A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2021


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Memories of Washington Heights

From Maria:

"I grew up during the 50's in the Heights. What a nice place to grow up. I can't believe how much it has changed. We sledded on snake hill in the winter snow, and were surrounded by playgrounds in the summer. We were poor but didn't know it, but we were happy. On Saturdays, we could hop on the bus go to Alexander's, or in the summer to Orchard Beach. For fifty cents we would go to the Loews 175th Street or RKO Coliseum for the movies. The Police Athletic League (PAL) would give out free passes every Saturday morning at the 34th precinct. The best part of growing up in the Heights was that you had a tight extended family… grandma, grandpa were close by, and there was no crime to fear. People really cared. Thanks for some great memories on a rainy Sunday".

From Peter J Devito:

“My two sisters and I were born at home (yes, that's what they did then, with midwives) in apartment 11 of what was then 2515 Amsterdam Ave.; today the site of the new addition to the Yeshiva University Library. The "back" bedroom windows of that apartment faced the "dump" that ran alongside Knickerbocker Ice House down to Laurel Hill Terrace and, what I once thought was one of the most beautiful sights one could see, the Harlem River and the Bronx, Sedgewick Ave.trolleys running alongside it, and the four New York Central north/south tracks making me, as a little boy, think about all the wonderful places to go see in the world. The early part of my own memoires tells of my first visit to a movie house, the Majestic, at 185th and St. Nicholas Ave., which was then showing silent movies. Later it was the Empress at 181st and Audubon, the Gem just up the block, and the Heights on Wadsworth Ave. and finally, being old enough to go to the Coliseum, where there were movies and five acts of vaudeville every week for only 15 cents!! The other wonderful theater of the time was the Audubon, across from the Medical Center, which was then also a movie/vaudeville house. Saw the great movie " All Quiet On The Western Front" there, along with five acts of vaudeville. My mother carried one sister in free, it only cost a dime each for my other sister and myself!! Later came the magnificent Loews 175th, built for vaudeville but never used that way- then becoming the home of organ playing character named "Wild Oscar" who played before and after many of the great MGM pictures that were first shown there. That's only a little of what I remember. The Heights enabled us, a relatively poor family, to live unlike anything my own parents had experienced living in the "old country" (Italy in this case). Two blocks on the eastside of Amsterdam Ave., from 184th Street to 186th Street, the majority of which were full of Italian immigrant families just like ours. Above that, facing the then new Yeshiva University building was an empty lot, which they owned and in which all of us neighborhood kids were allowed to play, that is only with the exception of Saturday when it was closed. What an innocent and wonderful time that was to grow up in".

From Fred Hartling

"A very good friend of my brother's, Tommy Fitzpatrick, who lived in New Jersey and hung out at the bar and grill between 191st and 192nd street on St. Nicholas. One evening, on a dare and a bet, he went home back to New Jersey, stole a plane from Teterboro Airport, flew it over Washington Heights and landed it on St. Nicholas Avenue at about 3 a.m. in the morning. He parked it on 191st Street in front of the opening of the subway. The following day they came and dismantled it and drove it back to the airport. How he landed it through automobiles on both sides of the street was a miracle. He came over snake hill."

These reminiscences are extracted from the Personal Memories of Washington Heights website.


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