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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: June 2: Two photos from ‘An ordinary day on Brooklyn’s streets’

June 2, 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:

So far, in all the posts I’ve created, I have selected images that showed something unusual. First, I chose streets that seemed unnaturally quiet for broad daylight in busy Brooklyn. Then I chose people who were by themselves, but somehow looking extraordinary or doing something extraordinary. Then came fun, in a variety of forms, often photogenic. Then the Depression, thankfully not usual scenes from our history.

This week I hope to interest you in pictures of common, everyday activity. I call this week’s photos “An ordinary day on Brooklyn’s streets.” Normally, ordinary things are not very interesting. Why will this be different? Back in April, our streets were eerily empty. That’s why I thought quiet streets from long-ago Brooklyn could be interesting. Now our Brooklyn streets, though not yet normal, are becoming less quiet and empty. So maybe it’s time for a look at ordinary scenes on Brooklyn streets from long ago.

Today’s photos:

Today’s two photos represent what every neighborhood had in abundance 85 years ago, and what many still have. Neighborhoods need a place where people can gather randomly and visit with one another. That place is usually on a shopping street where people are plentiful, and used to be called the corner deli, or just “the deli.” Now it could be a bodega, a diner, a luncheonette, a fast food spot or even a convenience store, though that term doesn’t evoke the same feeling.

The Corner Deli, c. 1935

Ideally, and in (romanticized?) memories, the corner deli was a beloved spot in Brooklyn neighborhoods. It was close by, it had all the basics and specialties. At the corner deli, you’d chat with friends, neighbors, the proprietor, the workers. Today, bodegas are our closest equivalent, providing all-purpose service and spirit.


Dilbert Bros., undated

Dilbert Bros. seems to be another corner deli. It’s hard to be sure, though the items stacked in the window seem to be dry goods. No matter. It certainly serves as a meeting place, even inviting visitors with a small bench. Neighborhood people can hang out (or whatever it was called in 1935), take a break from shopping and catch up on local news and gossip.

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 5: Photos from ‘An ordinary day on Brooklyn’s streets’

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