Saturday, March 27, 2010

Walter O'Malley and William McNally

"Was Walter O'Malley---who in 1957 decided to move the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles---one of the most evil men who ever lived, alongside Hitler and Stalin?"
From a NY Times book review of Michael D'Antonio's Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley.

I'd imagine William Henry Conrad DeKalb McNally would answer in the affirmative.

The Dodgers last game in Brooklyn was September 24, 1957.

Grandpa died February 5, 1960.

Simple cause and effect. My mother was sure that Walter O'Malley killed her father.

"That summer, I joined thousands of fans signing petitions imploring O'Malley, city officials, and anyone who might help to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn. I attended a clamourous 'Keep the Dodgers' rally in the city. And I wrote a long, personal letter to O'Malley, begging him to consider what the move would do to the community and all the fans."  Doris Kearns Goodwin who was 14 at the time.

My memories of my grandfather are tied up in Dodger history. We visited him in the summers. I recall him sitting in his chair, Rheingold at hand, his cigar almost as terrifying as the look on his face if we made enough noise to drown out the game. (This may have been ANY noise.) Was he listening on the radio or watching on television? 


"For some people, the departure was an immense wound, a betrayal, a rejection. Walter O’Malley, the Dodger owner, had played with our emotions, made fools of us, and some people never forgave him. I didn’t go to another major league baseball game for twelve years; my father, an Irish immigrant made into an American by baseball, lived another 28 years and never entered a single ballpark."

"I erased baseball from my life that year. I wouldn't read about it. I didn't watch a single game on television...Like most Giant and Dodger fans I could never root for the Yankees."
Pete Hamill who was 22 at the time.

August 1940
Buddy, Jackie & Grandpa
The puppy may be Smoky. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Reunion Party 1980

Aunts Billie and Patty next to Maureen. In front of them on the floor: Michael Neary. Jane sitting on the floor.
Susan Gisiger and Chrissy (or maybe Jamin) in the chair.  On the floor looking at the camera Danny McNally and with his back to us ???

In Jane's photo albums I found these two snapshots of a reunion party labeled October, 1980. I photoshopped both of them to improve the exposure. The one above was overexposed on one side and underexposed on the other so I seamed two slightly improved pictures together.

Then we polled a group of cousins to ask who the heck was there. Kath Bentley says it was at the Bentley house in Smithtown.

The consensus:
On the very back row: Michael Neary and Billy McNally.
Middle Row: Aunts Billie, Patty, Peggy McNally and Edna. Uncle Tommy.
Maureen's standing front and center with a black shirt on and right behind her Susan with her two kids, Jamin on the left and Chrissy behind her. Some thought that might be me---but I don't remember being there. Chrissy does and she says she was standing on a chair.

To the right of Maureen: MaryAnn Neary and then the twins Dolores and Diane McNally with Uncle Pat between them. In front: Danny McNally.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Queen of All Saints Church

The McNallys on their way to church in Queens in 1945

When Elizabeth Daly Valentine died in 1951 she was living on Tulip Avenue in Stewart Manor, Queens, but her funeral was held at the Queen of All Saints Cathedral Chapel at Vanderbilt and Lafayette Avenues in Brooklyn, the church she attended a good deal of her life. When her husband John Valentine died in 1922 his obituary described him as a member of that church's Holy Name Society.

Today, Queen of All Saints describes itself as the "Adelphi Ave. Fort Greene neighborhood Church." In it's online history the Church says George Mundelein, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn began in 1909 "the process of erecting Queen of All Saints Cathedral Chapel, overseeing every detail himself." The church replaced the Chapel of St. John which had been at the site since 1879.

The cornerstone was laid in 1911.
 Architect Gustave Steinbeck's inspiration was Sainte Chapelle in Paris,
a 13th-century Gothic church.

Sainte Chapelle, pictured in a miniature of Paris from about 1400.

A map of the parishes in northern Brooklyn. The Valentines and the McNallys attended Sacred Heart and Queen of All Saints in the pink box. The blue push pin below shows the location of Queen of All Saints, east of Fort Greene Park.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Fire Department

Georgi found several records about Grandpa William McNally's working life. He had delivery jobs as an iceman and a coalman before he joined the New York City Fire Department in March, 1909 when he was 27. She found his service record, which listed him with the following companies.

  • March 1909- Hook & Ladder Company 53
  • January 1913- Hook & Ladder Co. 103 (Number change rather than transfer)
  • July 1933- Hook & Ladder # 158
  • April 1938- Special Service Squad Division Licensed Places of Public Assembly
  • December 1945 - Retired

19th-century view of Grandpa's Ladder Company #3, later the 53 and 103.
The building may be the same one remodeled in the picture below.

Underneath the facade in this 1997 photograph
of the building at 183 Concord Street
 is supposed to be the old Hook and Ladder Station #3.

The record is confused by the companies' name changes, but after looking at online department histories here is what I've been able to figure out.

McNally joined the Hook and Ladder Company #53 (the old #3) when it was located at 183 Concord St. in downtown Brooklyn. In January 1913 several new companies were added and the old companies were renumbered so the 53 became the 103. It looks as if he spent most of his career (24 years) at the fire station on Concord St. This is the job he had during the years most of the children were born. The station wasn't far from the neighborhood on Adelphi Street.

Hook & Ladder Company 103 at 480 Sheffield in 1937.
William McNally worked at this new station for less than a year after the company moved here.
The truck is a Seagrave 85' ladder.
Hook & Ladder 103 on Sheffield. It was closed in 1974.

In 1932 Ladder #103 moved to 480 Sheffield in a Brooklyn neighborhood called East New York. McNally transferred to Hook and Ladder #158 in Queens the next year, probably because he wanted to be closer to home. Georgi figured they moved to Queens Village sometime between the birth of the youngest Tommy in 1929 and the 1930 census which found them in Queens.

I designed this quilted tribute to Grandpa and the Fire Department of New York after 9/11, based on some antique quilt blocks. I added Timmy the Dalmatian fire dog. (Jane is going to write more about Timmy.)

A 19th-century fire department badge

Now that I've read some Fire Department history I realize that William McNally worked in a Hook and Ladder Company, not an engine or pumping company.When he joined the department in 1909 they were making the transition from horse drawn equipment to motorized. In 1910 the company obtained a 65 foot motorized Seagrave Aerial truck.

Top: Seagrave employees showing off a new ladder truck about 1900. Bottom: A longer horse-drawn ladder apparatus in New York City (where you need long ladders.)

A motorized Seagrave ladder truck in Seattle, 1911.

Hook & Ladder Company #158 in Queens
Grandpa worked here about 5 years in the 1930s.

Having a brother-in-law who was Police Commissioner of New York City from 1934-1945 couldn't have hurt his career. In 1938, when he was about 57, he transferred to the Special Service Squad, Division of Licensed Places of Public Assembly, where he apparently was responsible for fire prevention rather than fire fighting. Their mission: "Enforcing all laws and Rules of the Board of Standards and Appeals in relation to the protection against fire and panic, obstruction of aisles, passageways and means of egress, standees, fire prevention and fire extinguishing appliances and fire prevention in all licensed places of public assembly."

This last job seems to have had a lasting effect on at least one of his children. My mother Cele never went into a "place of public assembly" without pointing out the fire exits to us. In 1945 Grandpa retired from the Fire Department at 64, about the same time Lewis Valentine retired as Police Commissioner.

My mother took pride in her father's job with the Fire Department of New York. She always implied they were the bravest men in the world. It may take courage and skill to fight fires in Dubuque but New York City with it's giant factories, office buildings, tenements and theaters was the ultimate challenge.

Read about Ladder Company #103 in The Pride of Sheffield Avenue by Mike Boucher