Thursday, June 02, 2011

Franklin Avenue Way Back When

With the new Candy Store and Ice Cream Parlor at 733 Franklin generating chatter about the changing nature of the Avenue's local businesses, ILFA thought it would be a good idea to hop in the way back machine and hear from an old-timer about what the Avenue used to look like. Enter Howard Adamsky, the Brooklyn-born author of Employment Rage, who volunteered his talents on ILFA's facebook page awhile back. His complete reminiscence is below, and it includes (ta da!) candy stores. (Readers: if you've got a great Franklin story, ILFA wants to run it).

Few things in life bring me as much joy as a walk down Franklin Avenue.

No; wait. Let me start at the beginning.

For openers, I will not bore you with the details of my idyllic childhood or the wretched misery I experienced moving to Canarsie when I was 16 (against my will I might add thank you very much…) but I will tell you this - Simply stated, I love Franklin Avenue so let's just go from there.

I was born on Park Place between Classon and Franklin. I lived there until I was 11. We then moved to President Street; the second floor apartment facing the front in that grand red brick building at the corner of President and Franklin. I lived there until I was 16. (That building is so amazingly cool that there is a website dedicated to it at http://www.brooklyn.net/)

Bottom line?

Franklin Avenue was my home and I never thought it would end. From about Carroll Street right through Prospect Place, I was on that street every single day. It was the main drag that connected what was seen as Crown Heights to Prospect Heights at Eastern Parkway and it had all of the stores and fun any kid could ever want.

Just to name a few, Steve’s Pizza, a great place that had the best pizza on the planet. Nino’s Pizza, another great place that also had the best pizza on the planet. Ben and Sol’s, the deli where you could get a bag of French fries for a quarter. I & H, (Izzy and Harry’s) candy, the best candy store ever where the egg creams were 15 cents and nickel candy bars actually cost a nickel. Barton's and Baracenni, two fancy candy stores right across the street from each other on Franklin at Eastern Parkway where my mother said that the rich people shopped.

Continuing up into Prospect Heights, there was another place that sold the best pizza on the planet closer to Park Place in the event that Steve and Nino decided to go out of business because one can never have enough pizza places. Honey’s for skates and stickball bats, Nats for potato chips and Eidens if I was too far from Nats and needed to get more chips without doing a lot of walking. (I lived on candy, chips and pizza. I still do.)

But there was more - so much more. The writer in me struggles. The grief of nostalgia and haunting sound of times gone by make it hard to express my memories of this place that is so far away.
Let me assure you that Franklin Avenue was about far more than pizza and kids toys and candy bars. It was about people living together in a magical place. It was about summer nights that were so hot, there seemed to be no air for breathing. It was about lampposts tossing shadows that frightened me as a child. It was about unplowed snow and kids in the street and all of the things that made Brooklyn a dream place to be a kid

Franklin avenue was about the hustle and bustle of Saturday shopping and Fishers Supermarket and fruit stands. It was about busses going up and down Franklin avenue that were first electric and later, powered by gas. It was about looking 2 ways because Franklin Avenue was indeed a 2 way street when I was a kid. It was about a kind of magic; a giddy excitement created by the the new and the fun and the sheer delight of living that kids can’t seem to explain and adults can’t seem to understand. Franklin Avenue, was a joy.

Sadly, that was then and this is now but Franklin Avenue still fascinates and endures in a way that is timeless. I know this because I still walk my favorite street every time I drive down to New York. I jump on the 2 train and take it to President Street where I bound up the stairs from the darkness into the sunlight with a child’s energy and anticipation. I look at the new stores and hear the new sounds and stop and talk with almost everyone who is willing to take a moment to chat. I eat the pizza and drink the coffee and breathe the air of the familiar and the cherished.

Thomas Wolfe said that you can’t go home again. I disagree.

16 comments:

  1. Love this piece. Thanks for posting it, Nick. Do have any idea what time period the author is describing? I assume it is the 50's or 60's?

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  2. My assumption from reading this is that Mr. Adamsky is close to a contemporary of mine (I am 67) or a little younger, for the neighborhood he describes is similar to the one that I was raised in in the Bronx. Its always enjoyable to read reminiscences like this one; I would even like more details.

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  3. I believe this describes the area in the late 1950s - early 1960s.

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  4. This site is full of such fun stories

    http://www.forgotten-ny.com/NEIGHBORHOODS/neighborhoodhomepage/neighborhoods.html

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  5. Spoken or maybe I should say written like a true neighborhood kid and with a kid's passion. Thanks Howard for keeping our memories alive and exciting. I sure wish John Chase were here.

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  6. Yes Rich.

    Where are you John Chase? I can still hear your voice.

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  7. Great piece. I bet Tony Fisher would love reading about the nostalgia for the old Fishers Supermarket.

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  8. What a lovely recollection of a more magical time! I'd like to think Franklin Ave is well on its way to reclaiming that magic.

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  9. I was born in 1950 and lived on Carroll St. between Washington and Franklin until 1966. This wasn't just a place to grow up, it was a world that held all a kid could need. Roll out of your building and into numerous schoolyards, all sports, all times of the year. The Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn Museum, Public Library, Eastern Parkway Playground, Guyder Park ( where at least once a month somebody removed the bust of Guyder), Ebbets Field and more. The hub though was Franklin Ave. It had everything you'd ever want with shopkeepers who knew everyone, parents and kids alike. Candy stores galore, old time appetizing shops, easily out Zabaring Zabar's, cheaper and simpler. The owner used to send home pure honey drops with any parent who mentioned that their kids had a cold and sore throat. A pharmacy, that was a medical hub, pizza shops, luncheonettes each with their devoted followings, Sonny's Fish Market, the Red Apple fruit market, Bernstein Brothers at Franklin near Crown as well as the aforementioned Fishers. My journey has taken me from Brooklyn to Long Island to Santa Fe, New Mexico and finally to Northern California but if anybody asks me where I'm from it's Brooklyn, Carroll St. between Franklin and Washington, just over the tracks of the Franklin Ave. shuttle. It's wonderful to find this site and connect with the generations that have followed and to see how my true home continues to change and thrive.

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  10. Oh, this is amazing. I remember just about all this stuff. Rae's luncheonette, the Red Apple, the fish market, the appetizing store with those pickle barrels, Honey's for school supplies, Spaldeens and Pensy Pinkys, and yeah, you're right, Steve's and Nino's both had the best pizza in the world. But as far as delis went. Ben & Sol's RULED. Radin's never held even the stub of a candle. Fishers, unfortunately, had gotten really down at the heels by the 60s, but we'd still go in there sometimes. I learned to ride a bike in Guider Park, to play hopscotch, and some of my earliest sandbox memories are in that little park. Lucullus' bakery, with its terrific ice cream cakes. The men's clothing store at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Franklin (the name is escaping me). The luncheonette where my brother used to sneak in and have lunch. The MHT bank, where my father taught me how to fill out checks. Oh lordie, the memories flood ....

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    1. You were in my class!
      Mike Glaser !!
      631-672-6743

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  11. I am not sure of where one goes when they die, but if it is to Franklin Avenue, I will be Ok with that.

    Everyone remember Eastern Parkway on the first few warm days of spring? Lloyd? Amy? Rich? Can you remember? Can you smell it all swirling and mixing together as it filled your head?

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    1. I've just come across this site reminiscing with husband. I grew up in 1001 President St., corner of Franklin Avenue in the 50s and 60s. My memories are the same as yours... went to PS 241. It changed from an 8th grade school to a 6th grade school while I was there and then was the first class in the brand new Lefferts JHS. Ben and Sol's for sure.. tongue, kishka, bologna on rye with good mustard. The appetizing store where my mother sent me for smoked whitefish and lox on a Saturday morning. Lenny's luncheonette, and Bass pharmacy, which was old and wood lined, and my mother would send me down to buy 5 cigarettes at a time. Honey's for school supplies and that wonderful start of school September smell. I spent my childhood running in and out of the Brooklyn Museum. I felt I had a personal relationship with the statues under the roof line. I had a garden in the Children's Garden of the Botanic Gardens for 50 cents for the summer. I snuck under the fence to the Japanese Garden and picked clandestine roses. I took ten books at a time out of Grand Army Plaza and read them walking home along Eastern Parkway. Good memories.

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  12. I lived at 1038 Union Street between Franklin and Bedford Aves. My story mirrors Howards in the same memories. We moved out of the neighborhood in 1968, but there was no other place like it. With Gus's luncheonette on the corner, Barney's candy store, Lee-Mark Superette and Honeys with the 10 cent toys on the back wall. It was a place I try to tell my kids about and unfortunately know they will never experience anything like it. In our apartment building we use to play foot hockey with a Spaulding pink ball in the hall way in the winter and stick ball (sewers or off the armory wall in the spring and summer). It truly was a magical place.

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  13. Cliff call me- Mike Glaser
    631-672-6743

    Remember Gusses Tuna sandwiches!
    Spaghetti that was perfect!
    Cherry Cokes-
    Shrimp salad sandwiches.
    Robert Schaufeld.
    Josh BAtnett
    MichaelKlein.
    Mr. Cohen.
    Mrs. Carroll.
    Ms, Hoffman
    my mom in the general office
    Corinne Glaser?

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  14. I miss carroll street and PS 241 and cub scouts in Prospect Heights !!!
    :-((

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