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Reminiscences of School Boy Fun
In Brooklyn sixty years ago
Brooklyn Daily Standard Union
19 February 1905
When I was a schoolboy in the decade of the forties (1840),
I resided with my parents on the Heights, in Pineapple street
near Willow. Brooklyn at that time did not have fourty thousand
inhabitants, and had not long become a city. What primitive times
they were then compared to those of the present.
I remember we boys used to take a good run and jump of the Heights,
at the end of Pineapple street, where they used to throw cartloads
of sand down the hill. My schoolboy companions at that time included
Henry SHELDON, Hary WARING, Dave KIMBERLY, Al VANOSTRAND, Ed LEAVIT,
Andy WESSON, Charley WALKER, Jack BIRDSALL, Mack McCUE and several
others whom I cannot now call to mind. All are dead and gone now.
Our Playground, after school hours, included Columbia street-not
then graded-Willow, Pineapple, Clark and Orange streets.
We were great boys for running to fires, and each of us had our
favorite engine, and our chief sport was in watching the firemen
strive to "wash" each other's engine. Engine No.2 was the favored
machine in our district, and it was located in Middagh street. I
well remember the fact that No.7 engine was known as the "Fighters."
The members were mostly the residents of the Irish district of the
city. Burdett STRYKER was president of the Fire Department of the
city at that time and George HALL was mayor.
As my memory goes back to those early schoolboy days how many events
are recalled to mind. There was one place that monopolizes my attention
and that was Apprentices' Library, on the corner of Cranberry and
Henry streets, where we boys used to get our story books once a week.
Afterwards the library was consolidated with the Brooklyn Lyceum on
Washington street near Concord, and became the Brooklyn Institute.
In incident in connection therewith is worthy of note. On day while
I was waiting at the Brooklyn Institute to get my book from the library,
one of the boys who gave out the books was taken sick and had to go home.
I asked Mr. Nichols, the bookkeeper, if I could help him by giving out
books that night, and my services were accepted with thanks;
afterward I was appointed assistant librarian and thereby became a member
of the Institute. Consequently, l am now the Oldest living member
of the organization.
Looking over one of my old scrap books of the forties I found several
items of interest.For instance, at the time I am writing about
there were but nine public schools In Brooklyn and of these three
ere in the suburbs. Of churches but two were Catholic, five were
Episcopal, seven were Presbyterian, seven Methodist, three Reformed Dutch,
one Unitarian, one Friends' Meeting House -- The-Quakers and no
Every spring we used to see the Quakers gather at their place of
meeting, corner of Henry and Clark streets, with their broad brim
hats and their Quaker bonnets and drab suits; but nothing of the
kind is to be seen nowadays. But among the changes that time has
brought about in sixty years, nothing is so striking or so grandly
important as the change in the feeling shown by church people one
to the other. In the old days each sect regarded the other as
"lost souls." "Our church" was the only one to be saved in.
In fact, unity of effort in the cause of religion, based on the
Fatherhood of God, was unknown. Thanks to Henry Ward Beecher and
his teachings, a wonderful advance has been brought about in the
religious world. Now one sees a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi,
and clergymen of Protestant churches giving utterance to Christ's
words from the same pulpit, and there is more unity of sentiment
in thought, if not utterance, than was even dreamed of in the old days.
Commenting on the burial of the dead sectarian prejudice and bitterness
of old, reminds me of the change that has taken place in Greenwood affairs.
In the forties (1840s) a burial lot of 300 square feet could be bought
for $100; $1,000 would not buy it now.
We were poorly off for local newspapers in the forties. We only had
two, viz., the "Brooklyn Daily New" and the old "Long Island Star,"
the latter publishing an evening edition. Dr. NORTHALL was editor of
the former and Alden J. SPOONER of the latter. Foreign news came by
fits and starts. There would be headings, such as
"Twenty Days Later From London."
In the forties the residents on the Heights included David LEAVIT,
whom I remember as wearing a white cravat as became a church deacon.
Then there was old Henry WARING, a member of Dr. CUTLER'S church,
who always read his responses out loud.
I also remember Capt. STRINGHAM, U.S.N., who had a pretty daughter,
admired by all us boys. I remember too, that the boys used to
gather at the end of Willow street about the time the girls
from Alfred GREENLEAF'S School used to leave for home, just
as the "Poly" boys watch for the "Packer" girls to this day.
Whatever else may change, boys don't.
Doctors of note of the forties included
Drs. COOK, MARVIN, KING, HURD, and MASON,
of the Kings County Medical Society, with
Drs. HYDE, WENDELL, FANNING, GARRISON, GILFILLAN, HALSEY and THORN.
At the City Hospital the physicians were Drs. MARVIN, COOK AND BOYD
and the surgeons were Drs. BALL, MASON, KING, GARRISON and THORNE.
The Post Office did little business. For instance, the mails were
taken twice a day to Flatbush and Fort Hamilton; also Jamaica and
East New York.
All the Banking business was done in the lower part of Fulton street.
The Long Island Bank was at 53 Fulton street,
the Brooklyn Bank at 5 Front street,
and near by was the Atlantic Bank,
the Long Island Insurance Company and
the Brooklyn Insurance Company.
On the Heights in the forties was located FITCH'S Colonnade Garden,
a sort of Heights rival of the Du FLON Military Garden at the south
end of town. It did not flourish long, as the church element were
opposed to it.
We boys, as I remember, had very little in the way of sports at
command. We used to watch the Scotchmen play shuffleboard at
the foot of Joralemon street, at a place on the beach, and
we used to travel down to CORNELL'S Mill in the summer time
to enjoy a good swim. But there were no such games at command
as we have now, except "rounders" and there was no field on
the Heights where we could play "one old cat" even.
The Long Island Railroad at this time was laid out only to
Hicksville, twenty-seven miles distant, and it took two hours
to get there.
The principal church on the Heights was the First Presbyterian,
of which the Rev. Dr. Samuel COX was the pastor and that was in
Cranberry street, back where Beecher's church now is. I heard
the Dominie preach once on Orthodox Calvanism and boy as I was,
it scared me.
There is no block of residences in Brooklyn that has been the
scene of such exciting occurrences as the one bounded by
Hicks, Henry, Cranberry and Orange streets.
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