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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!