Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Just Some Quick Then and Now Stapleton Shots

Stapleton was the neighborhood I grew up in and still have a great affinity for even if there's little reason for me to spend much time there anymore. When I was a kid I lived in the library and we regularly shopped in the numerous stores around Tappen Park and along Broad Street up to Targee Street. There was the "Store of a Million Items" and "John's Bargain Store". There was "Wright Toy and Hobby" on Wright
Street and a Chinese restaurant on the second floor of the building next to "Woolworths" (which itself had a great luncheon counter where I always got a filet of fish sandwich without tartar sauce).

Woolworths vs. OZ - Woolworth's closed its American stores in 1997 ending an era of five and dime stores that dated to 1878. I bought so many books, models and other stuff there right up until the end. There were those kids rides where for a quarter a horse or firetruck bounces around sort of aimlessly and gumball machines.

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Later my mother started her long career of community activism in Stapleton with first "The Friends of Stapleton Library" and then the "Stapleton Civic Association" She and the equally late Helen Pose worked hard and often thanklessly to try and stave off the economic death of their town and get the merchants and residents to pitch in.

In 1979 or so she founded the "Stapleton Local Development Corporation", got grant money and got herself and three staffers paid to do the same things on a full time basis. For four years she worked hard at it only to get pushed out by a the head of the board of directors who put his girlfriend in my mom's place. Within a few years that woman messed things up and there were questions of impropriety and badly managed funds. Later directors (as my mother had moved on to way too many other things and the merchants of Stapleton had proven unwilling to make any real efforts to save their community) were better but the group eventually fell moribund and was absorbed into the still vibrant St. George/Tompkinsville LDC.

The only real testimony to the efforts of my mothers and the other "community organizers" of Stapleton back in the seventies and eighties is the beautifully designed brick sidewalks and gazebo at Tappen Park. Recently the park was renovated by the NYC Park's Department but there's none of the foot traffic of the past or the huge fall festivals and flea markets my mother and friends organized and held up through the mid-eighties.

Gazebo and Sidewalks - The beautiful building in the background is the remaining one of two village halls built as local municipal centers. It housed my mother's LDC and Community Board One and several other groups until the District Attorney's office took it over eleven or so years ago. They wanted to be closer to the court house and the public was deprived of a beautiful historic building.

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Chase Bank - This is where my family banked once we moved to Stapleton in 1969

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Staten Island Savings Bank (or whatever it's called these days) - I never went inside this magnificent classically styled building until a few years ago. You should do so and marvel at its beautiful interior and the sanctity and security of banking it was intended to convey.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the good memories. Went there often with my Mom, taking the #2 bus from/to South Beach. Woolworth's, Richmond Dry Goods, John's, the A&P...gone but not forgotten!

The Wasp said...

You're quite welcome. I remember taking the #2 the few times we went to South Beach when I was a kid.

When we went shopping in Stapleton, if we bought enough stuff and took out enough books from the library, we'd take the old #5 up the hill to where we lived on Cebra Avenue. It's sort of weird being nostalgic for the old bus route numbers, but I am.