by Richard J.
The chain grocery was Bohack(s), right at the head of the canal. The chain is no more. Sometime in the mid to late '60's the building burned to the ground. I don't think at that time it was still a grocery. My mom always went there with her folding grocery cart, the upright kind with the two wheels. She filled it and pulled it behind her back to the house on Devon and Celeste. Mom had a driver's license, but never drove. After dad died we did not have a car. When dad was alive we shopped at an A&P off Nostrand Avenue on Saturdays. Mom was at Bohacks when the word went around like wildfire that JFK had been shot. By the time she got home the official word of his assassination was on the radio and television.
Fran and Izzy's was on the corner of Devon and Gerritsen. I remember this so well because in the summer evenings I would go there and wait for my dad to get off the bus from work at Macy's on 34th Street. I have since felt fortunate that I was not permitted to do this during school days. One day in November 1955 dad did not return home at the usual time. He had died of a heart attack at Macy's just at the time he usually left work, age 60. The police came to the house and told mom later in the evening. She had been frantic wondering where he was. He was a healthy man, but I imagine Mom suspected something awful had happened. He was always on time. I stayed with the Wicksten's (sp?) next door. Mom went with the police to identify dad. A three day viewing at Walter B. Cooks off Flatbush Ave, near the Macy's branch store. Three days, I guess that was traditional at the time. What an awful three days. Today, 43 years later my heart is pounding as I remember the events of that evening. Memories come back, the good ones with the bad. That's the way it is. Perhaps it's good that they do.
Another name I forgot to mention was TUCKER. Carol and Alexander had two children Jean, now about 60 or 62, and Ronald, now about 51. They lived off Devon Ave, perhaps on Fane Court. Everyone called Carol "Aunt Cass". She called her husband "San", for Alex("s"an)der. I called him Uncle Al. She was a distant cousin of my mother's mother, been born at Scilly Cove, (now Winterton), Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, as was my grandmother. Uncle Al helped my dad get his job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard at the beginning of the WWII. They also were the ones who suggested to my folks that they look for a house at Gerritsen Beach after the war. Later in the '50's they moved to Nassau County, Long Island.
Ryback's did seem to have everything!
Near Jack's which I remember mostly as a clothing store operated by Jack and his wife was a shoe store called Joe's. Herman Stuedley (sp?), John's dad always called the place "Cardboard Joe's". I think I have a picture of Jack and his wife.
We had a house guest in the early '50's. A farmer who was "burnt out" of his farm upstate New York. My parents knew him through family connections and during the war they would go to his farm and help out on weekends and dad's vacation time with the planting and harvest. As a result of this, my folks had lots of "bottled beef" and other food stuffs which were in short supply during the war. He became fast friends with Jack and his wife. He was the man who came to dinner--and stayed if I remember correctly for two years! He arrived with the clothes on his back, driving is only surviving possession, a baby blue Buick convertible. His name was Bill DeLong.
Herman Stuedley was born in the early 1920's and was raised at the beach. He was a juvenile diabetic and amongst the first to have his condition properly identified and treated. Later he lost his sight as did his daughter Barbara, from the same disease. He had a newsstand on Empire Avenue near one of the subway stops. Many of these stands were operated by blind people. I can't use the term visually impaired because it was not in use at that time. He made his way every day at very early and late hours to and from his newsstand. Mr. Stuedely died in the late 60's before he was 50 years old if I remember correctly. He had lots of stories about the beach. I didn't pay much attention to them at the time. He said that there was a gate up at the top of Gerritsen Avenue from the days when it was a private community like Breezy Point. He had a picture of the gate.
There was a tavern opposite Fran and Izzy's on Devon and Gerritsen. Then moving on towards Everett Ave was a pharmacy, I think it was called the Gerritsen Pharmacy. I remember the row of old style slow turning fans hanging from the tin ceiling. There were two men, perhaps brothers who I always assumed owned the business. Later in the mid '60's it changed hands and became Marty's pharmacy. Marty had been in the army or navy and was fond of telling everyone that, "I did everything while I was in the service ...What's your problem...just tell me...I can help. I did everything a doctor did, except surgery while I was in the service". He was cut from different cloth than the two reserved "brothers" before him.
Then there was a grocery store which was family owned. Much smaller than Bohacks, but much more convenient. Ralston's grocery? I remember a butcher shop in the same block, but it could have been the next block down.
I remember another tavern next to the Court Club which was next to Fran and Izzy's. I'm very sure this is where the Court Club was. Perhaps they moved from the location you remember later in the '50's or early '60's. What was the Court Club anyway? I remember the Tomaqua? Shellbank Yacht Club?? (Not very original guessing I'm afraid!)
The Library later relocated to the corner of Florence and Gerritsen. Do you remember "Doc Baronberg" (sp?) who had offices above the relocated library, with the entrance of Florence Ave? Doc Baronberg did tonsillectomies in his office. A frightful thought! All The Wikesten children had their's out at Doc Baronberg's. I had mine out at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Tonsillectomies were practically a right of passage through childhood in those days! I don't remember "Doc's" first name [It was Louis.--AW]. At one time he owned the only Mercedes Benz automobile ever seen on the beach. A little two seater.
I remember the Brooklyn Day St. James Parade. They also had a "Cadet Corps" for boys who also marched in the parade. Regular sort of army uniforms, discipline, marching, hikes in the hills of New Jersey around Dover, and I think a band. I was a member for a short while. It was headed by an older gentleman named Major Rule who I am sure was a WWI vet, and perhaps WWII also. After my dad died "the Major" wanted to stand up with me at a father's day ceremony. This didn't seem right to me, and rather than say so I insisted on dropping out of the organization. My mother and The Major could not understand my decision since I never connected it to the pending event. I was asked about it but said this had nothing to do with it. Foolish on my part, but my child's mind didn't understand. I viewed the whole situation as an embarrassment rather than the honor Major Rule intended it to be. Do you or John remember The cadet corps at St. James?
Wow, all this personal stuff just comes pouring out! I am enjoying the memories.
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Last changed: March 09, 2005