Mcnamara's Old Bronx - John Mcnamara Streets Neighborhoods Stores 1st Ed 1989
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Mcnamara's Old Bronx - John Mcnamara Streets Neighborhoods Stores 1st Ed 1989:
Title: McNamara's Old Bronx
Author: John McNamara
Publisher: Bronx County Historical Society (1989)
Description:McNamara's Old Bronx is full of stories and photographs of Bronx history, much of it forgotten. McNamara was a lifelong Bronx resident and knew first hand facts about the Bronx dating back to the turn of the century. This is a collection of his newspaper columns from the long defunct Bronx Press-Review, long unavailable, until this collection was put together. Kingsbridge, Hunt's Point, Spuyten Duyvil, Mott Haven, Riverdale, Highbridge almost all the neighborhoods of the Bronx are covered here.
A fun book, with a plain title. Though it sounds more like a biography, this work is a compilation of newspaper articles written over the years. There are many interesting and sometimes peculiar tidbits from almost every neighborhood of The Bronx. Catchy headlines, brief passages, and a conversational style, make it great reading. Presidents, sports, games, movies, treasures, a respected professional counterfeiter, animals, and more are all part of this book. Did you know that the Titanic "sank" in the Bronx River? This book may also serve as a source of ideas for creative writing. When you read McNamara's Old Bronx, you can finally tell those "old-timers" in your family or neighborhood, a thing or two. The Osgood File of The Bronx - and beyond. This book covers The Bronx like no other publication.
When McNamara died October 15, 2004 the NY Times felt he merited a large obituary reproduced below:
John McNamara, who walked every street in the Bronx and recorded the often idiosyncratic history of each (yes, even Yznaga Place), died on Oct. 15 in the Bronx. He was 92.
The cause was prostate cancer, his son, John, said.
Mr. McNamara was known for wearing his many hats, from fedoras to United States Navy watch caps to oversize truck drivers' caps. He roamed the globe on tramp steamers, as a hobo jumping freight trains and, mostly, as an indefatigable pedestrian.
His passion was his native Bronx, both the existing borough and the one of fading memory. He wrote books and newspaper columns, led walking tours and came to be a sought-after sage for questions about everything from Fink Avenue to long-gone silent-movie theaters to Rat Island, a nickname for South Brother Island from about 1900 to 1920.
Mr. McNamara never went to college and worked as a clerk for the New York City Housing Authority for 29 years. But the zeal and precision of his research recalled an ambitious doctoral candidate: he went to Albany, Amsterdam and other places worldwide to pore over records, and relentlessly hunted down old-timers.
His 1978 book "History in Asphalt: The Origin of Bronx Street and Place Names," was published by the Bronx County Historical Society, which Mr. McNamara helped found. No other borough has a similar guide.
The book explains what the borough is and how it came to be. For instance, Melville Street in the West Farms section has nothing to do with Herman Melville, who is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. There are at least four possible explanations for Featherbed Lane, including "a sly allusion to the ladies of easy virtue" who lived in an 1840's red light district.
A large section tells of what is no longer. The Cowboy Tree on what is now West 237th Street was used as a gallows. Duck Island in the East River was blotted out by landfill. Extra Street, Oink Square and Suicide Hill might be forgotten entirely were it not for Mr. McNamara.
The book also tells of what might have been. The Gold Star Mothers, whose bond was having sons who were killed in World War I, were unsuccessful in having the Grand Concourse named Memorial Parkway in honor of trees planted for the war dead. People who wanted to name it after Woodrow Wilson were no more successful.
But how many New Yorkers know that the whole name of the Bronx's great thoroughfare is Grand Boulevard and Concourse?
John McNamara was born on Dec. 22, 1912, on East 156th Street in the Melrose section of the Bronx. His family rented a summer bungalow in Edgewater Park in 1916, which meant he had early experience with two very different areas of the Bronx.
"We lived in wooden-sided tents with canvas tops," Mr. McNamara said of Edgewater in a 1985 interview with The New York Times. "We had no electricity, just kerosene stoves. It was a real pioneer community."
Mr. McNamara told his friend Bill Twomy, who shared his passion for Bronx history, that an experience at 12 was very influential. He was portaging a canoe over the small neck of land connecting Fort Schuyler to the mainland. Charlie Ferreira, the lighthouse keeper there, said, "You're doing exactly what the Indians did."
An interest in Indian history was born. Around the same time, city street signs were going up in the Bronx. (And Mr. McNamara insisted on the the, as well as on the second, now-archaic "g" in Throggs Neck.) Mr. McNamara became fascinated with connections between history and geography.
"I wondered where they came from, those names," he said in an interview with The Times in 1991.
This interest broadened. By the 1930's, Mr. McNamara was riding the rails with the hobos. He visited every state except for Oklahoma.
"He was a restless man who had to find out what was going on," said John Robben, his friend for more than 60 years, who added that as far as he knew Mr. McNamara did not miss Oklahoma on purpose.
Mr. Robben and Mr. McNamara communicated by letters, despite living less than a mile apart. He has saved more than 1,000.
"He would rather write than talk," Mr. Robben explained.
In 1956, Mr. McNamara began writing in The Bronx Press-Review and published some of his columns under the title "McNamara's Old Bronx." He later worked for The Bronx Times Reporter and wrote two books on the borough's history with Mr. Twomy, the self-published "Throggs Neck Memories" in 1994 and "Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay" (Arcadia Publishing) in 1998.
Sometimes his enthusiasm for history made him try to be part of it. In January 1961, he woke up his son, John, greased their faces for protection against the cold and set off for the Throgs Neck Bridge, which was scheduled to open that day. Mr. McNamara bribed a guard, and he and his son were the first bicyclists to cross the bridge. It became one of the many stories he loved to tell.
In addition to John, who lives in Yonkers, Mr. McNamara's survivors include his daughter, Betty McNamara of Palo Alto, Calif.; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife, the former Pauline Ungerer, a Bronx native, died in 1969.
Mr. McNamara, who was a Cub Scout leader and volunteer fireman, wanted to be remembered as a historian for the 20th century. So he stopped writing on Dec. 31, 1999, Mr. Twomy said.
In 1985, a square on the service road of the Cross Bronx Expressway Extension at Randall and Calhoun Avenues was named for Mr. McNamara. (Randall was once Strang Avenue; Calhoun is named for John C. Calhoun, who served as vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.)
Yznaga Place? It is laid out on what was once Coney Island on the salt marshes of what became Ferry Point Park in the Bronx. Mr. McNamara's research confirmed that Brooklyn has not always had the city's only Coney Island.Details:First Edition,paperback
Size: octavo (approx. 6 x 8.5")
Condition:Book is in very good condition. All pages are firmly attached and clean and white.
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