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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sunshine Came Softly Through My Window Today

Good day sunshine!
Good day sunshine!
Good day sunshine!

Between the ages of 3 to 13, I slept and woke up in three Yorkville apartments:

517 East 83rd Street, #4R,
1582 York Avenue, #2S
1616 York Avenue #1S

The morning light came into each household differently.

517, a rear apartment faced northeast. My bedroom saw no light ~ it was on an air shaft. I woke early on the weekends, crept into the living room and turned the TV on low and sat right on top of it. Watched black & white cartoons immediately after the flag and the National Anthem signalled broadcasting was restarting. My favorite cartoon: Farmer Brown tortured by mice running up and down his walls. He chased them with a pitch fork. The bright light coming in our two yard facing windows warmed the back of my pajamas.

1582 ~ I slept on the punishment couch in the junk room, there was no light, one of my Italian grandmother's giant cabinets blocked the air shaft window. Mom said Nan bought the flat lifeless couch at a rummage sale at a prison. In the early morning, the light in the apartment slowly leaked through the two kitchen windows facing due east. The light hazy like a lake right after dawn before the mist lifts. The light was filtered by a single family house directly in back of 1582 that you entered through an 84th St building, that preceded the tenements that began to rise around it in 1915.

1616 ~ the best ~ the apartment's kitchen faced due east with no obstruction, the sun came in like gangbusters. It slipped through unimpeded through the opening in the wall between the living room and the first bedroom where I slept on two cushy pillows my grandmother always puffed up for me before she hugged me tight and kissed me good night. I miss Nan Ryan. She made tea with Carnation Evaporated Milk and there was always a little milk bubble on top the can after you poured some.

1616 York Avenue, backyard, Tommy & Barbie Pins

Last Blossoms of the year

Friday, April 23, 2010

Time Has Come Today

Time has come today for Buddy McMahon. As the student body heads back into the building after the fire drill, Buddy & his plastic LaSalle school bag cross Second Avenue heading for the # 6 on Bleecker Street. He's on his way to the Living Room in Park Slope to see a terrific comedy show.

Tonight, I'll perform a story @ Luke Thayer & Abbi Crutchfield’’s show ~ The Living Room at Postmark Café (free admission) ~ 326 6th Street (between 4th & 5th Avenues) ~ Park Slope, Brooklyn.

3 blocks from the 9thStreet R station & the 4thAve/9th St. F stop.

Come down, throw fruit!

All photos by Patrick Cullinan

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Think That I Shall Never See

I attended a rally at Sheep Meadow in Central Park on the first Earth Day. Several of my LaSalle classmates gathered at Union Square. Here are a few pictures from that day from Pat Cullinan's collection.
My photos of Joyce Kilmer's plaque & tree just east of Sheep Meadow are below.


Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

      THINK that I shall never see
      A poem lovely as a tree.
      A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
      Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
      A tree that looks at God all day,
      And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
      A tree that may in Summer wear
      A nest of robins in her hair;
      Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
      Who intimately lives with rain.
      Poems are made by fools like me,
      But only God can make a tree.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sleep Comes Down ~ Tommy's Next Reading ~ this Fri, Apr 23rd @ 8pm @ Living Room, Park Slope

From 1968 through 1972, I performed weekdays at LaSalle Academy for classroom audiences of 40 students. At lunchtime, the East Village mob grew to 200 in the school's gymnasium. A tough crowd, I grew thick skin. I've invited a few of my LaSalle chums to roll down memory lane with me on Friday.

I'll perform a story this Friday, April 23rd@ 8pm.

It’s part of Luke Thayer & Abbi Crutchfield’’s terrific comedy show ~ The Living Room at Postmark Café (free admission)

326 6th Street (between 4th & 5th Avenues)
Park Slope, Brooklyn.

3 blocks from the 9thStreet R station & the 4thAve/9th St. F stop.


Come down, throw fruit!


Photo of me by Joseph Menesick Sr. ~ All other photos taken by Patrick Cullinan ~ see his fantastic photographic history from the 1960s through now:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Smith Brothers ~ Lauded Thespians

I forgot to tell you, I went to high school with the Smith Brothers. Yes, the world famous Smith Brothers attended LaSalle Academy on East 2nd Street. Struggling to stay ahead of the Luden family in the cough drop business, the Smith parents shaved costs by taking the boys out of an exclusive Geneva private school and placing them in the East Village institution in 1969. Unable to socialize smoothly with their family trademark beards, the Smith boys found comfort in the small LaSalle theatre company. They left their mark in noted productions of Uncle Vanya and Duddie Come Home.
Biked the Westside last week ~ the blossoms were out in Riverside Park. I looped Central Park but cheated, using the 102th Street transverse to get to the westside. I rarely do the hill from hell at the north end of the park. I have no problem going up the hill, but I don't like the long coast down. I lost my recklessness a few summers ago, when I took a piece of meat out of my forehead when I fell off the bike going down that monster and waited three hours in Lenox Hill for twenty stitches.
I met Ronny Hanerfeld and his family in the emergency room waiting area; then, Nicky Bowen from 87th Street came in with his family. Each had a kid that needed medical assistance. We had a Yorkville reunion. It was 96 degrees out. I had a bandage covering the wound, no shirt on, too bloody, the nurse threw it away. My running shorts crept up my butt. With me just shy of nude, we reminisced.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rhapsody In Blue

Attended Zack's writing group tonight. Heard excellent new writers read their work. We wrote on the West 79th Street roof. These photos were taken on the roof or on my walk to the meeting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wrestling the Menesicks

I have many negative photographs that I am just beginning to explore. The quality is limited, but once I learn photo editing this will improve. Three negatives here, and two photos. From the top,
1964 ~Paddy MacNamara, Rory Pryor, Tommy Mac, & Mike Cacciolli on n/e corner of 83rd Street & York Avenue.
1962 ~backyard of 1616 York Avenue, Lennie & Helen Ryan with Patty Pryor. Yes, I had a backyard on York Avenue.
1967 ~ Sanita Hills Scout Camp ~ Joe & Dennis Menesick, Eddie Hauser & Artie Betz.
1961 ~Dennis & Joe Menesick, baseball in Central Park.
1961 ~ Rory pinning me to living room floor 517 E. 83rd St.

Happy Friday, Tommy