Brooklyn Boro

In ‘Brooklyn Memories,’ siblings revive Depression-era Brooklyn

Brooklyn BookBeat

December 17, 2013 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Siblings Jo and John Anselmo grew up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression, sharing a railroad apartment with their parents and two younger siblings. In spite of their financial hardships, the Anselmo family powered through with love, laughter and storytelling.

Both Jo and John married their neighborhood sweethearts and raised families of their own, continuing to keep their parents’ Brooklyn stories alive by relaying them to their children. Now, in a book called “Brooklyn Memories” (Depot Press), edited by Jim Loudon, Jo and John Anselmo share their Brooklyn tales with a wider audience. In addition to numerous heartwarming stories, the book includes a fascinating compilation of Anselmo family photos and historic Brooklyn photos depicting Ebbets Field, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Coney Island Steeplechase Park and other sites of interest.

Jo and John’s paternal grandparents moved to Brooklyn from Sicily in the early 1900s. The siblings write in the book’s introduction that their grandfather, Giobanni Anselmo, “provided for his wife and eight children his entire life by selling fruits and vegetables from his push cart on Moore Street in Brooklyn.” Jo and John’s maternal grandfather worked in Brooklyn as a barber. 

Jo and John write, “Sadly, our parents, grandparents, and all of our aunts and uncles are gone now, but our Brooklyn memories will remain with us forever. Our children will never know what it was like growing up in Brooklyn in the ’30s and ’40s. They will never have to endure the kind of life we had while living through the Great Depression […] We hope this book will give them some insight of what life was like back then.”

Jo, who was born at home on Marion St. in 1933, recalls that in the ’30s and ’40s she and her family “lived in congested tenement houses, which were poorly ventilated, sweltering hot in summer and unbearably cold in winter.” Within the buildings, she remembers much fighting between tenants and within families.  “The noise was constant,” writes Jo. “There were so many different languages and dialects spoken that it would be impossible to detect any of their conversations, so we hardly ever knew what they were fighting about.”

Jo remembers meeting her childhood friends in the streets to play games, including stickball, jump rope and “kick the can.” She and John describe a variety of other local scenes, among them going to the movies, their summer trips into Manhattan and the Bronx, visiting Ebbets Field to see the Dodgers play and listening to radio shows before bed.

A captivating representation of the Brooklyn that once was, “Brooklyn Memories” is a poignant winter read.

For further information, or to order a copy of the book, email [email protected].

For additional information on Brooklyn authors and literary events, visit Brooklyn Eagle‘s literary blog at brooklynbookbeat.com. If there is a writer or event you would like us to feature, or to send news of impending projects or accomplishments of Brooklyn writers you know, email [email protected].


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