements. That's why she put Sis and me in separate classes most of the time. That didn't always work out well, but in 6th grade, we had a good time (and occasionally fooled teacher and classmates).

PS 103, located at 4125 Carpenter Avenue, was a 10-block walk from the apartment building where my family lived. We (and later our younger sister) walked to and from school twice a day: In the morning, we walked there; for lunch, we walked home; after lunch, we walked back to school; and after school, we walked home again. Only when my twin took guitar lessons and I took accordion (!) lessons did we get a ride to school from a kind neighbor. Otherwise, we crossed streets ourselves, sauntered home past the candy store, and got a lot of fresh air and exercise using our feet as transportation.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy: Bedroom (Three's Company)

My two sisters and I shared a bedroom in our family's 2-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. (At that time, everybody we knew--everybody--lived in an apartment.)

Three's company in one crowded bedroom: Three beds, a standing closet, a bureau, and three active girls.

On a rainy day, we'd push all the beds against the walls and march around to the music of "Zulu Warrior" blasting from the record player. Stomp, stomp, stomp, it's a wonder our downstairs neighbors didn't go ballistic!

On summer nights, the windows would be wide open to let in the breeze. This also let in night-time sounds, such as the distant rattle of trains on the elevated subway line, one l-o-n-g block to the east. Although there was a bit of street noise from the occasional car driving along Carpenter Avenue, where our windows faced, traffic was pretty sparse in those days.

Our bedroom was painted one of two colors: Landlord beige or landlord green. Every three years, the landlord was required to repaint, and those were the "standard" colors for everybody. (Want something different? Tip the painter privately for paint and special treatment.)

This photo of we three sisters in the summer of 1960 is unusual because my twin and I (I'm on left, she's on right) are wearing matching dresses, and our younger sis is in a special dress, as well. Usually we all wore pants so our tomboy antics wouldn't ruin our clothes. Plus, my mother--a fraternal twin who, as a child, was often dressed exactly like her sister--was determined to dress us as individuals. That's why I think this was some occasion when matching twin dresses were in order. Wonder what it was...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

52 Weeks - Spring: Playgrounds, Blue Grass, and Earrings

The Bronx was suburbia in the 1950s, believe it or not. We lived in an apartment building 1 block from Bronx Park adjacent to the Bronx River in the Northeast Bronx. This park district is now known as "Shoelace Park." By the 1980s, it had become known informally as "Needle Park" and wasn't safe day or night, I understand. (I had moved away long before.)

But back in my day, it was pretty and green and a world apart from the bustle of the city that was a subway ride away.

In the spring, my mom, Daisy Burk, would pull out the baby buggy, tuck my baby sister Harriet in with a hand-crocheted afghan, and take my twin Isabel and me for a stroll in the park. She wore the fragrance Blue Grass, by Arden, her favorite. (My sister Harriet especially loved that fragrance and the childhood memories it evoked.)

First stop on our Bronx Park spring stroll was "The Circle" aka "The Horse Shoe," a group of benches arranged inside a horse-shoe-shaped stone fence within the park. The moms would sit on benches under the trees while we kids played. Sometimes we'd ride our bikes round and round the circle. Sometimes we'd explore the "woods" outside the bench area.

Another favorite stop was the playground, shown at top, at E. 227th Street in Bronx Park. In the summer, this playground had free arts 'n' crafts activities for kids and bug-juice (colored sugar water, it tasted like) for a snack. Here's a pair of earrings that one of we twins made for our mom. Unfortunately, these were for pierced ears and hers weren't pierced, but she kept them forever and now I have them in my jewelry box, a treasured memento of Mom and those crafty days.

My twin Izzi just reminded me of one more favorite activity in the playground above--playing King/Queen (a kind of street handball) against one of the retaining walls. Each box was a lower rank, starting from the left. I remember our personal twist on this game. King, Queen, Jack, 10, and then . . . Toilet Bowl, the lowest rank :)