I grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan back when the Jewish population still predominated. We lived at 151 Norfolk Street. All the families who lived there were Jewish. However, the super, Charlie Spitry, was Christian. Every year, he’d put up an enormous Christmas tree in the vestibule, beautifully decorated with a miniature village and train set-up underneath. Strange, considering the tenant population.
The building was considered fancy-schmancy because it had something rarely, if ever, found in apartment buildings in the area at that time: an elevator! All well and good. But it had a habit of getting stuck. I avoided using it unless I was with my parents or another adult who lived in the building. Our apartment was on the third floor — Apt. 3A — so walking up wasn’t difficult. It was a one-bedroom. The rent was $42/month.
My dad, an amateur photographer who developed his own photos, took this one of little me in front of the building.
Here I am again in the doorway. A little more grown at about 13. A friend snapped this photo. Note the building’s number on the floor of the entrance.
When I walk the streets of the LES today, there are so many changes that it amazes me that 151 Norfolk is still standing. Sadly, not so fancy/schmancy now.
I grew up surrounded by the loving warmth of my mother’s extended family, both maternal and paternal. My grandparents lived one block away, at 106 Norfolk. In this photo, Dad snapped me sitting on 106’s stoop. I can’t believe those shoes!
Again, I’m amazed that 106 still stands. In far better condition than 151.
My grandparents’ apartment was one flight up (no elevator) and faced the front. The three windows starting from the left belonged to their apartment.
I can’t recall what was in the store front to the left of the stoop. For sure, it wasn’t anything even remotely close to Nurse Bettie, a hip lounge. The ultimate collision of my Lower East Side’s past and its present.