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Remembrances

by Kaj Swenson

When I came into this world on 7 October 1924, at the Norwegian Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, I had to face some unique situations.

The first was being born to a Swedish father, Carl Edgar Swenson, and a Norwegian mother, Hjordis Jacobsen. When I learned to speak, it was a combination of both languages that I'll call "Swegian". During later trips to Scandinavia, Swedes corrected me for using Norwegian words and Norwegians for using Swedish words. Finally, my wife, Betty, suggested I simply speak English, which she felt they all understood. They did. From that time on, I opted not to show off my so-called prowess with Scandinavian languages.

Another problem was having Uncles and Aunts on my father's side of the family named SWENSON and SWANSON. In Sweden, the family name was SVENSSON. When my father, Carl Edgar, and Aunt Karin, came to the United States, they changed their name to SWENSON to become American. When my Uncles Arthur, Eric, Harold and Roland arrived, they chose SWANSON, to become even more American. My still living uncle (the "baby" of the family at 91) is Uncle Roland, who lives in Brewster MA, on Cape Cod. Other family members also lived to a ripe old age. Aunt Karin lived to 101; Uncle Arthur, just days short of 100; Uncle Eric, a month short of 97; Uncle Harold, 93; and my father, at the early age of 79.

In the early 1920's, Uncle Arthur purchased the house at 108 Eaton Court and his sister and brothers resided with him for a number of years. During those early days in America, they all had to learn English as a "first" language and towards this end placed a large jar on the dining room table. When anyone was caught using a Swedish word, they were "fined" and had to put a nickel in the jar. For a time the jar filled quickly, but soon it slowed to a trickle. When it stopped completely, the money was used to fund a family party. I find it a shame that other generations of immigrants haven't done the same, to quickly learn their new "native" language.

I can still recall playing on the rings, swings and bars in their "gymnast yard". Next door neighbor, Charlie Knight, Knut Lundell and many other "strong men" in the neighborhood used this equipment to show off their muscles to the area ladies. All my uncles were athletes, competing in gymnastics and playing for the Gerritsen Beach soccer team.

Uncle Arthur married Margit Nordgren in 1930 and they moved to 61st Street in Brooklyn. Uncle Roland married Eleanor Henderson in 1931 and eventually moved to the Bronx, New Jersey, New York State, and Cape Cod. Finally, in 1936, Uncle Harold married Anna Henderson (Eleanor's sister) and moved to New Jersey. So, we now have two brothers marrying two sisters. After all the brothers had married and left the "Beach", the house on 108 Eaton Court was sold. Aunt Karin then took a job as a domestic and cook with a family on Long Island and stayed with them for many years. She never married.

To my knowledge, alcohol was never consumed at the Saturday night parties held by my Aunt Karin and Uncles Arthur, Eric, Harold and Roland at 108 Eaton Court. Music, coffee and pastry were the order of the day. Everyone in the family played an instrument (accordion, banjo, violin, etc.). There were also some excellent voices in the group. When they all tired out, the wind-up Victrola and Gramophone records were put to use.

These festivities usually lasted well into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Because the buses had stopped running at that time, the participants usually had to walk many miles to the Avenue U subway. Local police usually stopped the revelers somewhere along the way but eventually permitted them to continue - once they determined they had come from the "Swanson's".

In 1930, Uncle Eric married Harriet Anderson. They resided with her parents at 67 Canton Court for a short period of time before moving to 118 Keen Court, and finally to 6 Lester Court. Their sons, Karl and Norman, were raised on the "Beach" and I still remember the three of us smoking "homemade" cigarettes (leaves rolled in newspaper) in the back yard of the house on Canton Court. As a result, I became so nauseous and deathly sick that I didn't smoke again until my late teens. Years later, when the price of cigarettes rose to 50 cents a pack (1967), I quit "cold turkey".

Cousin Karl has the "distinction" of running headlong into a car - which was turning at the corner of Cyrus and Canton - and surviving. He claims he was thrown 20 feet into the air and that his "hard" Scandinavian head put a dent in the fender. The poor lady driver probably got many gray hairs from this incident.

Another problem I had was being given the name - Kaj - pronounced "KY" or "KI", which has no particular Scandinavian meaning that I'm aware of. However, the name did have other connotations while I was growing up at 6 Plumb lst Street. It was not uncommon for Stan Nilsen and other kids to stand in front of our house and holler, "Hey Kyoodle, you coming out to play?"

Then there was Eddie Jurek "needling" me with, "Ky, Ky, Koola Ky, kissed the girls and made them cry." Needless to say, these were "fighting words" which always led to my chasing him up the block towards Avenue W. Since Eddie was heavier and much slower, I usually managed to catch him. Then we'd wrestle in the cinders until he hollered, "I take it back." Then we'd laugh our fool heads off. In a few days, it would start all over again.

All the kids I knew - primarily the boys - had descriptive "nicknames". I'd list them all but in some cases it would be improper in today's "Politically Correct" and "touchy feely" society. Usually, they had to do with a particular physical feature, trait or the country of family origin. In all the years I lived at the "Beach", I never heard any of the "nicknames" used in a derogatory way. In fact, when used, the recipients considered them a "badge of honor".

Among the kids on the block, Eddie Jurek had, without question, the most unusual nickname - "Boomfart" - with justification. His "explosions" were a thing of rare beauty, in a class by itself, and no one ever came close to besting him. Those who tried usually headed home for a change of underwear. Eddie is gone now, so I can tell this without fear of losing my life. If he were alive, I'd have good reason to be concerned.

One memory from the "Depression Days" was getting free milk for each child in the family. One of my worst experiences was riding my bike home from the store with 3 quarts in the basket and my little sister, Greta, riding on the bar. As I turned left at the corner of Avenue W onto Plumb 1st Street, the front tire hit some gravel and we went flying. Luckily, my sister and I were unhurt but every bottle had broken. If it were not for my sister, I would not have returned home. There was a happy ending, however - my father didn't "kill" me. Instead, he walked up to the store, explained the accident, and (unbelievably) was given another 3 quarts of milk. I have never forgotten the kindness of the people in that store.

This was also the time of "prohibition" and almost everyone had ways of making "booze" in their bathtub. My Uncle Birger Arneberg was no exception and on one of his visits to our house, brought along a large bottle of Gin. It was dutifully placed in my fathers special "inside/outside box", constructed through the kitchen wall at the back of the house. The "box" was used to keep things cool during winter.

With this in mind, I should note that my father was not against playing pranks now and again. Unknown to my uncle, he quietly emptied the Gin into another container, filled the Gin bottle with plain water and put it back into the box. Later, when drinks were in order, my father and uncle went to retrieve the "Gin". While doing so, my father "accidentally" pushed the bottle out of the box, causing it to smash into a million pieces when it hit the concrete below. Later, when the "real" Gin was produced and consumed, my uncle admitted he really had been fooled.

My Uncle Birger was noted for his consumption of alcohol. His favorite saying was, "The others drank so much, they crawled from the table, but I sat where I sat." I found this to be true on a number of occasions. One morning, about daybreak, I came downstairs to find "bodies" sleeping in every available chair as well as on the sofa. And sure enough, Uncle Birger was asleep in his chair at the table.

For some reason, I noted that many of the glasses on the table still had some liquid in them. I took a sip from a few of them and found the taste O.K., so I drained the rest of the glasses. A short time later, when I tried to go back to bed, I found I could only make it half way up the stairs. My father found me still there when he came down for breakfast and carried me back to bed. The next day was pretty bad. I had a terrible headache and my stomach felt "queasy". I was soon to learn that this condition was known as a "hangover".

For a short time, milk bottles were being broken against concrete stoops on our block. One night, while my father was smoking a cigar and reading the newspaper, we heard the familiar "crash" of bottles. In an instant, my father was up from his chair, out the screen door and running up the street toward Avenue W. I was able to follow his progress by the red glow from his cigar and after a few minutes, my father had hauled back a kid I knew by face, but not by name. I can still remember the kid pleading, "Please don't hit me, Mr. Swenson." My mother then took a broom and dustpan out to my father who put the boy to work cleaning up the mess. I don't recall another "milk bottle" incident after this time.

On the southwest corner of Plumb 1st Street and Avenue W, there was a telephone pole with a 12-inch-diameter orange glass globe, hanging about 20 feet in the air. The globe indicated there was a Fire Call Box directly below. Needless to say, it was a favorite target for kids with rocks and good arms. As a result, the globes had to be replaced regularly. For some reason, thankfully, I was never guilty of this "crime". I must admit, however, it was not for a lack of trying; I simply had a poor arm and lousy aim. 

I fondly remember P.S. 194. I recall "marching" from class to the auditorium for the weekly "Music Appreciation Hour", sitting on hard wooden folding chairs for what seemed like an eternity, just to listen to some boring old "classical music". In retrospect, it was worth it, for I remember most of the pieces to this day. As a young teenager, my father "suggested" I take up the violin. As soon as I became proficient enough, I convinced him that the clarinet would be a much better instrument to play in the school orchestra. What I really had in mind was to become another Artie Shaw and lead my own band. I soon learned that I could never, ever be in his class. Although I have a good ear, memory, and love of music, I have never been able to play an instrument with any competence.

When I cut the instep of my left foot on a broken glass at "The Creek" near Allen Avenue, the 2-inch gash started bleeding profusely and no one seemed to know what to do. Then, out of nowhere, came my "Angel of Mercy", my one and only serious boyhood "crush" - Kitty Bertosen. She performed emergency first aid on me, then picked me up bodily and carried me all the way home. Our family doctor later said her efforts prevented my bleeding to death.

Immediately after World War II and also in the late 1970's, I had the good fortune to make contact with Kitty. I told her how I owed my life to her and that she will always be my only "true love". After corresponding for a few years, the "flame of love flickered and went out". In moments of solitude, I think of that sensitive beautiful girl.

During my early years, it seems I would try almost anything, especially during the winter. One of the more dangerous was "hitching rides" by holding onto the rear bumpers of cars on local streets, and the buses on Gerritsen Avenue. 

My initial "bus" experience was almost my last. I "hooked" onto a bus at Allen Avenue but made it only half way to Whitney Avenue. One minute my sled was under me, then it was gone. Before I knew what had happened, I was being dragged on my belly until I finally let go. It seems my sled hit a patch of road with no snow - and it stuck there. I had some fancy explaining to do when I arrived home with the front of my brand new snowsuit torn to shreds.

Other kids were much better at it. Most of them made it all the way up to Avenue U. The absolute "best" I ever witnessed was a "string" of SEVEN (7) kids hanging onto the back of a bus. I still can't believe they made it from Allen Avenue almost to Avenue V. 

However, I was an expert at the "double dog" dare when it pertained to ice on the "Creek". I usually went out so far that I fell through. This happened 3 years in a row. On these occasions, local firemen usually laid ladders end to end out onto the ice, to reach and save me.

Immediately after my first escapade, Tante (Mrs. Rosa) Unger plied me with a small glass of Swedish "Glogg" - a heated Christmas drink - that "warms up the soul" almost instantly. During my final "dunking" the rescue firemen had to order me to release the hold on my brand new "Flexible Flyer" sled, a Christmas present. I just couldn't bring myself to do so until hypothermia took over and I realized it was either me or the sled. I finally let go of it. Over the years, I have thought of getting a SCUBA team together to salvage my lost "treasure", but it is probably covered with a ton of barnacles.

On this final occasion, Tante Unger "overdid" her Glogg remedy. When I arrived at the hospital, the emergency doctor examined me and in a loud voice, for all to hear, proclaimed, "This kid is drunk!" My embarrassed father had to quickly explain Tante Unger's Yule "Elixir" and how successful it had been in recent winters when I had fallen through the ice. The doctor's final diagnosis, "That stuff prevented the kid from catching pneumonia." After my father's stern warning about future "ice-capades" I left the "double dog" dare to more intrepid kids on the Beach.

With this adventuresome behavior behind me, I promptly got into another form of "trouble" with the help of friend, and co-conspirator, Stan Nilsen. At that time my father was into amateur photography and took most of his own pictures. He also had a dark room for developing. In those days, there were no Flash Bulbs for night photography; there was something known as a "flash bomb". It was some form of powder encased in a 2-inch round wooden/cardboard box about an inch thick, with a 3-inch long string fuse.

A photographer would use it in this way. First he would place his subjects in proper order. He would then place the "flash bomb" onto something like a metal pie pan and turn out all the lights. The camera shutter was then opened manually. The photographer then lit the fuse and ran to his seat (if he wished to be in the picture). When the "flash bomb" went off, it filled the room with light (and smoke) and then died out. The photographer arose, closed the shutter and turned on the lights. You now had a photo taken in the dark with artificial light.

This now brings us to the "MAGIC" performed by Stan Nilsen and Kaj Swenson. While rummaging through my Dad's darkroom looking for some old family photographs, we "discovered" some "flash bombs". Thinking we could use one similar to a firecracker, we took it into the weeds just west of "The Creek" and Knapp Street.

It had rained quite hard earlier in the day and everything was damp and misty. As a result, we were unable to light the fuse on the "flash bomb". As we were walking back along (then cindered) Knapp Street toward Avenue W (in and out of, water puddles, naturally), we came up with a bright idea; let's pry the top off the "flash bomb" and toss a lit match into the powder. It worked perfectly.

Unfortunately, we were too close when it flared up. Stan was closer and received the full brunt of the flash. The skin on his face looked quite red and "charred" in spots. I had no idea what mine looked like but assumed it was as bad. Needless to say our faces "burned" like the dickens so we cupped our hands, got water from the puddles and splashed it on our faces. We then decided to head for home and "face the music".

But how could we explain what had just happened? On the spur of the moment, we concocted the story about meeting a "wild man" in the weeds, who threw acid in our faces. That agreed to, we headed for Stan's house (about 3 houses from Avenue W). When Stan's mother saw his face, she fainted onto the kitchen floor. That was when I took off for home.

For a day, or so, we stuck by our story but police searches never found the "madman". However, some days later, while rummaging through his photographic equipment, my father discovered the missing "flash bomb" and quickly put two and two together. First, he grilled me until I confessed. He then went over to Stan's house and confronted him. It wasn't long before the true story emerged.

My father then contacted the police and told them to call off their search for the "Madman of Gerritsen Beach". Much to our chagrin, the story made the major Brooklyn and New York newspapers. One good thing about the incident; Stan's face survived the burns, although until the day he died, he always appeared to be "blushing". As a result of threats to our lives (by our parents) Stan and I "stayed clean" until my family moved to the lakes and rivers of New Jersey in 1936.

After leaving the "Beach", I missed the neat games we played.

"Baseball" (with a taped, broken bat, and a ball wrapped in electrical tape).

"Stickball" (baseball played in the street with a rubber ball and a broom handle).

"Stoopball" (throwing a rubber ball against a stoop. If you hit the corner of the step hard enough, it would go all the way across the street for a home run).

"Mibs" ("shooting" marbles from outside a six foot circle, or into a twelve inch square box, drawn in the cinders). Then there was the admonition, "knuckles down" when the game really got serious. There was also the pain of seeing your favorite "shooter" disintegrate into small pieces.

"Tag" Being "In" or "Out"; breathlessly hollering, "Oley, Oley, In Free" when you were "Out" and sprinting to "Home Base" before being tagged, thus releasing all the "captives/prisoners" with your daring.

There was also: "Buck, Buck" (How many fingers are up); "Kick the Can"; "Ringaleevio"; and many others I've forgotten.

I also missed:

Rooting for the Gerritsen Beach "HUSKIES" (football) and "ROBINS" (baseball).

"Da Bums" - the real Dodgers - and Ebbetts Field.

Saturday afternoon Flash Gordon serials at the Avenue U theater.

Cartoons at "The Itch" (Graham), where my mother would come after me if I was late for supper. After the usher got to know my mother, he allowed her inside to find me. Her ingenious method was to wait in the orchestra section until she heard my laugh. She'd then locate me, grab me by the right ear, and haul me home. 

"The Weeds", where the kids "built" club houses and forts in the nooks and crannies among the sloping concrete forms (for the stands) of an abandoned race course.

Baking (charring, really) "Mickey" potatoes in wood and coal ashes. Usually, there was little left unburned, but what was left was simply delicious with a pat of butter.

And finally, jumping from a neighbor's garage roof onto the top of my father's canvas topped touring sedan. This ended abruptly when Eddie Jurek went completely through the top. Once again, there were severe consequences.

A few days later, however, my father let us "off the hook" when he observed some of us fighting at the wheel of the car. When he asked us what we were doing, we said we were arguing over the car keys. Somewhat puzzled at this, he pulled the car keys out of his pocket to show us that he had them. When we told him we were fighting over "make believe" keys he busted out laughing and went into the house.

Then there were the times when my father and Uncles Erling Aaroe and Birger Arneberg would overhaul the engine of the old touring sedan. They would use a wooden "A" type frame to lift out the engine, put it on a skid and slide it down the cellar steps into the basement.

Over the winter, they would dismantle the engine, piece by piece, and reassemble it with new parts. By spring, the engine was ready for duty and the family went on camping trips to the Pocono and Catskill Mountains.

One fall, my father decided to build a large wooden coal bin in the basement for ease of fueling the furnace. It was to hold approximately 2 tons. My father availed himself of the services of Uncles Aaroe and Arneberg - engineers that had worked on construction sites in Brazil as well as the Hoover Dam - to design the new bin. 

Lumber was purchased and the bin was completed the day of the coal delivery. The truck backed into the driveway, the chute was run through the basement window, and coal started flowing into the bin. A short time later, my father hollered that the bin was full. Somewhat amazed, the coal man closed the gate but wondered why he had over half the coal left in the truck. After the "engineers" rechecked their figures and accused the coal man of bringing too much coal, my father made some quick calculations and discovered the problem. It seems the "engineers" had sized the bin for a solid 2-ton block of coal - forgetting there are air spaces between the coals. Of course two very red-faced and embarrassed engineers were never allowed to forget this incident and family members still laugh when retelling this story.

Then there were those early Christmases. As I grew older, I sensed there was something "fishy" about Santa Claus. Somehow, one of the uncles was always missing when Santa arrived. Once, when all were present (they probably brought in a "ringer") we really were perplexed. But the charade was over a year later when Santa came in wearing "spats" (a cloth shoe covering) always worn by Uncle Roland. Even my baby sister, Greta, and brother, Arne, spotted it. When I mentioned this to Uncle Roland many years later, he said, "Don't you think 21 is a little old to be believing in Santa Claus?"

Unlike other kids in the block, I never got a genuine "Red Ryder" repeating BB rifle for Christmas. My mother said that with my record, I would probably "shoot my eye out". She was probably right. The kids that had rifles, promptly "shot out", or "put holes in" a number of neighbor's windows. Thankfully, I was not considered responsible for these dastardly acts.

Beach "kids" I still remember are: Bobby Antenucci, Tommy Bertosen, "Nunzie" Biondello, "Ham" Dwyer, Frankie Foley, Ray Gadeberg, "Bucky" Jones, Eddie Jurek, "Buddy" Linde, Stan Nilsen, Eddie Ryan, George Smith, John Smith, Walter "Big Duck" Stoneberg, Howard "Little Duck" Stoneberg, Herb Tiedeman, and "Sonny" Witkowski.

I especially miss the Gerritsen Beach mothers. They were the nicest, kindest group of ladies I have ever known. It was, of course, the middle of the depression and everyone was suffering. However, this didn't prevent them from sharing meager food rations with friends of their sons and daughters. I especially remember Mrs. Julie Witkowski, who with her husband, Frank, would smile as they watched us kids hungrily raiding the grape vines and fruit trees in their back yard.

My votes for "sweetest" women on the Beach are: Mrs. Julie Witkowski; her daughter, Alice; and my younger sister, Greta.

After our family arrived in New Jersey, I was like a fish out of water. I missed my old chums so much that I ran back to the "Beach" a number of times. Usually one of the parents, or Mrs. Unger, would put me up until my father came to get me. Fortunately, he was the Managing Editor for the weekly Swedish-American newspaper, Nordstjernan, located on Park Row (lower Manhattan), so it wasn't that far out of his way. Sometimes my father sensed my loneliness and was kind enough to bring me into the city with him. I would then take the BMT subway to Avenue U, the bus to Gerritsen Beach, and visit with the kids.

Once, Nunzie Biondello, Frankie Foley, and Stan Nilsen surprised me by riding their bikes all the way from Gerritsen Beach to Lake Arrowhead, Denville, New Jersey, a journey of over 70 miles. They arrived about 4 in the morning, exhausted and hungry. After they were fed, they went to sleep anywhere they could, including inside our car.

The next day they told us about all the problems on their trip. They begged a ride through the Holland Tunnel (their bikes were piled in the back of a large truck); had tire leaks repaired free of charge by kindly service station attendants; and were given food (at minimum cost) at diners along the way.

When the girls in our "lakes area" learned of their "feat of endurance", the guys were given a heroes welcome. They enjoyed free food, swimming privileges, dance passes, etc. during their week-long stay. It was truly a great time for the kids from Gerritsen Beach.

I kept in touch with a number of "Beach" guys by V-Mail during World War II. I remember that Stan Nilsen was a Coxswain on the USS LST-378, "Nunzie" Biondello a Radioman on the USS LCI-401 and Eddie Ryan, also a Radioman, on the destroyer tender, USS PRARIE (AD-15). 

After the war, many of the guys got together to "hit the town" on New Years eve, 1945. As was the custom, we reveled for most of the night and into the early hours of New Years Day morning 1946. At about first light, the "fish eaters" in our group decided they had to attend church and dragged us "meat eaters" along. When I entered Church of the Resurrection for the first time, I became sober almost immediately. When the sermon commenced, I was fully awake and to this day I still remember the theme. It was how each person must start off the New Year, like in life. As his example, the Priest used a story about a farmer plowing his field for the first time. If the initial row was plowed straight and true, then all the rest would follow suit. I'm sure I was the only one to hear the entire sermon, for most were snoring away. In fact, some of the guys embarrassed me by actually lying down in the pew. I told them later, that this would never have been allowed to happen in a "good" church, like St. James Protestant church in the "Old Section". 

In January 1946, after most of us had returned from the service, there was a "get together" with a number of "Beach" kids at McQuillen's on Gerritsen Avenue. Stan Nilsen and other "trouble maker's" failed to inform me that Eddie Jurek would also be in attendance. For about an hour, they recounted many "Beach" stories, and regaled everyone about my feats in "beating up" Eddie. Later, during a lull in the conversation, I felt a "King Kong" size hand on my shoulder. When I turned around, there stood a man - head and shoulders taller and a hundred pounds heavier - who said, "Hey Kyoodle, remember me? Think you can take me now? I think it's time I got even for all those beatings."

They say the lives of people flash before their eyes just before they die; I can attest to this. The expression on my face and the sagging of my body must have been hysterically funny to everyone - including Eddie - for they all burst out laughing. It was only then that I realized I had been "set up" by Stan Nilsen, Frankie Witkowski and other so-called boyhood "pals". To this day, I still have nightmares about Eddie beating me to a pulp in the cinders of Plumb lst Street.

In subsequent years we also congregated at the Tamaqua (pronounced Tama-qua) to drink and sing up a storm. Our favorite song was, "Heart of My Heart". 

Some of "Beach" kids attended my September 1949 Bachelor Party at 740 West End Avenue in Manhattan. We rehashed the good old days at the "Beach" for most of the night and got pretty well "sloshed". I recall that a few of the guys found their way home; others stayed the night.

On 21 September 1949, a number of the kids also showed up in Trexlertown, PA for my marriage to Betty Newhard (who resided in nearby Allentown). The next morning, as Betty and I headed off on our Honeymoon, we drove past the grove where the reception was held. I recognized the "bodies" of some "Beach" guys and men from the USS THORN, still lying in the grass. I felt guilty about not stopping but I later learned that all survived. Within hours, I was ready to kill them all.

The first stop on our way west was Pittsburgh. After checking into a hotel, we discovered the lock on our large suitcase was jammed. We took it to a locksmith who managed to open the lock. As the lid flipped open about an inch, out flowed "Puffed Rice". At that moment, Betty and I decided it would be best if we fully opened it back at the hotel. It took us most of the night to clean out the luggage. Our "friends" had really done a number on us. Betty and I now laugh about this "unique" second day of our marriage. 

When I moved to Pennsylvania in 1953, I saw the name TAMAQUA again. It was a town 25 miles northwest of Bethlehem but it was pronounced: "Tah-mah-qua". I don't know how many times I was corrected by the locals and told to pronounce the name properly. I also had trouble with the town of New Tripoli, which is pronounced by Pennsylvania Dutch folk, "Noooo-Tri-Polllie".

Living in Pennsylvania for almost 50 years, the kids at the "Beach" say I have a developed a slight accent. There were numerous times that I "scheduled" a stop at the "Beach" returning home from business trips. Minutes after arriving home Betty would quickly comment, "I can hear you stopped off at Gerritsen Beach again." Somehow, I managed to regain my old Brooklyn accent after only a few hours.

On 24 September 1979, a reunion of some old Gerritsen Beach kids was held at 115 Aster Court, the home of "Wick" and Estelle Witkowski. In attendance were: "Nunzie" and Margie Biondello, Frankie Foley, Irene Jones, Eddie Jurek, Stan Nilsen, George and Sue Smith, Kaj and Betty Swenson, Alice and "Ziggie" Wielunski and "Wick" and Estelle Witkowski. More recent reunions were held at the home of "Ziggie" and Alice Wielunski.

Since these great get-togethers, Frankie, Eddie, Stan, George and others have left us. Like the others before them, these old friends are sorely missed.

My oldest and closest friend from the Beach is "Sonny", "Frankie", "Wick" Witkowski. We have known each other for over 70 years and we still keep in touch via telephone, e-mail and "snail mail". "Wick" still lives on the "Beach" (115 Aster Court) with his lovely wife Estelle. Betty (my lovely wife for 51 years) and I try to visit with them at least once each year.

It was at the suggestion and urging of “Wick” and “Stelle” Witkowski that prompted me to buckle down and write my “Remembrances”.  Apologies are in order for its length.  It started out simply as my “Gerritsen Beach Memories” but before long it expanded and has now turned into a personal mini history.

With the assistance of “Wick” and “Stelle”, Alice and "Ziggie" Wielunski, Sue Smith, Ella Keating, Marret Kauffner, Jack McAuliffe, Ellen McAuliffe Hughes, "Knobby Walsh", Kenny Bertosen, Jr. and others, we offer what to the best of our combined abilities, is a list of families who we believe lived on the East and West sides of Plumb 1st Street from 1924 to 1936. Perhaps some viewers/readers can assist us with the missing "old" house numbers.

 

Last changed: July 15, 2002