John Bennick, United States, Growing Up In Brooklyn in the 40's
Gerritsen Beach Brooklyn,NY It was 1942 and our family moved from Bay Ridge Brooklyn to a small fishing village called Gerrtisen Beach Brooklyn.
Away from the noise of the 3rd avenue elevated train and brown stone cold water flats to a small two story wood house built in 1928 with an apple tree in the back yard.
The old house needed work as it had been vacant for some time. Streets in the village were unpaved dirt, but we did have sidewalks.
Milk was delivered by a milkman in a white uniform driving an electric truck. Vegetables were sold by a man driving a horse drawn wagon, and the vegetables were grown locally on Brooklyn farms. Coal was delivered by the tons and sent down a "coal shoot" into our basement coal bin. All winter long before and after school I shoveled coal into our furnace to keep our family warm. The big furnace had one big duct over the top to of the furnace to heat the entire house. After school I cleaned the coal ashes from the furnace and dumped them into the dirt street as was the custom in the village.
Each home had a septic tank, called a "cess pool " in those days. Our hot water heater was called a boiler, as it was a big metal gas heated water boiler. The newspaper called the "Brooklyn Eagle " was delivered by a kid on a bicycle after school. A man in a truck drove through the neighborhood and sharpened saws and knives and the Good Humor man sold ice cream bars and charlott-ruses. The local grocery store delivered groceries by a kid riding a special bicycle with a huge delivery basket on the front. The special bicycle was owned by the store. Meats were sold in another store called a butcher shop. Kids went to a candy store for a an "egg cream soda" or a candy bar. Our local shoe store was called "cardboard joes".
When the Brooklyn Dogers played every radio on the Beach was tuned to the game, and from each yard or house the game could be heard. Windows were opened in summer as there was no air conditioning. We played stick ball in the streets and games all summer outdoors. When the street lights came on all kids went home. Saturday mornings we listened to the Green Hornet , The Shadow, and Superman.
Each kid walked the two miles to school. During the winter we played on the frozen canal on the way to school. As I jumped from ice berg to ice berg on a day when the ice was melting I fell in and swam to shore with heavy clothing and big boots and swam about 60 feet to shore. All the kids were great swimmers. All the kids had ice skates and skated on the frozen canal in winter when it was fully frozen.
In summer we swam in the canal. In summer we were afraid of POLIO . Rumor was you got Polio from soda bottles as the soda bottles were kept cold under ice water in the candy store, reaching into the water spread the Polio germs.
Our local movie theater was called the "itch" and they gave out dishes on Saturday nights. There were two churches, Catholic and Protestant and all the kids knew who was who. On my street we had a family from Italy, Ireland, Sweden and Germany. During the war an FBI agent went door to door in the neighborhood with a picture of a wanted German spy. A few times during the war ships were sunk off the coast of Brooklyn. We heard a ship being blown up. It was an ammunition ship. On Sunday afternoon Dad would take the family for a Sunday drive. All the other days of the week he rode the bus to work.
I remember all the excitement when the war was over. service men returned to the "BEACH". One young veteran was blind and walked with a white cane. He even rode the bus. Another service man from the beach had lost his legs and had a special automobile that had all the controls on the steering wheel. The old house of my chidhood is still there and has a new owner. The streets are now paved and they have city sewers, and the "itch" is now an apartment complex. The two churches are still there as are the descendents of many of the families from the 1940,s.