Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spiritual Crisis in Dogland

Sister Jane sends photos of a new dog Isabelle.
She likes to keep the dog population at her house at four dogs.

When she reads about people who are busted for owning 27 or 38, she says, "There but for the grace of Rod go I." (Rod is her husband, who also likes to keep the dog population at about four.)

We may have to address the heriditary dog affection in the family soon. I know she's not the only McNally descendant who likes to keep it at about four.

When Jane was in the Fourth Grade she had a significant run-in with religious doctrine. Mrs. L. (above top left) was trying to explain the concept of original sin. Jane had a question:

"Why can't dogs go to heaven? They have no original sin."

Mrs. L. told her to sit down. She did but she seethed. She is still confused, although she recently heard that Martin Luther said dogs could go to heaven. She is considering adopting the Lutheran tenets of faith.

A later problem was in Spanish class when pondering the concept of the masculine and feminine pronouns La and El as in el perro. Jane had a question:
If La is feminine and El is masculine, what is a neutered dog?

She's lucky she made it through school.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Jack about 1940

Joan, Barbara, Bill B.

Pat B

Bill, Barbara, Jane

Cincinnati 1951

Jane and Timmy the Dalmatian 1951

Jane about 1951
The book is probably The Pokey Little Puppy

Tom and Grandma about 1940

Barbara, Joan and Pat
A joke at the expense of Bill

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Addresses

The Valentines and McNallys lived in the
Fort Greene/Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn,
to the south and east of Fort Green Park.

The neighborhood seems to have extended from Myrtle Avenue on the North down to Greene Avenue on the South, probably defined by the church (the green star on the map), Queen of All Saints at 300 Vanderbilt, on the corner of Lafayette.

Queen of All Saints in 1928

Adelphi Street
 Bambi's records of who lived where and when include many addresses on Adelphi Street, 2 blocks west of Vanderbilt.

Composite of Adelphi Street near Myrtle
photographed in the 1940s
from the NY Public Library Collection

A few addresses:
93 Adelphi, Patrick McNally and wife here in 1910 census (the numbers start on the north end of the street)
157 Adelphi, William Valentine and Cecelia here in 1910 census

163 Adelphi

163 Adelphi, Wm McNally and family here in 1910 with Anna's parents Elizabeth and John Valentine

206 Adelphi
206 Adelphi, William and CeceliaValentine lived here on 1912 birth certificate. The house, a fixer-upper built in 1899, is now for sale at about $900,000.

Apparently all the odd numbers in the 200 block
 of Adelphi (south of Willoughby Avenue) are gone now, replaced by
the Clinton Hill School (PS #20) at 225 Adelphi

223 Adelphi, Curleys here at Bess's death in 1940 w/ Eliz & John Valentine
225 Adelphi, Curleys here in 1920
227 Adelphi, Wm McNally and family here in 1920

Corner of Adelphi and Willoughby today
Clermont Avenue
Clermont Avenue is one block west of Adelphi

77 Clermont, William and CeceliaValentine here in 1908 on birth certificate

An apartment in 271 Clermont is currently for rent for $4,000 a month

271 Clermont, John Valentine dies living here in 1922

Cumberland Street
Cumberland Street runs right along the park.
39 Cumberland, John Valentine Jr. living here 1917 draft
134 Cumberland, Patrick McNally (Grandpa's brother) living here in 1900

DeKalb Avenue
DeKalb is/was a major business street.
203 DeKalb, Scully Funeral Home – Eliz. Valentine buried from here in 1951

Myrtle Avenue
270 Myrtle, William and Cecelia Valentine living here 1909 birth certificate
370 Myrtle, William and Cecelia Valentine living here 1910 and 1918 draft

Vanderbilt Avenue
300 Vanderbilt, Queen of All Saints Church and Elementary School – at Lafayette

Links to neighborhood pictures:

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Jerry and Geoff , Barbara
The boys had on their Roy Rogers chaps

Bill, Cele, Barbara
Is that a Hopalong Cassidy necktie?

Geoff, John, Jerry and Chris


Bill and Barbara

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Nomadic New Yorkers

475 Adelphi
Census records and old city directories reveal a lot of Brooklyn addresses for the Valentines and McNallys. People seem to have moved from one building to another just up the street, for example moving from 163 Adelphi Street to 225 Adelphi.

Clinton Avenue

I have a faint memory of my father Ben describing this as an unpleasant part of his youth in Brooklyn and the Bronx. He told me that people moved often--- once a year on May 1st, which was called Moving Day. That was when the leases were up and if one moved to a new apartment there was a discount on the rent in the new place.

I asked Ben's sister Edie about it in 1986 and I recently found my notes from that conversation. She remembered it all quite vividly.

Ben (left) and friends in the 1920s

When she was young they moved every year because there were clauses in leases called concessions. If you would leave your apartment after one year's lease the [new] landlord would give you three months rent free. Grandma thought this a very good idea, so they "lived in every house on Pelham Parkway." My Dad and his brother Alec could pack the whole apartment in one night.

Edie and her mother, 1925

Edie and Ben were not the only New Yorkers who viewed that experience as a negative part of their childhood. Marion Meade who wrote a biography of Dorothy Parker noted that in the 19th century Parker's grandparents "lived modestly, perhaps even frugally. Since rents were low and concessions of a month or two free rent common, nearly every spring they would pile their household goods on a cart and shuttle the family to a new flat."

Columnist Walter Winchell also recalled frequent moves. His biographer Neal Gabler wrote: " The family was so poor that they were constantly on the move, presumable to dodge the rent collector or take advantage of the rent reductions that landlords often offered new tenants as an inducement."

The spring migration to a new apartment seems to have colored many New Yorkers' childhood memories of families that were not living in abject poverty, but were too close to its edge.

The back side of the row houses
"A Slum Brooklyn"