Writing on the Rails: Back to the old neighborhood in NYC

Edmonds resident Michael W. Hall continues his trip on the rails for the holidays. Hall left the Edmonds Amtrak station Christmas Eve, and is now in “The Big Apple,” where he plans to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Saturday

12/28/2019

7:30am EST- 

The neighborhood street I grew up on (W. 121st St., New York, NY) @ the corner of Broadway & W. 121st.  

Looking up W. 121st Street, toward Morningside Heights and our neighborhood that my fellow W. 121st St. ‘Alum,’ Comedian George Carlin, dubbed “White Harlem!”  

The corner comic book shop and candy store/newsstand where we spend our .25 cents/week, hard-earned allowance on Saturday mornings.  (It’s now the “Olive Tree Deli,” where I bought an awesome Bacon/Cheese Burger for lunch). Back in the late 1950s, twenty-five cents bought you a .10 cent Superman comic book, a .5 cent white-lemon popsicle and a nice brown paper bag full of ‘3 for a penny’ hard candy….!  We were all set for another week of the “Hot Summer In The City!”  

“The Miami.”  

The tenement next door to mine (@ 509 Bancroft on W. 121st Street, where George Carlin grew up, with his mother.  George was one of the local ‘Big Dogs,’ 15 years of age, to my 8 years old self at the time. So, as you can imagine my local plebeian gang didn’t hang with the much older and sophisticated, local ‘gods of the block…!’  

 

7:45am EST- 

Walking up to my old childhood tenement building….!  I haven’t been back here for over 50 years…..! It still looks the same…..!  OMG…..! 

509 W. 121st St. (The Bancroft Apartments).

 

8:05am EST- 

The old ‘Crest of Arms’ is still there….!  

 

And our building’s small courtyard entrance.  

 

And the Gothic Cathedral of “Riverside Church” still looms over the neighborhood as it always did. I was a member of the (quite professional and much reversed) “Children’s Choir” at Riverside Church. We performed each Sunday for the United Nations weekly services. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would periodically give the sermon. And our small band of neighborhood, musical ruffians was privileged to sing for Secretary General U Thant and the U.N.’s weekly congregation of impressive world-class, celebrity/politicians.  

Note:  Martin Luther King Jr. voiced his opposition to the Vietnam War at Riverside on April 4, 1967 (on the same day that he was killed the following year) in his “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”, also known as the ‘Riverside Church speech.’

 

8:30am EST- 

The famous Catholic Monk and Theologian, Thomas Merton, who wrote the seminal work “Seven Storey Mountain,” attended seminary and pastored at our neighborhood “Corpus Christi Church” (next to George Carlin’s tenement building on W. 121st St.

Monk’s Café is a fictional coffee shop from the NBC sitcom Seinfeld.  The exterior of Tom’s Restaurant on the corner of West 112th Street and Broadway, near Columbia University, is often shown on the show as the exterior of Monk’s, though the interiors were shot on a sound stage.  

To be continued…

— By Michael W. Hall

Michael W. Hall, a 1971 graduate of Edmonds High School, is a local attorney who enjoys fly fishing, writing and “all things Fortean.”

 

    1. Mike..my sisters and I lived at Bancroft from 58- 60.
      Father was in Dr. Program at Columbia.
      Went to Agnes Russell Center..K-1st.
      Remember well running the street to the same store and to Morningside Park.

  1. How exciting and fun to go back to your childhood locations. We are having a great time with you on your travels. Can’t wait to hear about your New Year’s Eve celebration tonight.

  2. Coorection:

    >>The famous Catholic Monk and Theologian, Thomas Merton, who wrote the seminal work “Seven Storey Mountain,” attended seminary and pastored at our neighborhood “Corpus Christi Church” (next to George Carlin’s tenement building on W. 121st St. <<

    Merton was baptized at Corpus Christi but never attended seminary and never served as a priest at Corpus Christi. He eventually became a monk at a Trappist abbey in Kentucky where he was ordained. For a more detailed biography, see "LIving With Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton." I am the author.

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