This photo was taken almost 25 years before I came along. It’s 1915. That’s my mother (at left) and a friend at the corner of 71st Street and Narrows Avenue, a half-block from Mom’s house, the same house I grew up in. Behind Mom, one block in the distance, is Shore Road; beyond Shore Road, the Narrows; beyond that, Staten Island.
The 18th century etching below, scanned from a book about the American Revolution, shows Lord Howe’s ships entering the Narrows in an attempt to trap and defeat General Washington’s ragtag army. (He failed.) I can see the familiar outline of Shore Road. I can almost pinpoint where we lived, a block and a half from the shore.
My mother’s family must have been among the first Jews to settle in Bay Ridge. Her father was a civil engineer who helped design the tunnel for the Fourth Avenue subway line leading to that almost-rural section of Brooklyn. The area appealed to him, and he moved the family there around 1910. When I was growing up in the 1940s and ‘50s, the neighborhood was largely Scandinavian-, Irish-, and Italian-American.