Archive for the tag 'history'

Gavrin

Source: Gavrin family via Daily News

Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered flags across New York State to be flown at half mast today in honor of U.S. Army PFC Bernard Gavrin, a Midwood resident who went missing in action during World War II whose remains were recently discovered.

Gavrin was reported missing in action on July 7, 1944, while serving in the Pacific theater at the age of 29. On June 15, as part of an Allied strategic goal to secure the Mariana Islands, U.S. forces were ordered to take Saipan. In one of the bloodiest sieges during the war, the Japanese forces threw wave after wave of soldiers at Allied forces on suicide missions known as banzai attacks. The 105th Infantry Regiment Gavrin served in sustained heavy losses of more than 900 killed or injured.

In the mayhem, many went missing and were presumed dead. Gavrin’s family never knew the comfort of certainty or the circumstances of his final hours – until now.

Gavrin’s remains were found as part of an initiative of the Japanese nonprofit the Keuntai Group, whose mission is to locate the remains of one million Japanese soldiers and return them to their families. During excavations in a cave in Saipan, the group found the Brooklynite’s tattered dog tags among the remains of several American soldiers in a mass grave.

On the dog tags was Gavrin’s home address – 1746 Ocean Avenue, near Avenue M.

Source: Gavrin family via Sun Sentinel

Source: Gavrin family via Sun Sentinel

A nephew of Gavrin’s, now 81, is the only surviving member of the family to remember the fallen soldier.

The Sun Sentinel reports:

“I am the only living relative to have known my Uncle Bernie,” [Gavrin's nephew David] Rogers said. “Words cannot do justice to the shock this news left me with.”

Rogers says he still remembers the screams of his grandmother Bessie when she opened a telegram delivered by the United States War Department.

It was the middle of summer 1944 and World War II was raging. Rogers, 12 at the time, greeted the uniformed man who stood at the door to his Brooklyn home — the bearer of bad news, every mother’s worst nightmare.

… Rogers was 8 when he last saw his uncle. He remembers having a “childish” accident that day, which left him bed-ridden with seven stitches above his eye. When his uncle stopped by for a visit, he woke up to say hello.

The next thing he heard about his uncle was when the soldier showed up at the door with the news he was missing in action.

“As a young person, to witness that, it obviously lasts the rest of your life,” he said.

Gavrin’s remains returned to the United States for the first time in at least 70 years, and he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. on Friday. On discovering the dog tags, the Army verified to Gavrin’s family that in addition to a Purple Heart, the soldier also won seven additional awards, including a Bronze Star Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and American Defense Service Medal.

Gavrin was buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery while his only surviving family member to remember him, David Rodgers, looked on.

“PFC Gavrin put his life on the line and paid the ultimate price to defend our nation and fight for the freedoms that it is built upon,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “After far too many years, he has returned home and has been granted a proper burial alongside the many other heroes who answered the call. I ask all New Yorkers to join me in honoring PFC Gavrin’s memory, his service and his sacrifice.”

Built around 1925, the Midwood home where Gavrin lived still stands, nestled behind large, leafy shrubs and a tree. Property records show the Gavrin family sold it in 1970.

The Gavrin family's home at the time of Bernard's death still stands today. (Source: Google Maps)

The Gavrin family’s home at the time of Bernard’s death still stands today. (Source: Google Maps)

Local Holocaust survivors. Photo by Erica Sherman

Local Holocaust survivors. Photo by Erica Sherman

The Aquila Theater Company and the Brooklyn Public Library are teaming up to stage dramatic readings of Sophocles’ “Philoctetes,” Euripides’ “Herakles,” Homer’s “Odyssey” and Sophocles’ “Ajax” for veterans, Holocaust survivors and the general public, this Saturday, September 6 at 12:00pm at Brooklyn Public Library’s Sheepshead Bay branch, 2636 East 14th Street near Avenue Z.

The readings of these Greek classics, entitled “YouStories of Holocaust & Veteran Survivors,” allows participants to enjoy ancient plays while sharing their true stories of survival. Library staff will be on hand to record the oral histories of Hololcaust survivors. Community members interested in Greek drama and war are encouraged to attend.

Another YouStories event will be held on September 20. To learn more, visit www.bklynlibrary.org.

Royal Bay Restaurant In Sheepshead Bay

Photo by Ned Berke

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) will sponsor a free talk and slide show tomorrow by official Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger:

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2014
2 P.M. – 3:30 P.M.
ROYAL BAY RESTAURANT
1794 SHEEPSHEAD BAY ROAD

Schweiger will speak about the history of Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.

An accompanying photo exhibit is being displayed in the window of Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ district office, 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road, all summer long.

Commisioner Nigro with NYPD Detective William O'Connor, Jr., the son of one of the fallen firefighters.  (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

Commisioner Nigro with NYPD Detective William O’Connor, Jr., the son of one of the fallen firefighters. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

Friends, family and FDNY colleagues gathered at Saint Brendan’s Church in Midwood on Saturday, marking the 36th anniversary of an historic blaze at the Sheepshead Bay Waldbaum’s that claimed six lives.

The August 2, 1978 fire broke out at Waldbaum’s, then located at Ocean Avenue and Avenue Y (now the site of Staples). As the blaze ripped through the building, area firefighters wrestled to bring it under control. At approximately 9:02 a.m., the roof gave in, plunging at least a dozen of New York’s Bravest into the inferno.

Attendees gather in front of the church after the service. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

Attendees gather in front of the church after the service. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

In all, six firefighters died and another 34 were injured in what became the largest loss of firefighters in a single fire in Brooklyn history.

In 1999, the city renamed the corner “Firemen’s Corner.” A street sign and plaque continue to honor the fallen.

FDNY's Emerald Society Pipes & Drums performed at the service  .(Photo by Mike T. Wright)

FDNY’s Emerald Society Pipes & Drums performed at the service .(Photo by Mike T. Wright)

The heroic firefighters who died in the blaze on August 2, 1978, are FF George Rice, 38, Ladder 153; FF James McManus, 48; Cov. Lt. James Cutillo, 39, 33rd Battalion; FF Harold Hastings, 39, 42nd Battalion; FF Charles Bouton, 38, Ladder 156; and William O’Connor, 29 of Ladder 156.

The service in Midwood this weekend was attended by newly appointed FDNY Comissioner Daniel Nigro, who said that the event spurred additional training regimes to protect future fire-eaters, and that the department will continue to come together every August 2 to recognize the victims of the Waldbaum’s blaze.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.  (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

For the 2010 anniversary, John Dwyer of JGDwyerPhotography put together the below slideshow. Dwyer has been photographing the FDNY in action since the 1970s.

women-race

Twitter user @RealTimeWWI alerted us to the photo above this morning, showing the “Start of women’s race” here in Sheepshead Bay exactly one hundred years ago today.

The photo itself comes from the Library of Congress Bain Collection, an enormous set of photographs from “one of America’s earliest news picture agencies.” Although it was a global agency, they emphasized capturing life in New York City from the 1860s to 1930s.

The collection has a number of other photos from the event, like this one, showing the crowd greeting the winner:

women-race2

Unfortunately, we couldn’t dig up much about the Sheepshead Bay women’s race, so we can’t identify the winner or give much context. But this abstract from a New York Times report on it gives some detail:

Forty girl swimmers competed for aquatic honors yesterday afternon at Thall’s Pier, Sheepshead Bay, in a special carnival under the auspices of the Women’s National Life Saving Society. Close finishes featured a majority of the events, and unusually skilful work was shown in the fancy diving contest, the feature event of the programme.

We’ll have to do more digging into Thall’s in the future, but for now Brooklyn Eagle gives us this nugget:

Even Sheepshead Bay had a beach in the 19th century before it was dredged for yachts. Thall’s Bathing Pavilion on the west side of the bay provided a private pool and diving platform for swimmers. On the shore stood Dominick’s Hotel for longer staying guests.

That’s probably the structure in the background of the photo above.

The most information regarding the actual contestants comes from the data for the photo below, of Mrs. Lillian Howard, who appears to be one of the organizers of the event:

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Here’s what the collection’s notes had to say about her: “Photograph shows Mrs. Lillian Howard, an officer in the Women’s National Life Saving Society/League from 1913-1914 at a women’s swimming contest at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York City, July 16, 1914. “

She’s in this shot, too:

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Anybody recognize the names? I’m sure there are some descendants of these folks living in Sheepshead Bay, and we’d love to know more.

Here are some more names for you:

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Can we presume these three were the winners?

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Action shot!

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Ah, the heady days of the 1960s. I’m told if you remember it, you weren’t there.

So we’ll forgive you if you forgot all about that time – May 9, 1965 – when a bunch of teenagers swiped a penguin from the New York Aquarium in Coney Island.

Why would they steal a penguin, you ask? Because, man, why not?

The story goes like this: an MTA detective was on the subway at Stillwell Avenue, minding everybody’s business like he ought to. He spots a group of teens hop on his subway car carrying a cardboard box. The kids leave, but leave the box behind.

Then the box moves.

Figuring it’s a seagull – because, man, why not? – he goes to grab the box to take it outside and release it. Only after getting bit on the thumb does this detective decide to get a little more inquisitive, and takes a look inside the container.

Bam, penguin.

He called up the aquarium and they confirmed they were a penguin down, and it was returned safely.

Oh, yeah, then it happened again in 1967.

I learned all this after stumbling across the New York Historical Society video above, first released in 2012.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I bet those folks back in 1938 would’ve expected a lot of change to happen over the course of 76 years. I can just envision them, chomping on their cigars, flipping their derby hats in their hands, and saying, “Boy, oh, boy, in that there 2014, this here Sheepshead Bay Road will just blow your wig. Make no brodies about it, pally, there’ll be big ol’ skyscrapers everywhere, and clocks as grand as the sultan’s suds. I bet all the walls will have talkies showin’ all these tomatoes, and all the boys will be dizzy with dames on this here stretch.”

Well, they were wrong. This 1938 photo, taken from the elevated platform of what is today the Sheepshead Bay subway station, pretty much shows what a bunch of twits my imagined 1930s neighbors were. This road looks almost exactly the same now as it did then. Who would’ve thought it?!

Of course, there are some obvious differences. The building in the distance was torn down to make way for a bank (now Popular Community Bank), but that’s the only architectural change; all the other buildings still stand.

A real notable difference between the storefronts? They’re occupied in the photo. Also, the streets are clean and there aren’t 1,000 livery cabs threatening to bring a crushing end to your miserable life.

Anyway, just a side note: I found this photo up for auction on eBay. It lacks any description indicating the photographer or copyright holder. I wouldn’t normally do this, but old photos like this have a way of coming and going, and never being seen again – so I wanted to have it saved somewhere (thus the purpose of our Postcard series). If you’re the copyright holder, it’s not our intent to infringe, and you can contact me here.

The Mengels shooting gallery now in operation at Coney Island USA (Source: CIUSA/Facebook)

The Mangels shooting gallery now in operation at Coney Island USA (Source: CIUSA/Facebook)

Green-Wood Cemetery historian Jeff Richman is using Kickstarter to raise money for an exhibit on William F. Mangels, a German immigrant and inventor based in Coney Island who was a leading developer of America’s amusement parks at the turn of the last century. The project goal is to raise $17,500 by July 27, of which $3,291 has been donated so far.

Here’s the video for the project:

The proposed exhibit, titled “William F. Mangels: Amusing the Masses on Coney Island and Beyond” will be installed at Green-Wood’s Historic Chapel, and will feature “real pieces of Mangel’s rides and games – a carousel horse, a 22nd-foot-long shooting gallery, and actual Whip cars and original sketches, in Mangels’s hand, of The Tickler,” in addition to historic photography, video, and written correspondence.

If the Mangels name sounds familiar, it’s because we wrote about him last year when carnies unearthed a World War II-era shooting gallery behind one of their booths while cleaning up after Superstorm Sandy. The gallery has been restored and now sits next to Coney Island USA as part of their living museum. For $5, you get 100 shots at nailing metal tanks, airplanes and soldiers as they zip around the booth.

The Daily News reports that Richman spent the last 10 years collecting materials from all over the country for the exhibit—and although Green-Wood Cemetery has been curating exhibits since 1998, this would be the first ever dedicated entirely to one person.

The funds raised would offset the costs of graphics, lighting, monitors, framing, shipping, and video necessary to give Mangels his much-deserved tribute—and as is customary with Kickstarter fundraisers, backers will be rewarded with a variety of handsome prizes, including exclusive merchandise and even private tours for the most generous supporters.

- Sam Shokin

Timpano in front of her home beneath the Thunderbolt.

Timpano in front of her home beneath the Thunderbolt.

Test cars have been running on the Thunderbolt ahead of its public opening sometime next week, and a new generation of riders are preparing themselves for the $10 thrill on the resurrected, reimagined ride. But how many of those riders will remember the original Thunderbolt? And how many of those will remember the home beneath the coaster?

That home, a modest looking shack wedged beneath the ride’s wood and steel beams, was made most famous by Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, where it was the childhood home of protagonist Alvy Singer. Many likely figured it was an artistic embellishment, that the actual building there was little more than a utility shack.

Timpano inside the home.

Timpano inside the home.

But locals knew better. The gritty looking home, surrounded by brush and a layer of paint that looked like it had been applied in Biblical times, was actually the home of Mae Timpano and Freddie Moran. While it wasn’t much to look at from the outside – except for its odd placement – many would be surprised to learn that it was well-kept on the inside, with six rooms and a grand piano, and a stock of Coney Island tea (a.k.a. beer).

The home and its two long-time residents became the subject of a short documentary, Under the Roller Coaster. Released in 2001, shortly after the coaster and home’s demolition, it  examined the home, and the couple’s, place in Coney Island history. Here’s a synopsis.

In 1946, while working as a waitress on Coney Island, Mae met Fred Moran, the owner and operator of the Thunderbolt roller coaster. They soon fell in love, and for forty years they lived together in Fred’s house — right under the Thunderbolt’s first turnaround.

Fred died in 1982, and the Thunderbolt carried its last thrill-seeker soon after. In 1988, Mae moved out, and the house was sold to a developer [Horace Bullard] who dreamed of building a new amusement park on the famed island. But the coaster was silent for twelve years, and in November 2000, with no warning, the city of New York bulldozed away one of its great urban treasures. Here, Mae tells the story of her years living in the house that the Thunderbolt rattled.

Timpano passed away in 2009.

When you ride the new Thunderbolt for the first time, make sure to take a moment to remember these two icons, and the long journey Coney Island has taken that the ride represents. And some wise words from the documentary:

“That’s the funny thing about Coney Island. It seems that once you get sand in your shoes, you never lose it.”

Here’s the full documentary:

Update: It looks like Curbed had a similar idea, and published a more in-depth piece about the coaster and home’s history.

rocket1

The rocket returns! Last night, the rocket was trucked into Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. (Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

For the first time in five years, the most prominent symbol of Coney Island’s Astroland – the amusement park’s iconic rocket ship – has returned to the People’s Playground for display.

The Coney Island History Project announced this morning that the Astroland Rocket Ship was trucked back into the amusement district overnight after the group assumed control of the relic several days ago.

The rocket is the only surviving space “simulators” that once proliferated in Coney Island between the early 20th Century and the space age, the Coney Island History Project said. The organization won their bid to repurpose the “Star Flyer” – as it was originally known – as the centerpiece of a new exhibit about Coney Island’s space obsession throughout history.

The Star Flyer debuted in 1962 as a three-minute, 26-seat ride that rocked and shook thrill-seekers as they watched films of rocket rides. It was taken offline years later, and was later placed on the roof of boardwalk restaurant Gregory and Paul’s where, along with the Cyclone, Parachute Jump and Wonder Wheel, it became a staple of the playground’s skyline.

rocket2

(Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

“Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney’s amusement history,” said Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, at the height of the space race, with Astroland’s Moon Rocket. The ride provided visitors with an exciting taste of intergalactic travel. The Astroland Rocket has now returned to a place of honor beside the landmark Wonder Wheel, where it will be restored as an exhibit showcasing Coney Island’s fascination with space travel.”

When Astroland closed in 2008 to make way for Luna Park, Carol and Jerry Albert, the former park’s owners, donated the rocket to the city with the promise of making the centerpiece of the new amusement district.

The city put out a request for proposals to reactivate the icon, and the History Project answered and won the bid. The rocket will be in the group’s exhibit center in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and the cost of its move was covered by Carol Albert.

Wonder Wheel owners Steve and Dennis Vourderis plan to make it the centerpiece of their park’s annual celebration on August 9, and they’ll also oversee its restoration after it was seriously damaged during Superstorm Sandy. The rocket has spent most of the past five years in storage.

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(Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

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