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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: June 3: Two photos from ‘An ordinary day on Brooklyn’s streets’

June 3, 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.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Today’s photos:

Whether from a grocery store, a deli or a sidewalk, shopping for food was a constant activity during the Great Depression. Refrigeration for the home was introduced in the 1920s and was slowly becoming widespread in the 30s, but most families in Depression economic conditions couldn’t afford it. Ice boxes were limited in size and reliability. A family certainly couldn’t stock up on fresh foods for a week.

Ripe melon? undated

“At any vegetable market from Borneo to Nome / You mustn’t squeeze a melon ‘til you get the melon home.” In a Broadway musical (Guys and Dolls) with otherwise spot-on lyrics, I never believed this line. People examine, smell, poke and squeeze produce all the time. I can’t tell if this woman is looking for a ripe melon, whether she has or will squeeze this one, or whether it’s actually even a melon. But whatever she’s doing, she’s not trying to hide it.


Pork and pushcarts, undated

A second pork shop in our sample is probably not disproportionate for the time and place. For most Brooklyn people, except for Jews, pork products were a diet staple. This shop looks a little the worse for wear. Sidewalk displays of meat products weren’t common, but I guess a pork store can show processed salamis or sausages out front. The “Joe’s Fruit” outdoor bushel baskets next door make a little more sense.

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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