Growing up in Kingsbridge in early 20th Century

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    • #1112

      Recently I got in touch with the author of this excellent blog post about the history of the area at W. 230th Street and Broadway.  I have always considered that block the most historic in all of Kingsbridge and she really dug into the details.  What I did not expect was to hear back from the writer’s father, who grew up on that block in the 40’s.  He wrote about some memories as a child living in the area that I found quite interesting:

      Hi Nick,
      I’m Peggy’s dad, Roger Gavan, and a couple of weeks ago she sent me a copy of your nice note about her Brownie/Kingsbridge story,
      Thank you for that.
      I grew up on Godwin Terrace (3033) across from what was at that time St. John’s school, which I graduated from in 1949.
      In those days the neighborhood was full of empty lots.
      There were “Victory” gardens by the corner of Corlear Ave. and 231st. St. to Riverdale Ave., where many of our neighbors farmed and friends could barbecue, drink beer and hang out.
      Spuyten Duyvil and much of Riverdale had acres of woods – very few if any high rises.
      The 50th Pct. was a quiet place to work – one murder in my 14 years growing up – and that was of the owner of a Chinese laundry by an employee who knew where the cash was hidden.
      Before the Marble Hill projects, there was a large undeveloped area there called the Tennis Courts, although there were no tennis courts at that time. It was used mostly for baseball – but no Little League. 
      Although it was NYC, it was almost like growing up in a more rural area. We even went hunting (not legal but we got away with it) – shot a poor duck on the Grace Dodge estate.
      She was in Europe and would have shot us if she knew that.
      For some reason that would seem extraordinary for kids today, we were very interested in local history.
      We spoke to the old timers and learned about the Johnson Foundry, the fact that Marble Hill was really part of Manhattan because 230th St. was a connecting creek and that the beer store operated as usual during prohibition. 
      We also climbed the high cut for the railroad that was along the ship canal across from Columbia. Some of us – not me – jumped off into the water, which wasn’t exactly pristine at that time.
      By the way, there was a large hardware store on Bailey Ave.with a name something like Animan and Yonkeiere (I can’t remember the spelling). The owner was a local history buff with an interesting collection of historic papers, maps and other items – we often took our bikes up there and spent time listening to him and viewing his collection.
      You may know who that was and I would be interested.
      Thanks again for your note to Peggy.

      Note: The local history buff was KHS member George Younkheere, who did have quite a collection of documents about local history.  He also wrote about history for the Riverdale Press.

      The above mini-memoire does bring to mind just how rapidly the neighborhood changed from leafy suburb to a  more urban landscape.  No doubt the construction of the Marble Hill Houses in the late 40s and early 50s was a life-changing shift for the area.

      I still can’t believe kids were hunting in Riverdale at that time!

    • #1113

      I think the most incredible thing about these sort of things is the ‘living history’ they encompass.  To think that the Bronx seemed so different than it is now and that there is a tangible connection to Kingsbridge is incredible.  It seems like a lifetime ago, but there are people alive who experienced Kingsbridge in a totally different way than to today.  Just incredible.

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