This heartwarming “blast from the old neighborhood’s past”, was thoughtfully sent to me by one of my readers, Steven B., who is a former Italian East Harlemite. This adorable photo depicts Steven’s 1st grade class, from Public School #102, which is located at 315 East 113th Street-between 1st & 2nd Avenue. The approximate year was circa 1953-54.

According to Steven’s memories of his East Harlem school days, the male teacher in the photo was named Mr. Dupoid. (spelling uncertain). You can find Steven sitting in the first row-4th from the right, with hat in hand. 🙂 Thank you so very much for sharing this wonderful vintage photo with us, Steven! It truly is a historical gem!

A note to my readership: Take a look at the teachers, and the children in this class photo. If you recognize anyone, feel free to comment on who they are, and point out exactly where they are in this photo! Thanks, and enjoy! P.S. The children in this photo would currently be around 73-74 years old!


1884: The Goats that Bucked a Swimming Race in East Harlem

The Hatching Cat

Goat in boat

In my last post about old New York, I wrote about a Newfoundland who almost lost his life while taking part in a swimming race from Randall’s Island to the Harlem Beach Bathing Pavilion in July 1884. Apparently the manager of the Harlem beach, Frederick Kenyon, wasn’t fazed by this close call on the East River, because three weeks later, he invited people to let their goats swim the same race. The prizes included a mammoth cabbage, large turnip, a double-sheet circus poster, and a tomato can.

On August 10, 1884, 11 goat owners led their goats to a float on the East River at 116th Street, where they were to be thrown into the water. The owners struggled quite a bit as the goats butted and kicked and flat-out refused to get into the water.

During all this commotion, a man came rushing out to the float, brandishing a…

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Well/Privy Diggers Come to East Harlem to search for Vintage Trash!

…Mid-December we returned to East Harlem and realized the catalyzing Mansard structure sat on a double width lot. The side of the yard that once contained the privy was covered with old crumbly concrete and under that lay the filled-in basement of an early 1900s apartment house.A block away a row of circa 1860 houses awaits the most recent sprawl. During the late 1870s the homes along the length of Pleasant Avenue became part of the first Little Italy in New York City. All but forgotten today the area once contained the largest number of Italian and Sicilian immigrants in the city and is still home to the famous “Rao’s Restaurant” (frequented by movie stars, pop artists, writers and other noteworthy figures). Yet, running into someone of Italian birth living there today is as unlikely as locating an intact privy. While canvassing the area we met at least one person, a septuagenarian who had grown up in Italy. We probed in his garden for a privy and later learned that his house had not come into existence until the tenement explosion of the 1880s; long after indoor plumbing had become standard there.

Situated within earshot of traffic on the FDR Drive, running along the Harlem River just south of the Triborough Bridge, is a cul-de-sac one block from Pleasant Avenue. It retains a 19th century feel with its cobblestones and old homes. We connected with two artists walking a dog. Fey and Rio were not convinced at first about a dig claiming the potential to produce antique bottles but we mentioned cleaning up, and their eyes widened. There was a large above ground pool which had been drained and left standing, and, there was a good chance the entire house was coming down soon anyway. We agreed to help dismantle the pool and drag it out to the curb whether we found anything or not.

Pre-plumbing buildings in East Harlem.
Backyard without pool.
A sidewalk and concrete curb were laid over the privy and a small tree grew from the center. We decided to continue the excavation anyway, entering, exiting, and bucketing material from one tight corner. One wall was missing and the entire box was in shambles, disturbed by several large tree roots over the decades. Reaching the far side of the hole, about six feet back, was difficult due to the elfin space being navigated. While Rio, a photographer, documented the dig, the sun was setting and there were still three feet to go. A luminous quarter moon rose over the Harlem River, heading directly for the flickering skyline but we still needed more light. An extension cord and a droplight were rummaged from the basement.
Our first find after rigging the light was an early pharmacy bottle, Miller & Co. 245 Third Avenue COR. OF 20th Street NY from nearly one hundred blocks south of our location. Then, an R.R.R. Radway & Co. New York, a tan and white ginger beer, a whiskey bottle (Whitney Glass Works), two Dr Porter New York, a W. Ellis & Co. Phil and a darning egg.As the evening wore on the wind picked up and a winter storm saturated the sky, then more bottles began appearing. Despite the cold weather we were sweating and the formidable crisscrossing roots from earlier were now above us. Among the discoveries were a pontiled, gasoline-puce, B & P N.Y. LYONS POWDER, a pontiled, GUERNSEY’S BALM NEW YORK PATENT, an umbrella ink, three beers and numerous examples of generic pontiled medicine and utility bottles. Returning to fill in the hole we discovered a D. L. Ormsby beer bottle, a wine bottle and a six sided ointment jar that had eluded us the previous night.

A rectangular vault at night.
The odyssey involved seven different digs, and investigating a dozen other yards which turned out to be barren. The first with its abundance of opium vials through the most recent, a cistern made of stone, took place between October and February. This elusive period in Harlem’s history revealed many of the same bottles, wares and artifacts which have been discovered in middle-class neighborhoods around the five boroughs and elsewhere. In a blaze of activity we caught a unique glimpse of Harlem, then and now.

An assortment of mouth-blown bottles from Harlem privies, pontiled and smooth base examples, ranging from 1850s to 1875.

STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York

Signed copies now available!STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New YorkSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New YorkSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: ZIG ZAG RecordsSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: VESUVIO BakerySTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: SUBWAY INN
STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: ALBANESE Meats & PoultrySTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: RALPH'S Discount CitySTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: M & G DINERSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: MANHATTAN FURRIERSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: LONG ISLAND RestaurantSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: REYNOLD'S Bar
STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: ITALIAN AMERICAN GROCERYSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: IDEAL HosierySTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: DITMAS Kosher Meats & PoultrySTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: KATY'S Candy StoreSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: IDEAL DinettesSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: D. D'AURIA and Sons Pork Store
STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: CIRCO'S Pastry ShopSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: CHEYENNE DinerSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: CAFFE CAPRISTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: BRAND'S LiquorsSTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: ASCIONE'S PharmacySTORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York: PUBLIC Fish Market

STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York, a set by James and Karla Murray Photography on Flickr.

Can you spot the East Harlem storefronts?(Albeit long gone.) Bet some of you can! Have fun!

Strawberries with Zabaglione

The Literate Chef

(Preparation time 30 minutes, serves 4)

Adapted from Molto Batali as published in The McClatchy Tribune


2 pints of fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup Sweet Marsala
6 oz. Heavy Cream, whipped


1.    In the top of a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar and Marsala and whisk quickly to combine.
2.    Add water to the bottom part of the double boiler and bring to a boil. When water begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and place the top part of the double boiler over it, making sure that the bottom does not come into contact with the simmering water and that the water remains at a high simmer and does not boil.
3.    Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until it is doubled or tripled in volume…

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1933: Policy Pete’s Number Book-Vintage “How to pick the #’s.”

Angela’s Google Search Story-Journey to Italian Harlem

The Manicotti Incident

Somewhere along the very long and winding line of my internet surfing, I found this link and saved it to my favorites. I thought that it would be nice to add this site to my blog, as it  encompasses assorted vignettes relating to Italian heritage. It also has a link to learning the Italian language. MANGIA:)

The Manicotti Incident