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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: June 5: Two photos from ‘An ordinary day on Brooklyn’s streets’

June 5, 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:

The final two scenes of the week seem similar to each other and as ordinary as can be. We have pedestrians strolling on commercial streets, maybe window-shopping, maybe making their way from one place to another. For some reason that I don’t understand, or for no reason, one of the scenes has a lot of children, while the other has none. One of the scenes is at a corner I was easily able to identify, while the other is on a street I haven’t been able to nail down, despite many clues. And I have no dates for either one. Even with some missing information, these scenes are so representative and “ordinary” that they’re just right to close the week.

Stroll and shop, undated

This shopping street has attracted a lot of people, in spite of the apparent cold weather. It’s not clear how much shopping is mingled with the strolling. And it’s also not clear (even with some help) exactly where it is. There are several clues. Three of the stores that are visible – Stevens, Busch Jewelers and Davega Sporting Goods — were around for quite a while, but we couldn’t find enough addresses. The Stevens right in the center of the image has signs in Norwegian. They refer to tailors, clothing and sending goods to Norway. That hints at the Sunset Park neighborhood, so this could well be 5th Avenue. Please let me know if you can identify it with more confidence.


Flatbush and Church, undated

This important intersection has been a hub of activity and the busiest shopping area in the vicinity for a century or more. This view is of Flatbush Ave. looking north. The Garfield Cafeteria (vertical sign on the right) was a neighborhood icon. The New York Times practically eulogized it when it closed in 1971 – because of declining business, and changing times in the neighborhood. Erasmus Hall High School, just half a block behind us, had quite a number of students who went on to distinguished careers in medicine, science, business, government, education, sports, chess (Bobby Fisher, 1960 drop-out) and more. But the most familiar names are those who went into show business. A short list includes Mae West, Barbara Stanwyck, Eli Wallach, Susan Hayward, Neil Diamond, and Barbra Streisand.

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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  1. OneObservantOne

    The first corner shown looks like 52nd St. The rounded window on top and the double window below match up to the building still there (looking on google maps.)