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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: May 28: Two ‘Scenes from the Great Depression’

May 28, 2020 Phil Kaufman
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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. My father’s profile can be found here.

This week’s theme:

As last week’s pictures showed, a lot of people were “Having Fun” back in the late ’30s. But, literally at the same time, the country was in the midst of a decidedly not fun economic disaster. I call this week’s photos “Scenes from the Great Depression.”

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These are not just sights of misery or reminders of very difficult times. As always, the intent is to offer images that are interesting, informative and often beautifully done. A few display the overtly painful sights of the period, but most show people trying to do something about it, being as constructive as they can in the face of a grim reality. You might not smile as much as you did with last week’s collection, but I hope these photos allow you to find new perspectives and inspiration.

Today’s photos:

Today’s two photos take a look at an important Flatbush institution that helped countless boys – and their families – get through the Depression. The Flatbush Boys Club, at 2245 Bedford Ave., helped not with money or food, but with a place for boys that was welcoming, active and constructive. Two weeks ago I showed a club member with his sign that said “Keep Our Club Open.” The club survived and thrived. My father’s pictures illustrate some of the reasons for the affection and loyalty of the members, staff and parents.

Story time, August 19, 1936

An adult reading to children in a library is not a particularly noteworthy event. But this scene is different than most. Even allowing for some possible staging on my father’s part, there’s a lot of comfort, affection and community showing here. The boys are all over each other and the furniture; the librarian looks unperturbed. My father might have tried some directing, but the participants seem not to have needed it. You can’t tell young boys to fake being relaxed and candid.


One of many choices, August 19, 1936

From the pictures I have, I know the club had a full-sized gymnasium, a swimming pool, a variety of shop options, a music program and periodic professional medical exams. It’s no wonder the club was highly valued and financially supported, even in difficult times. The picture here shows Bernard Delabastide at work on a carving.

An index of Kaufman’s Brooklyn posts may be found here.

Irving Kaufman’s profile may be found here.

I invite you to submit comments, memories, images of Brooklyn, and especially any additional background information you can supply about the photos posted here to [email protected]. I’d also 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 All prints purchased will be the product of professional scanning and editing.

Weekly collection 4: ‘Scenes from the Great Depression’

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  1. Constance Emmett

    Thank you Phil Kaufman and The Brooklyn Eagle for Irving Kaufman’s wonderful photos. My mother, my uncle and my father-in-law all worked at The Eagle at one time in the 1930s-1940s (possibly the early 1950s for my uncle). I’m very glad to receive the daily news by email from the Eagle.