How does one begin to capture the voice of a borough? The answer would seem to be by talking to its people. This is what author MARC ELIOT chose to do for his latest book. Eliot, who was raised by an aunt in Canarsie, has made a name for himself writing biographies of such people as Cary Grant, Phil Ochs, Walt Disney, Erin Brockovich and Bruce Springsteen, but in “Song of Brooklyn: An Oral History of America’s Favorite Borough,” he lets the people do the talking (June 10, Doubleday). Publicity has been forthcoming, as in the June 1 New York Post and elsewhere. A sampling of these oral histories can found in these excerpts released by the publisher.
“Everyone got along because we had one major thing that held everyone in Brooklyn together: the emergence of big-time sports that happened after World War I. You could be an Irishman, an Italian and a Jew, and you could all be in Ebbets Field, sitting together, rooting for the Dodgers.”
— Pete Hamill, journalist
“I often get mail from young fans who ask where I got my nickname, ‘Oisk.’ Of course, that’s a foreign language – Brooklynese. The Brooklyn faithful pronounced Carl Erskine ‘Cal Oyskin,’ eventually shortened with yells from the very close Ebbets Field stands to ‘Hey, Oisk, I’m witcha babe, trow it tru his head,’ or, on a bad day, ‘Trade ‘im to the Jints.’”
—Carl Erskine, Brooklyn Dodgers
“We did tours for Irving Feld, for Dick Clark, we did shows for Alan Freed, but all of the money went to everyone but the artists. But hey, my father bought his house in ‘63 on Carlton Avenue, a three-story brownstone. He paid $16,000 for it. When he passed away, I settled his estate, and the house brought in nearly $4 million. Some things in Brooklyn did change!”
—Clarence Collins, founding member, Little Anthony and the Imperials
“Every kitchen table in Brooklyn had a bowl filled with wax fruit. Why, no one knows. And the living room had a couch covered with a skintight clear plastic cover that never came off unless some special guest came. In my lifetime, no special guest ever came to our house who was worthy of having the plastic removed.”
—Herb Cohen, author, “You Can Negotiate Anything!”
For Bensonhurst resident GIANCARLO RINDONE, being an Eagle Scout means “to rise up to meet a challenge and by example, inspire others to do the same.” For his Eagle Scout project Giancarlo wanted to find something that would both help his community and feel like a personal contribution, so he decided to create a special day for those living with autism. As he says, “Living with a brother with autism has had a tremendous impact on me, and especially my family.”
The goal of the project was to make families affected with autism feel comfortable during a relaxed family outing in a free and open environment. Friends and relatives helped him to finance the carnival, including real rides and old fashioned refreshments, at the auditorium of St. Athanasius in Brooklyn on May 31. Senator Marty Golden, who was present, commended Giancarlo’s efforts. “What a remarkable event coordinated by an outstanding young man,” he said. Giancarlo’s father and assistant scoutmaster Paul Rindone said, “For one person to do a project of this magnitude is very unusual, and I think it’s awesome that he wants to help the autistic community and I am very proud of him.”
MELINDA TENENZAPF from Midwood High School at Brooklyn College and TAWANA S. NICHOLAS from World Academy for Total Community Health in Brooklyn have been awarded the prestigious Horatio Alger Association’s NY State Scholarship to assist in funding for a college education. Nine hundred scholarships were given throughout the US, but only five recipients are from NY this year.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Hooray for a microchipped happy ending. Bensonhurst resident ARC LIU was overwhelmed with emotion at the reunion with his 6-year-old chihuahua, Boy, almost two days after he escaped from a friend’s Sunset Park backyard. It’s a mystery how the little nomad traveled the nearly 60 miles to Holbrook, where he spent the night with Sue Pierce after being picked up by her neighbors. A vet identified Liu as the owner via a microchip between Boy’s shoulderblades.