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Rise of Industrial America
City Life in the Late 19th Century
Mr. Paul's Story

At the time of this interview, Mr. Paul was an 81-year-old man who had lived in the Bronx section of New York City all his life. In the following, he reminisces about life in the Bronx neighborhoods in which he lived. What image of the neighborhoods does Mr. Paul create through his words? What do Mr. Paul's memories tell you about how the residents of these city neighborhoods generally lived their lives? What does Mr. Paul most regret about the changes that took place in his neighborhood over the years?

View the entire interview with Mr. Paul from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 . Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


"In 1863 my father opened a grocery and feed store at Elton Ave., and 157th Street, then known as Washington Ave., and [Prospect?] Street.

"In 1878 he opened a branch store at Washington Avenue and 169th Street under the name of John Paul Son. Our next door neighbor was J. G. Daum, the baker, who was known throughout the Bronx for his rye bread and for his kindness to those in need. His son still carries on the business at the same spot.

"On the northwest corner was Ferdon's Market, next came Sherwood's Lamp and Oil Store, and then Haupman's Paint Store. Dr. Henwood lived an the [southwest?] corner and on the southeast corner was Houchin's home and factory.

"At Third Avenue was Jake Schappert's Market and John [Sauer's?] Shoe store. On the northwest corner was Wetzel's Saloon. Then came John [Danm's?] Cigar Store, and farther up the block Pfluger's Barber Shop, Conrad [Danm?], the tailor and Richard [Danm?], the baker.

"At the northeast corner was Reinhart's Grocery and Feed Store.

"In 1886 I moved to Third Avenue, when the elevated was being built. A station was located at our corner.

"Then came the blizzard. Dreste's bakery wagon got stuck in the drifts at our corner and could not be moved for three days. All the bread in the wagon was carried into my store and we sold every loaf. The horses were placed in my barn and had a good rest.

"Though I have lived in the Bronx seventy-four years, I feel like a stranger here now. I can walk for an hour and not meet a person I know. To meet old friends and schoolmates I attend meetings of the "Old Timer's of The Bronx," as I am fortunate enough to be a member.

"There we talk about old times, and it is: 'Mr . Paul , do you remember when the boys used to hang around outside your store and you put up a sign in your store window, 'Twelve loafers wanted to stand on this corner?' We did better than that; there were thirteen of us. And on my way home from school I used to upset your barrels!';

"'Remember old 'Dutch Five' Engine Company, how they used to celebrate after every fire? And how your father doctored some bologna with pepper to cure them of their 'taking ways?'

"As I walk down 163rd Street to Washington Avenue, memory brings back the Melrose and Morrisania of seventy years ago. The building which was 'Pickle' Snider's pickle factory is still standing and looks pretty good too. But Bruckner's Brewery, Stocker's Slaughter House, Knapp's Lumber Yard and Charlie White's coal yard vanished long ago. Nearby was Mr Short's fine garden in which were several cherry trees. My father used to buy the cherries to sell in our store and my brother Henry and I had the fun of picking them.

"Conover's had a fine rose garden which we used to pass when on our way to the baseball games at Union Ball Grounds. Bob Nicholson too, the real estate man, whose house was left high up on the rocks when Elton Avenue was cut down.

"I remember the night somebody set fire to a carload of hay belonging to Alonzo Carr. It was a big fire, and the engines pumped water out of Mill Creek, the brook for which Brook Avenue is named. I remember 'Old Pokey' crossing the railroad trestle over the brook back of Old Melrose School. Sometimes the boys jumped on the cowcatcher of the engine while in motion. One day Tom Condon tried to jump on but missed and was killed.

"We used to go bobbing for eels in the brook and caught some too, but they were not very big.

"Jonathan Hyatt was principal of Melrose School at that time. I don't think there was ever a better principal in The Bronx, but no school has ever been named after him. Our Board of Education ought to do him this honor.

"One day about seventy-three years ago, while going through Peggy Woods I found a nice baseball bat, which I have kept all these years.

"I remember the 'tin-pannings' at weddings. The boys with their pans would make a great racket until someone came out and gave them money for a treat, or else invited them into the house for refreshments. One man was not so good natured and sent for Judge Hauptmann who arrested to two of the biggest boys."
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View the entire interview with Mr. Paul from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 . Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.