YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN, SO SAID THOMAS WOLFE, BUT CAN YOU?
a lifetime ago
"Monday, September 26, 1988 I don't think I have been up to the Bronx and Bogart Avenue since, at least, 1961, 1962. My mother still lived in what was called a 'private house' though it was one of 14 attached houses. By this time my mother had died and, I believe, left the house to my brother's kids and it was sold with them splitting the proceeds.
I left the hotel, walked down to 42nd Street and took the shuttle over to Grand Central station where, after thinking about it and remembering, I took the White Plains 241 street IRT express. I, also, remembered to sit in the car at the end as that would put me closer to the stairs at the stop to go downstairs. It was strange riding up to the Bronx from downtown after all these years, especially when you go from underground to the elevated rails. I must admit I was shocked at what I saw of the Bronx on first coming out of the tunnel and I hoped Pelham Parkway had fared better.
The first thing I looked for were the 2 movie houses I use to spend a lot of time in. The first was The Globe which according to the marquee was now a porn theatre. A very long city block, across the street, was the RKO Pelham which now was a supermarket! Things certainly do change in 20 years.
(An aside---my memory of the old neighborhood isn't that good so I went on facebook where there is a page devoted to people who were raised in Pelham Parkway and and a member there, Sharon Alpern Schultz, was kind enough to help me with street and store names.)
I may be wrong in the exact layout but starting from White Plains Road there was Cruger, Wallace, Holland, Barnes, Mullner and then Bogart. At one corner of Holland and Lydig (the main avenue through the section) was a candy/fountain store and across the street the Zion Deli--which I went to a lot. Across the street was Helen's Bakery which I walked (what seemed like) miles to every Sunday to get fresh hot sliced seeded bread and a dozen assorted bagels. As I would walk home I would eat the heels of the bread. Down the street from the deli and candy store was P.S. 105 and I lived across the street for the first 2 years of my life. After that we moved to Barnes Avenue (2184?) for 2 years finally landing on Bogart Avenue where I would live until I left the Bronx to go into the Marines. I definitely remember another candy store on the corner of Barnes and Lydig that served the best tuna fish sandwiches!
Walking from the IRT subway to Bogart avenue when I was a kid seemed like at least 20 miles but, having looked it up just now on bing, it seems 20 north and south blocks in NYC equal 1 mile!!!! Now in 1988 I passed what use to be Ben's Hardware on Cruegar and Lydig and in a few minutes was standing on Bogart Avenue looking at the Dyre Avenue shuttle stop which was up the hill. On snowy, nasty days or if you were just lazy and didn't want to walk the '20 miles' you took the Dyre train to 180th Street station and walked over to the downtown side and connected with the express or local going into Manhattan.
I walked over to 2157 Bogart which was one of 14 attached homes, brand new back in 1940. There had been an empty lot filled with trees, bushes and weeds across the street but now there was an apartment building. It was so big I couldn't see Roslyn Giordano's house which was on the other side of the lot. I didnt' know if it was still there.
The Pelham Parkway/Lydig Avenue area was a middle class area and after you passed Barnes Avenue you were mainly entering upper middle class with private homes instead of apartment buildings. It had been 60 years since I lived there and 24 years since I had been in the neighborhood. There were new 'attached' homes that had been built on either side of the 14 I knew. Each had a basement which some families used for storage and others made playrooms for their kids. There was a bathroom and a small kitchen of the big square room. Some, like my mother did when we all left her, made a studio apartment out of it, renting it out.
At the entry level on the left when you walked in was the living room. My parents had covered a complete wall with a mirror, bought a very tufted light blue couch and 2 heavy chairs. There was a round table in the window with a crystal lamp in the center. On each side of the couch was an expensive mahogany table- Next to the living room was the main dining room with a big rectangular obviously expensive mahogany table with 8 chairs for special 'occassions'. Against the wall, floor to ceiling, side wall to side wall was a beautiful piece of furniture for the 'best' dishes and sterling silverware p;us Steuben ware glasses. Off the dining room was a small balcony overlooking the back driveways. To the right of the dining room was the kitchen with a small area for a table and chairs for every day eating. Just before the hallway that lead to the up stairs was a flight of stairs going down to the playroom.
Before I continue I must add that the couch and chairs were covered with plastic and there was a fancy gate that you could lock at the entrance to the living room. Our mother said it was there to keep the dog out but in all the years I lived there I can remember, maybe, 4-5 times being allowed to go in and sit. On that same note I can only remember one special occasion that we ate at the big dining room table and that was for a Jewish holiday when my mother had 2 of her sisters and my father's sister, Flo, for dinner.
Upstairs consisted of a bathroom, the master bedroom, another bedroom for my brother and me and a guest bedroom. We never did have a guest staying in that room and as much as we pleaded they wouldn't give either me or my brother separate rooms.
I don't remember if the huge Fir Tree was still in the garden and I sort of cursed myself for not bringing a camera as I knew I would never go back. I was tempted to knock on the door but decided against it.
I walked back to White Plains Road to catch the IRT back to Manhattan going up Pelham Parkway. I saw the synagogue I had my bar mitzvah on the corner of PP and Mulliner. Then I passed the courtyard where I use to baby sit the 2 boys of one of my mother's acquaintances and a little further were the steps leading up to my doctor of yore and then I was walking up the train stairs. Oh yes I remember having an egg creme at the candy store and buying a paper. After paying my fare I checked out the men's room and I just knew that kid in there was doing the same thing I did in 1949-1950. It was time to leave Pelham Parkway one more time but this time forever.
Can you go home again? You can visit, you can remember, you can see life as you thought it was but the final answer is no.