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Jun 25, 2013 11:00 AM | 3 comments

After twenty years under sail as a Brooklyn Public Library crew member, your blog editor will be jumping ship on Friday 28th June, leaving in her wake a trail of 92--count 'em--92 blog posts on everything from Pigtown to alcoholic turtles. With an eye to the future, yet, as befits a local history librarian, with feet firmly anchored in fine examples from the past, let me now look forward to life beyond the library.

For an old special collections dame, collecting is going to be an attractive pastime.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 16, 1937

Miss Mary shown...with her collection of English tin soldiers...Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 29, 1940










Art projects line up to be completed, and the knitting that has been languishing for two years next to the sofa might even be finished.

Mr Joseph Turner came out of retirement to make shadow boxes that people buy...Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 1, 1946


And honestly, another good reason to move on is the need to get down to some serious gardening.

"On the job--Mrs. Louis Sternberg of Brooklyn CDVO helps to turn the ground [with a plow] in community [victory] garden at 17th Ave. [i.e. East 17th Street?] and Avenue J." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr 20, 1943

I will certainly relish the opportunity to take long walks,

Sir Edmund Hillary leads a companion over broken and dangerous ground...Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 19, 1953

 maybe go camping

Image from Frederick Cook's 1909 arctic expedition. Wikimedia Commons

And I'll be doing some traveling, as far as my limited budget will allow:

View of Jacqueline Cochrane, who took international record by flying 331.716 m.p.h. in 1940, in cockpit of airplane. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jun 29, 1941

But most of all, I look forward to being a humble student and servant of music.

Ensemble work is always tremendously stimulating,

Robert Hickok...leads the Community Orchestra in rehearsal ...of Handel's "Israel in Egypt..." Brooklyn Daily Eagle Jan 3, 1954

















in whatever form,

 The Tyroliers...will provide...the opening the Academy of Music. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 19, 1952

and I will especially relish time spent at the keyboard, alone or with an adoring acolyte:

Fifteen-year old Dorothy Vera Franceschi play her prize-winning "Obsession."Brooklyn Daily Eagle Mar 23, 1953

Although sad to relate, my acolyte is more likely to resemble this one: 

Bom Bomb and Patricia Typond. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept 26, 1949

 And then, after a hard practice session, what could be better than to follow the example of Floyd, the tippling turtle of the Toddy Inn.

'Water, schmater," says Floyd, turtle," I'll take a jumbo lager any time." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jun 1, 1953

Farewell Brooklynology! Farewell Brooklyn Public Library, dear colleagues and library patrons!



Selections from the 16mm Film Collection -- Wednesday, June 26th, 7pm

Jun 21, 2013 3:44 PM | 0 comments

You are by now most likely aware of the phenomenon that is Hot Bagels, a lovely little vintage film that pays copious homage to the king of all round baked goods (in my opinion).  We've featured it on this blog before, and on the strength of its charm alone it has racked up more than 100,000 views on YouTube.  So perhaps Hot Bagels is old news, but, much like a day-old bagel itself, it is no less delicious for being a bit stale:

What you may not know is that Hot Bagels is just one of 42 vintage Brooklyn films we've had transferred from the original 16mm film format to digital file.  Among these you will find a range of topics as varied and engaging as the people of this colorful borough.  Titles include I Remember Barbra, a 1980 visit to Ms. Streisand's old neighborhood; Coney, a lively and experimental short film from 1975 that captures all the frantic energy of Brooklyn's boardwalk; and Part of Your Loving, a 1977 look inside the mind and craft of a Brooklyn breadmaker, and much more. 

We're pleased to welcome you to join us this coming Wednesday, June 26th, at 7pm for a screening of a selection of these short films. 

All programs are held in the Brooklyn Collection, on the 2nd floor mezzanine level of the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza. A wine and cheese reception precedes the talk at 6:30 P.M. Seating is limited to 40 people. Tickets will be given out starting at 6:30pm.

Graduations Galore

Jun 20, 2013 2:50 PM | 0 comments

The graduation ceremonies, at every step from kindergarten to elementary school, to middle school, to high school, to college and on--have come and gone.  Enshrined here in our collection are many celebratory moments from graduations past--so here are a few of them. 

Probably never before have the public schools of Brooklyn made so fine a showing in their graduating classes as the records for the term just closed present~ Brooklyn Daily  Eagle, July 6, 1899  


Kindergarten graduate of Public School 133 in 1953

Profesor Hooper from the Washington Avenue School admonished the students " If you only have an opportunity to earn ten cents a week, grasp it,  as Stephenson did; he was the inventor of the locomotive" ~ Washington Avenue School, 1896. (In today's money, students would be grasping at approximately $2.72 per week.)


Eighth grade students at Public School 222 in 1954 

Your education is not finished, grows like the tree, imperceptible.  And as each one learns and acts so will she become more or less a good to others. ~ P.S. 18 June 1874 

Packer Collegiate Institute in 1943.

Speaking at a graduation at P.S. 35 in 1892, Edward Rowe from the Board of Education stated that he didn't believe that the people seated could pass the examinations that the children had been through.  He also admonished the parents to visit the school during term time, and to talk over the situation of their children with the teachers, instead of writing them insulting notes when they didn't like what was done. 

St. Mary's Hospital School of Nursing in 1950. 

Brooklyn College in the 1950's

And yet, when we come to look carefully at the real successes in life,  we can trace their origin back to dreamy hours of silent and self-forgetful toil, to days and nights and years spent in discouraging and fruitless experiment before the final result was achieved, which challenged the admiration of the world. 

  Long Island College Hospital graduation, 1879   

Two sets of twins graduating from St. Joseph's College for women in 1952. 

"Hunger can be subdued only by supplying food, and ignorance got rid of only by the entering in of knowledge" Polytechnic Institute, June 1902. 

Two students who completed their studies at Long Island College Hospital in 1949. 

No matter what you do, do it well.  Be enthusiastic.  Find your place.  I believe everyone is called to do some particular work; to stand in his or her lot and do this work as God Almighty intended him or her to do.  Then, I would say, master your work.  I would suggest that it would be well to see your opportunities, and don't be like the lobster cast on the shore, waiting always for the tide to come and sweep you back. And then, in conclusion, my dear friends, live for others.  Remember you are going out in the world among those who will need something you will have to give.  Your education is not for yourself alone. ~ Manual Training High School 1902



Let's Get Trivial! Part II

Jun 10, 2013 11:34 AM | 0 comments

In April we hosted a trivia night at one of our favorite (not to mention most convenient, as it is just steps from the Central Library) watering holes, Bar Sepia.  It was a memorable evening; along with the usual fine beers and smooth wines contestants tasted the salty brine of competition, the bitter tears of defeat, and, for the victors, the robust, thirst-slaking flavor of a free bar tab!  A good time was had by all who sought to disprove the notion that only the dead know Brooklyn. 

No boxing allowed.  No children, either, as this will be at a bar, after all, and on a school night.

We've spent the last two months brewing up another batch of Brooklyn minutiae -- with the help of the trivia mastermind who writes the WeeklyNabe -- and we invite any and all takers to join us again at Bar Sepia for round two of Let's Get Trivial!

Who: Teams of four will compete. Bring three friends or come solo and we'll match you up with some real eggheads.
What: Brooklyn trivia night.
Where: Bar Sepia, 234 Underhill Avenue (at Lincoln Place)
When: Tuesday, June 18th at 9pm
Why: Because you can win a bar tab!

No need to register in advance, just show up next Tuesday ready to rumble. 

We Don't Need No Education

Jun 1, 2013 3:01 PM | 1 comment

Summer is just around the corner, with its balmy breezes and skin-licking sunshine, prompting among Brooklyn youth the understandable urge to break free from the confines of a drab schoolday and spend the afternoon lolling in the park, strolling down the avenue, or staging a massive protest at City Hall. 

At least that was one way of reading the events of late April 1950, when thousands of students all over the city spilled out of their schools and into the streets, disrupting the school day, traffic, and life in the city in general. 

An estimated 1,000 students walked out of Abraham Lincoln High School at 2800 Ocean Parkway on April 26, 1950.

Although student protest is a standard part of the history of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the late 1950s and 1960s, this early uprising on the part of the collective student body had a slightly less inspiring catalyst -- the loss of extra-curricular activities.  But perhaps that is too flip an explanation; the core of the issue was teachers' salaries.  Mayor O'Dwyer was at the time resisting the call to raise teacher pay by $600 per year to meet a rising cost of living.  To stress their point, teachers across the city refused to put in extra, after-school hours supervising the various choir groups, photography clubs, and athletic teams that students cherished.  Extracurriculars were in turn suspended entirely, which was all the motivation students needed to act in solidarity with their teachers.  Without the pom-pom squad or school newspaper to keep them occupied in the evenings, the teenagers of Brooklyn found themselves with plenty of time to plan a massive political action.

Above, students from the Brooklyn High School of Automotive Trades gather in McCarren Park and chant "We want our teams". 

The strike started out on a relatively small scale.  400 students from Fort Greene's Brooklyn Technical High School refused to enter their classrooms on the morning of Tuesday, April 25, 1950 and instead congregated in Fort Greene Park before marching across the Manhattan Bridge to the steps of City Hall, where they demanded higher pay for their teachers.  At New Utrecht High School, 600 students also walked out in protest.  The walk-outs were quelled by noon that day, with school administrators dismissing the strikers as "troublemakers seeking excitement."  They were not so easily dismissed the next day, when more than 2,500 students marched to City Hall, this time pulling membership from Manual Training High School, Girls High, and George Westinghouse Vocational School, Franklin K. Lane High School, and Abraham Lincoln High School, among others.  The teenagers proved adept at rallying their peers to the cause, as students leaving their own school would drop by the halls of their erstwhile academic and athletic rivals to drum up more support.  Brooklyn Tech's principal, William Pabst, guarded against such incursions by posting sentries at school doors to keep his students in and other teenagers out.

A student from Thomas Jefferson High School scales the wall outside James Madison High School in an attempt to persuade fellow students to join the strike.  What do you expect when you name public high schools after revolutionaries?

This second day of striking was, by the Brooklyn Eagle's account, much more violent and disorderly than the first.  "Knots of youths climbed the 3d Ave. elevated stairway and slid down on the roof... a 30-foot stretch of iron pipe fence was knocked down. Several girl students were knocked down and trampled." In addition to the 2,500 students who showed up at City Hall, another 3,500 staged demonstrations at their schools. 

Then came Thursday, April 27th, when the strike swelled to more than 20,000 students from "practically every public high and vocational school in Brooklyn."  According to the Eagle, the sheer number of students marching across the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges en route to City Hall prompted police to barricade the pedestrian walkways of both bridges on the Brooklyn side, literally forcing the students underground as they took to the subways to cross the East River. 

Above and below, students show their enthusiasm for civil disobedience as police try to control crowds marching across the Manhattan Bridge.

Accounts from the City Hall area indicate that the strikes weren't just a day in the park.  Mounted officers tried to control crowds of students whose progress toward the Mayor's office was foiled by barricades and a force of 64 policemen.  At Foley Square students overturned a parked car and one student reportedly threw a switchblade at a police horse.  Despite the efforts of adminstrators at Brooklyn Tech to keep their students in the building, and despite their claim that none of their students participated in the April 27th demonstrations, the Brooklyn Eagle photograph below, showing a boy in the melee wearing a telltale Brooklyn Tech jacket, told a different story.

After three days the protests died down considerably, with no more than a thousand or so students arriving at City Hall on Friday the 28th, and most schools reporting their attendance as normal.  The sudden decline in participation was attributed to threats by Mayor O'Dwyer and Board of Education officials to track down the rabble rousers who led the walkouts, but even so, many were surprised at how quickly the protests petered out.  Eagle reporters listening in on a police radio overheard one patrolman dryly remark, "Hey, where are our little darlings this morning?"

In the aftermath of the demonstrations, blame was variously laid at the feet of Mayor O'Dwyer -- for refusing to meet with student organizers after the first day of striking -- and at those of the teachers -- who supposedly urged students to fight on their behalf.  Stoking this latter claim was fear of Communist infiltration of the school system.  On May 3rd, Superintendent of Schools William Jansen suspended eight teachers without pay because of suspected Communist leanings.  Jansen's investigation was launched before the student sympathy strike, but it wasn't a stretch for many imaginations to draw a thick red line connecting the two.  One Eagle editorial noted, "The riotous street scenes have never been witnessed in this city before and resembles only the sort of Communist disorder which has occurred in a few troubled spots abroad."  (Those interested in Jansen's hunt for Communists among the teachers' ranks can consult a new book in our collection, Reds at the Blackboard by Clarence Taylor.)

Regardless of what forces were instigating the protests, statistics gathered by the Board of Education clearly indicated that Brooklyn provided the bulk of the participants, with 12,140 teens from this borough walking out of classes compared to 8,452 from the rest of the boroughs combined (not that it was a competition... but if it had been, Brooklyn won).  Despite the impressive turnout, the student strikes failed to force administrators to comply with teacher demands.  In fact, it would take another 18 months of negotiation between the High School Teachers Association and the Board of Education before a pay raise compromise was reached.  Extracurricular activities finally resumed when students returned to school in September of 1951.