The Beautiful Bronx

My mom and dad have a wonderful gift coming to them this week. Yesterday evening I read The Beautiful Bronx 1920-1950 and The Bronx: It Was Only Yesterday, 1935-1965. Well – I mostly looked at the pictures and read the descriptions of the pictures, as that was the meat of each book, but the intro sections were also very cool.

My parents were each born in the Bronx and lived there until they moved to Blytheville, Arkansas in 1965 for a year. Growing up, my brother Daniel and I visited the Bronx periodically, as that’s where our grandparents lived (until my dad’s parents moved to Ft. Lauderdale) and we often heard tales of their time growing up in the Bronx.

I discovered these books a few weeks ago at my close friend Len Fassler’s house. Len is key mentor of mine who has had a profound influence on me both personally and professionally. I was scanning his bookshelves during a break in the evening and noticed these two books. He noticed me noticing them and told me to borrow them. Instead, I emailed myself their names and bought them later that night on Amazon.

They are beautiful books about a different time in America. The Bronx was growing fast during the time period and was a magical place to live. It was close enough to Manhattan to get to use the New York, NY mailing address, yet far enough away to be its own place. It has huge ethnic diversity that was integrated in many ways, but also organized around the notion of neighborhoods. I recognized some of the street names, neighborhoods, and buildings from conversations with my parents and the few times that I’ve been through the Bronx in recent years. But mostly I just tried to transport myself back to a different time in our country.

I’ve encouraged my dad to write more about his childhood in the Bronx on his blog. He’s written a few, like Punch Ball In Claremont Park, The Bronx (NY) 1945-1953, Jake the Pickle Man, Summer of ’47, and StrikeOuts: A New York City Street Game. But he’s got a ton more in him so I hope these books inspire him.

Mom / Dad – the books are in the mail – you should have them this week!

  • Anonymous

    Punchball was still being played in the streets of ny in the late 70’s. Your dad is spot on about the the amazing simplicity and thrills of the game. My friend and I were both all star baseball pitchers and we innovated the toss to be like that of a tennis ball. Check with your dad if he tossed and punched it this way? The pency pinky, the tradename of the ball, would travel a good 300ft. What a game!

  • How do you do these books in 1 sitting Brad?

    Are these smaller lighter reads? 

    • These were each easy reads – under 40 pages of text and the rest photos.

  • Thanks for this Brad.

    I was born in the West Bronx.

    New York story as many Jewish immigrants moved there from the LES to raise their families.

    I have a few but some remarkable pictures. Looking forward to seeing the photos in this book.

    • What street did you live on? I wonder if my folks knew where you lived!

      • Mt Eden Avenue and the Grand Concourse. Long time ago,

        Ordered the book. Thanks

        • My dad loved on (or near) Mt Eden Avenue. I was there to visit a few years ago. Very cool!

          • This string reminds me that I need to take my mom, now 92, back to the old neighborhood. 

            I will buy her the book as well. 

            Being a third generation New Yorker connects the dots between the Statue of Liberty, LES, Garment District, the Village and the Bronx in a very special way.

            NY is cool because to each person it’s ‘their’ city yet somehow grows this huge visceral identity. 

            Good conversation to get me excited for the day!

  • Anonymous

    Awesome — my mom went to Christopher Columbuse HS (she reminded me that she graduated at 16 and was valedictorian every time I failed to do my homework). I’m always astounded by the number of great people I meet who are from or whose parents are from her neighborhood. Just got her the second book.

  • My dad grew up a block away from Yankee Stadium. So yes, I remember my visits to the Boogie Down Bronx, which also helps explain my obsession with the Yankees. I think he’d love one of these books (along with the rest of his brothers and sister) so thanks for posting!

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