Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Beautiful Carroll Gardens Recollection

This story is came to us via an email from the Carroll Gardens group CORD. It is from a third generation Carroll Gardens resident who lives on Sackett Street. It is beautifully done and deeply moved us when we read it late last night. If anyone wonders what a real sense of place and community means deep in one's heart, this begins to get it at:
I am a third generation Carroll Gardens resident. Both of my parents and both sets of grandparents were born and raised here.

It is difficult for me to walk down almost any street in Carroll Gardens and not have some familiarity with at least one house. Whether it was the home of a family member or a childhood friend of mine, or perhaps it was the home of one of my sisters' or parents' or cousins' friends. At one time or another, I had walked through its doors, climbed its stair and took a peek out the window to see if and how the view differed from my own.

Over the years, many family members and friends moved away. The houses that were once part of my life, were no longer open to me. They were renovated and restored inside and out. Instead of three or four families with anywhere from one to seven or eight children in each family living on one or two floors, now there were sometimes two adults and a tenant or two living in that same space.

Instead of families, friends and neighbors "visiting" one another on their stoops during the hot summer, sharing a lemon ice and some pretzels, there was now the hum of air conditioning on those hot nights and the smell of wood burning in those old, formerly sealed up fireplaces in the wintertime.

When the opportunity presented itself to enter into one of the buildings which I remembered so well, I would jump at the chance and try to recall, before I even entered, what I best remembered about that home. Could I remember the way it felt, smelled and what view I had from its windows? Sometimes, it would feel as if I had never been there before. Sometimes there would be some small thing that would trigger a vivid memory-someone's laughter, the exact way someone sounded when they would say hello to me.

Somehow, over the years, almost all of my family's homes were sold off. Tomorrow, I was going to have the opportunity to go to the house where my maternal grandmother was born and my mother raised. Throughout the years, it remained in the care of different members of my family and finally sold back in the eighties to a "stranger."

Tomorrow, my work would bring me to that house again. No longer used as a family residence, I would be entering into the hallway on business.

I was the member in my family who was left in charge of the family photographs. I can see my Grandmother, in that house, sitting in her mother's living room, a vibrant, young mom in the company of one or two of her many children; my Mother, a little girl playing in that backyard. My great Aunt Lizzie standing on the stoop, dressed to the nines, jewelry in place, to go food shopping on Court Street, some of my mother's siblings, cousins and their kids at a family gathering.

Which part of the house would I be seeing tomorrow? Would there be some reason to enter the basement, the place where homemade wine magically appeared from each year? Would there be some way I would get a glimpse of the backyard? Maybe it would be the space where Aunt Lizzie lived to ripe old age. What will I remember? What will I feel? Will all those voices I sometimes cannot quite recall anymore come back to me? Will it show on my face if they do?

I will find out tomorrow....
Both very powerful and very pretty.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that Carroll Gardens is not alone in what this person is saying. I live in a building where a woman lived and so did half of her family. She moved nextdoor and raised 5 children in one or two apartments. Back in the day when If someone moved out, you could claim that space and move right in. She has stories of the delis and movie theatres that lined court street. The old bars along the Waterfront. I think there is comraderie among some of the new guard, but, not all. I have been watching the generational ebb and flow for almost 20 years. I am hurt, now, when I walk into a store on Smith Street and am followed, as if I am a shoplifter. Even more saddened when I am percieved as a cold hearted "Liberal". The days of stoop chats are waning, especially in CG. Soon our beloved row houses, which I had taken for granted all these years, will all wear caps of glass and steel and no one will care, years from now, what came before...downsize, now. Preserve what is unique for future generations.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a sweet story. The same types of stories can be told everywhere in the country, though. It's not unique to CG or to New York City. Families grow up and often relocate. Communities change...

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:40 - I assume you mean Eckerd. I know exactly what you are talking about. I hate being followed by security.
I have been here for 20 years and love that people know my kids and watch out for them even if I haven't been properly introduced. The owner of the former Rainbow once stopped my babysitter and gave her the third degree. I doubt the new business owners would do the same.
Well, at least Eckered/Rite Aide got rid of the cell phone yapping cashiers although I would rather have them than the rent a cop and the abrasive manager.

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a third generation Carroll Gardens resident too. It's a funny thing cause I also live on Sackett Street. I feel the same way when I walk down the streets of Carroll Gardens.

There are very few of us left in Carroll Gardens. I remember walking down any street in Carroll Gardens and knowing at least one person. Now I walk down the street and I'm looked at as if I'm a strange and don't belong.

Carroll Gardens was once a neighborhood with a sense of family,friendship, respect and community. That no longer is the case. And we the old timers who are third and fourth generation are saddened by it.

And yes I'm sure the same type of story is told everywhere in the country and it's not unique to Carroll Gardens. I agree with that comment that was posted. But the feeling in our hearts as third and fourth generation is a unique feeling unlike anywhere else in the country. What we see and how we feel when we walk down the street is unique. And unless you're third or fourth generation resident you will never know that feeling.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a fourth-generation resident of CG, but I've lived here my entire life (I'm 55) and went to PS 58 for kindergarten, then to St. Agnes elementary, St. Joseph HS downtown, college in Manhattan. I can certainly identify with the OP and subsequent posters. I remember my childhood in CG with great fondness. The lady who worked at Caputo Bakery would always give me a breadstick when my Mom went there to shop taking me along in a stroller. Officer Walsh who used to foot-patrol Smith St always looked out for us kids and made sure we stayed out of trouble. The grocers always told us to go straight home with our grocery bag and be sure to give Mom the change...and I could go on and on. The people we see here now are different. They look upon the rest of us as aliens and project an air of having discovered America by moving to CG. Sad. If they only knew, but they wouldn't understand. They have different sensibilities, and I'm sure I don't have to explain. Oh...and I agree about the so-called security guard at Eckerd/Rite Aid. He's a mere child, and I just give him the "mother's" look.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I never go into Rite Aid. I was a Renaissance patron for years. I only go to Rx's in the city, now, if I need anything real. Like Bigelow or the old chemist shop on University place. I was stared down at that lingerie shop on Smith where I have actually bought things! It's as if I'm not carrying a Fendi bag, I'm a two bit fellon! UNbelievable. I love my old time-y neighbors. I know them all. remember Helen? The owner cook at Helen's restaurant on court...? And the house coat emporium, Marietas? I wouldn't trade those places in for all the Rite Aids on earth...

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:55 it's 2:07. One of the neighborhood's best kept secrets was that Marieta's carried Carters sleepwear. And Helen's was great. I was always a Carroll Court Pharmacy gal and when I first moved here it was a food market.
I don't go into the newer businesses so (have to be a size zero to wear the clothes, I don't need or have room for house furnishings and knick knacks, and the eyeglass place on Court and DeGraw is just fine by me) I can't speak to "security" but I bet I would also be given the hairy eyeball. I will say that the owners of Homage are great. Bigelow is great - I came here via the West Village. I don't blame you for going there.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone else miss Dom from the old Clinton Apothecary? And what about Aiello's on Court Street?

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember Helen's..I loved it there. Anybody remember "No Baloney Cafe" on Smith St? Everything has changed so much in such a short time. Some of it is good but too much of it is terrible! Now I can not barely afford to eat out on Smith Street anymore and even then only in a handful of places...I am so sad about that.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad others feel similarly.
I hardly thought CG "cool" when I moved here. The only places that delivered were Me and My Eggroll and Giardindi before it was Giardini. The Donut House was really a donut place. I love the "old timers" and their passion and always defer to them in matters affecting the neighborhood - except when a very few want to build high rises.

2:07 again

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Carroll Gardens was once a neighborhood with a sense of family,friendship, respect and community." I have to make a stand here for the new residents of Carroll Gardens who are supposedly destroying the neighborhood. My wife and I have lived there for 5 years now, and we have a daughter, one year old. We know the guys in the stores by name, they know us. My daughter gets handed bites of food over the counter, and we get macaroni passed over the fence. In the summer we hang out on our stoop and chat to our neighbors and in the winter I shovel snow from their sidewalk. We don't shop at Dunkin Donuts or Fresh Direct, we continue to support the local stores. It does not sound so different, perhaps just missing the rose-colored spectacles of nostalgia.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, parent of the one year old, you are an exception and we respect you and know the diff. Welcome! i jiust wanna know where do thes Land Rover driving..foreigner come from? How can they live and work in the US. Now, I'm not Xenophobic, just really curious? Yes, Marietes had Carters and a brand called SmithS? I can't rememebr. Great undershirts. I LOVE those old guys. Yes, No Baloney didn't last long. That owner moved away years ago. Or, actually was bought out of his apartment, then moved. I loved Aiellos and Anthony's Meat Market with the white enamal meat cases. Thank God we still have Staubitz. Ha! Me and my Eggroll. Is that still open? If they are, they never throw menus under every door! When I moved no one delivered, even Sals. Only My Little Pizzeria. Remember Queen Pizzeria? I loved them until they moved to make way for Barnes & Noble. They were next to that weird porn theatre called the Sin-art. Or Cineart. Smith was always borded up tight at night. The F was always underconstruction and I would join the late night masses having to walk from Jay street to their homes closer to the skipped stations or Bergen and Carroll. I remember when some new Frenchy stylew restaurant open up where Helen's was or close to it. They were sooo condiscending as if they had brought utensils to the Congo or something. I enjoy the stores on Smith for the most part, only because they are not The Gap or Old Navy shit. American Apparal and Lucky Jeans are excluded from my love. Though, I have bought from AA, they have no business opening so many stores withing a 10 block radius of one another. OK, one more nostalgia moment. remeber the parking lot where rite aid is? And the 2 dogs he had? Brownie and the Pitt Bull? Someone stole Brownie and I don't know where the Pitt is... They were nice guys in there...Jezze, where's my rocking chair and wooden porch..

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are some of the stores I remember as a child:

Helen's candy store on corner of Smith/President. Helen made the best egg creams.

Martino's Meat Market (Smith between President & Union)

Mrs. Pennisi's candy penny candy (corner President & Smith)

Tony's grocery store (Smith between President & Carroll)

Joe's Superette (the original)

Rainbow Fruits & Vegetables (Court between Union & Sackett)

Dave's 5 & 10 (Court between 3rd & 4th Place)

Marietta's (still there)

Gloria Pizzeria (corner Court & Carroll)

Eden's Drugstore (corner Smith & Carroll)

Guzzi's Bar & Grill (where Red Rose is now). Best large take-out pizza pie for $1.00 plus 5 cents for the box.

Al's Shoemaker (where Smith Union Cafe is now)

Gabriele's grocery store (corner Smith & Union)...

Russo's Fish Market (on Smith where Patois is now)

I could go on....

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, list some more!!
I remember Dave's! There is still an old guy near Dave's. He has an old shoe shine place filled with junk. The shoe shine chairs are raised up on wooden risers. The guy is nice. I spoke to him a few times but can't remember his name...

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mola Pizzeria. He was using the smae dough starter hs grandfather had used. I miss them.

9:13 AM  

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