Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Checkers in the park
My father, Irving Kaufman (1910 – 1982), was a professional photographer who started in Brooklyn in the mid 1930s working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He captured thousands of images of Brooklyn through the 1950s. I have recently digitized a great many of them.
I am delighted to work with the Eagle on an ongoing project to display some of those photos. Our goal is to highlight Brooklyn as it used to be, for your pleasure and edification, as well as to pay tribute to my father’s remarkable photography. His profile can be found here.
This week’s photos are all about “Having Fun.” There are lots of different ways to have fun. What’s fun for one may be torture to another (Running — on purpose?; Monopoly — you must be kidding!). Indoors, outdoors; young, older; physical, cerebral; alone, with random others or with special others.
My father captured lots of scenes of fun — a little of everything. Though they’re all clearly set in their time period — that’s part of what makes them interesting — I noticed as I reviewed them that they are all still fun today (if it’s your thing). We’ve added technological and electronic wizardry, but the basics are still around.
Checkers in the park, August 30, 1940
New York City’s many parks have always provided activities for all ages. This hot game of checkers in Sunset Park attracted quite an audience and generated radiant smiles for everyone. The park is still there, still has concrete game tables like this, and still attracts large, busy and happy crowds on summer days. (Today’s dress code is somewhat different, however.)
No playground? No problem. Mid-1930s
Unlike the checker players above, lots of neighborhoods aren’t lucky enough to have a park nearby. This is apparently one of them. But nothing can stop kids from playing. Is that a cobblestone for home plate? Are there balls and strikes? If so, who calls them? If not, how long can the batter wait for his perfect pitch? Where does foul territory start? They’ll figure all that out. But what will they do when their mothers call them for dinner?
Slippery slope, c. 1940
There are plenty of you out there who remember fun at Steeplechase Park. From 1897 until 1964 it stood along the Coney Island Boardwalk, presenting a constant but fluid assemblage of creative, exciting rides and amusements. The most visible remainder is the iconic Parachute Jump, 250 feet tall, with 12 parachutes; it is in the National Registry of Historic Places and is a New York City designated landmark.
This colorful couple is enjoying (?) a bouncy and speedy adventure down a polished wood slide. I remember it fondly, but I was probably about 12 years old. These two, wide-eyed and holding on to each other for dear life, may have gotten a little more than they bargained for. But I’ll bet they remembered it fondly too.
Building can be fun, March 18, 1938
Many a five- or six-year-old has enjoyed imaginative hours with a doll house. But not many get as lucky as these young girls at the Packer Collegiate Institute who are building their own real, walk-in version. It’s “our new house” named Curly Top Cottage.
Though I suspect some of the diligent work on display was directed by my father, it certainly looks like a real project, with real materials, real tools, real learning and real fun. I tip my hat to the school for teaching girls of that era about home building, not just “home economics,” whatever that actually meant.
Ham radio: personal and national value, c. 1940
Fun comes in all forms. Richard Nebel is seated in front of his imposing electronic structure — an amateur radio set-up. Amateur radio, also known as “ham” radio, is reserved for non-commercial use of wireless messaging with a purely personal aim. And Mr. Nebel used his technology as a happy hobby for years.
But he was also one of thousands of civilians who were instrumental in an effort by the military to explore alternative means of communication for possible use during wartime. His particular role was as Radio Aide to the Army’s 4th Signal Service Company. The Military Auxiliary Radio System provided an effective proof of concept, and was valuable in the pre-war years supporting local, state, and federal authorities during natural disaster relief efforts.
Summer shuffle, c. 1938
These women are enjoying the view, the sea air and what looks like a pretty slow-paced game of shuffleboard. In fact, it’s posed. They may well not have actually shuffled anything at all. The note with this negative said simply: “Miss Peggy Burke at the Half Moon Hotel.” If anyone can tell me which one is Peggy Burke, I’d be grateful. I didn’t get anywhere with a short search online. No doubt she was a model. Maybe this scene was destined for a brochure or magazine ad for the hotel itself.
No matter; the scenery is great, the weather looks perfect and it sure looks like a nice place to spend a summer afternoon.
I invite you to submit comments, memories, images of Brooklyn, and especially any additional background information you can supply about the photos posted here. I’d be glad to supply information about buying prints of any of the images seen here. Many of my father’s images are also available for viewing and purchase at http://yourartgallery.com/irvingkaufmanstudios. All prints purchased will be the product of professional scanning and editing.
The Eagle’s most recent Kaufman’s Brooklyn post was, “Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Urban horseshoer.”
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