Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday Afternoon in Flatbush: "A Collection of Local Memories" by Gabriel (Specter) Reese at the corner of Ocean and Parkside

Since we came back to live in Brooklyn four years ago, we've gone to Prospect Park many times, but always with buses or trains that let us off at the stops at Seventh Avenue or Fifteenth Street (F and G trains), Prospect Park (Q/B/Franklin Avenue shuttle), or Grand Army Plaza (2,3,4,5). This afternoon we took the Q to Parkside Avenue to get to the Oriental Pavilion and were delighted to come across the three-sided mural on the corner of Parkside and Ocean Avenues, A Collection of Local Memories by Gabriel (Specter) Reese.

Reese, who specializes in amazing urban art installations that use public space in an extraordinary way. (We've admired his work before, most notably at MoCADA's Pink Elephant Speaks exhibit on gentrification.) For this work, he interviewed 800 senior citizens in Flatbush, who told him about neighborhood characters, houses, and storefronts, many of them long gone.

Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s we shopped at Bohack's (the Philip Howard apartments south of the Junction with their statue of a goddess in front of it and the supermarket next to us we called "Our Lady of Bohack"), department stores like E.J. Korvette (our family's Art Pants Company's best customer and a pretty good place to buy books as well as everything else) and Mays (we met our great-great-uncle Dave Tarras there one day when he was looking for something for his trip to Washington to be honored by the National Endowment for the Humanities), Woolworth (lots of them, with our favorites on Flatbush and Ralph Avenues; we even sat at their lunch counter and ate hot dogs), and other places in the murals.

In this neighborhood we also miss Dubrow's Cafeteria, Jahn's, the fabulous theaters (Kenmore, Astor, Albemarle, and others in addition to the majestic Loew's Kings), the My Friends bookstore on Clarendon Road (where we got our old comic books), the old little Macy's on Flatbush (now Staples) and The Bookworm next to the old Dutch Reformed Church, and lots of little candy stores on Church Avenues like the one owned by Mrs. Mogg, the one-armed sister of our grandfather's aunt's husband, who gave us free pretzels and malteds. And we really miss riding the Church Avenue trolley with our great-grandmother.

Here's a great New York Post article about A Collection of Local Memories by our friend Helen Klein, whose talent for writing was obvious even back when we met in 1970 when she was a freshman and we were a sophomore at Brookyn College.

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