Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Post From Hungar(y)-Pt2

Next we have a combined image showing the census data for the 200 block of Houston Street from 1910 (yes I know it's hard to get the information that way, but anything for inquiring minds seeking Hungarian immigrant knowledge) and an office card from the PS20 archives (courtesy of Jerry Kerne's 6th grade class of two years ago). Good bet Katy Zubik was Hungarian. She attended PS13 which morphed into PS20. Remember the map showing the PS13 location? Yes, Houston, between Essex and Norfolk. Don't you feel like Sherlock Holmes? It's interesting how one block, or even building, will have all the same people from a certain background and then that will change on the next block or the next building. Hey, what are they serving at the Little Hungary tonight, some ghoulash? Here's some Hungarian dessert, apple strudel. Actually the desserts are excerpts from the wonderful collection of oral histories done by Jeff Kisseloff. The collection is entitled, "You Must Remember This." An Oral History of Manhattan from the 1890s to World War Two. Jerry read similar accounts of immigrant tales with his class. They then went on to imagine themselves in the shoes of their "ancestor" immigrant classmates and wrote diaries of their lives. There's nothing wrong with a class doing something similar this year with the home theme. "Kisseloff brings together 137 New Yorkers who witnessed daily life in Manhattan from the 1890s to World War II. Dividing the city into ten neighborhoods and devoting a chapter and about a dozen voices to each, Kisseloff offers a brief historical introduction, then lets the eyewitnesses speak for themselves. We hear a survivor's account of the harrowing Triangle Shirtwaist fire as well as tales of the sweatshops, the settlement houses, and the immigrants from around the world who poured into the Lower East Side at the turn of the century. There are vignettes of John Reed, Louise Bryant, Eugene O'Neill, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. We read of the bloody beginnings of the seamen's union and, down the street from the docks, visit with Thomas Wolfe and Edgar Lee Masters in the Hotel Chelsea. In Harlem, the Savoy and the cotton Club were in their heyday, as were Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Adam Clayton Powell. Throughout the book, Kisseloff engages us in a unique conversation between an all-but-bygone time and our own."A can't-put-it-down oral history."—David Gates, Newsweek "The speakers are a diverse lot; many have lived through interesting events. The accounts are vivid and down to earth. We catch the distinct flavor of neighborhoods as they were." -—Library Journal Jeff Kisseloff is a native New Yorker whose grandfather owned a dry goods shop on Orchard Street. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. These interviews were compiled over 10 years ago and I would imagine few of these people are still alive.

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