Thursday, April 29, 2010

God Bless, Curious Friends ~ Third Avenue El Memories

If I had a collaborator working with me on Yorkville memories as talented as John F. Harvey, the fellow who organized the postcard history of Maplewood at the link below, I'd be in research heaven.

Today John's 55. Happy Birthday, My Curious Friend!
Check out John's book, it's terrific.

The Third Avenue El and my grandfather are on my mind today. Thomas E. Pryor was born on the third floor at 820 Third Avenue on December 15, 1900 while steam engines going up and downtown rattled by the apartment's front windows (a 1940 picture of the block frontage is below). The rail was electrified in 1904 after the IRT came uptown. Thomas belonged to the St. Patrick's parish. He was baptized in the Cathedral and that certificate (below) has his correct birth date and baptismal date.
Thomas's parents, James and Mary, died of pneumonia in 1909 when he was 8. He and his older brother Eddie (Buster), 12, were committed by their Aunt, Mary Weil, to Father Drumgoole's Orphanage for Homeless Newsboys, also known as Mount Loretto, a 500 acre working farm at the southern tip of Staten Island on Raritan Bay (much of the orphanage property looks the same as it did 100 years ago). Father Drumgoole's City House with his tall statute in front (pictured below) was on the n/e corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Streets (the property is now a parking lot directly across from Chinatown, formerly The Fez under the Time Cafe, home of the Losers Lounge).
City House, ten stories tall, was Fr. Drumgoole's second orphanage after the success of his first at 53 Warren Street. Mount Loretto was Fr. Drumgoole's third orphanage. Thomas's orphanage intake card with dates is below, along with a picture of him at 14 in front of Mount Loretto's Church.

Thomas was released from the home in late 1915, after six years at Mount Loretto. Most news on his time spent there was suppressed and rarely discussed in my family. I overheard he was hardened by the home, he hated authority, got fired a number of times, and settled into being a hack driver. I was told he was charming, left-handed, artistic, and he didn't treat my grandmother well. She loved him but he broke her with drink, infidelity and last, Tuberculosis that led to Potts Disease and an early death at 40. The church wouldn't bury him. The wake took place in the front bedroom of apartment 2 South at 1582 York Avenue (funeral bill below). My Dad loved his father dearly. Only 11, Dad missed his father's act, being too young to remember him healthy. After the wake, the family picked up the pieces and moved on.


Anonymous said...

Your Grandpa Pryor had a hard life. Those Catholic Orphan homes were rough. You don't know the know half it. None of the guys what ended up in them places ever liked to talk about it.

Thomas Pryor said...

today is my grandfather Pryor's 110th birthday, and I fully recognize his hardships as a boy through many second hand stories told by his wife and two sons that overlapped but purposely left out many details