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New York the Way It Was

It was an era when painting the town red was as easy as a ride on the El or a hop in the rumble seat of your buddy’s Ford Roadster for a drive down the Grand Concourse. Those who remember the good ol’ days of New York City in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, are often heard pining among themselves or, to the younger set, expounding on an age of innocence that today’s youth will never know. WLIW New York has produced a nostalgic documentary, highlighting the people, places, and spirit of a time that won’t let itself be forgotten.
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This hour-long special immerses viewers in the bygone days of the old neighborhood. Some never-before-seen footage, generously donated by WLIW21 New York Public Television viewers, has been strung together, alongside interviews with long-time, outer borough residents. NEW YORK THE WAY IT WAS takes a look back at such places as Ebbets Field, the Roxy, and the egg cream shop at the corner.

Also depicted are the street games of the old days, along with children and their omnipresent “spauldeen,” who were known to round up the gang to play punch ball, stick ball, or stoop ball. The social life for adults often surrounded the local beauty parlors, barber shops, or neighborhood luncheonettes.

“One of my most prominent memories of that time was the music,” said Producer Fred Fischer.” New York was a hotbed of emerging talent. There was jazz and the blues with “Slide” Hampton and “Dizzy” Gillespie, and Benny Goodman’s swing. Then came the span from the Lindy and Jitterbug to the Twist and Harlem after-hours jam sessions at the Apollo.”

Entertainer Alan King, who was also interviewed for this program, has his own vivid memories of what mattered in New York back then. “I realized when the Dodgers left, O’Malley (the team’s owner) was probably the greatest single villain in the history of the borough of Brooklyn,” he said during the interview.

And perhaps it was Gov. Mario Cuomo who summed it up best on the show when he said, “I was a shabbas goy in the synagogue and an alter boy at St. Monica’s Church. That was the old neighborhood.”

NEW YORK THE WAY IT WAS brings forth a time not to be left to legend. It carefully documents an era when, according to Fischer, “times were as simple as a 2¢ plain bagel.”