Brooklyn On Line

Brooklyn On Line - Bedford Styuvesant - Memories


Bed Stuy Circa 1940.

One Man's River is another Man's Street: I read an article in the Astin American-Statesman about a rancher who lives adjacent to the Blanco River in the county next to ours. I drive over this river frequently and it usually quite placid until we get a good rain and then watch out. The rancher, who was in his eighties, said that if the river doesn't drive you away it will turn you into a philosopher.

I thought that in living in our Brooklyn Tenament at 865 St. Johns Place was something akin to that feeling. St. Johns place and Nostrand Avenue was our river.. The longer that you lived there and sat on the stone stoop of the tenament, or rested your arms on a pillowed window sill the more you became immersed in the fluid motion of the street and the more you became a philospher of Bed Stuy Life and Passing Scene.

Like noting the Catholics returning from Noon Mass on Sunday and making bets with your father as to how many of the men would turn into Blackthorns Bar & Grill. Chauncey Manning coming home with a full load from his job cleaning a slaoon and singing in his beautiful untrained Irish Tenor voice, "My Wild Irish Rose." The jockeying for vehicle spaces by drivers hoping to park their cars on St. Johns Place. The sign that spring had sprung by noting the first buds on our only two trees that were at the New York Avenue end of St. Johns Place.Then the summer heat shimmering from the chocholate colored brownstones which often made them look to be meling. The bubbling tar in the roadway. The tinkling bells at 7PM of the Good Humor Men. The tired trudge of the workers wending their way home from the nearby subway station after being compressed, like sardines, into those airconditioned IRT subway cars. Feeling the distant vibration of the subway trains ech9oing through our buildings substrata, the rorar of a full house at nearby Ebbets Field, the weafting salt air Coney Island Breeze. Then the first decent snowfall which makes the crowded and narrrow St. Johns Place, at least for the first few hours, a clean and magical winter wonderland.

So all philospher or cultural historians do not necessarily need a river, to live adjacent with, to experience a fludity and continuance of life and motion. Some might say, "Roll on River Jordan," I say "Roll on St. Johns Place."

George Nichols CMSgt, USAF, Retired - Former resident of 865 St. Johns Place Brooklyn 16, New York


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