Chatham Square Neighborhood

A Diverse Fair Haven Community with Historic Homes and a Beautiful Waterfront

  • I remember when I was six years old, at the time the second youngest of five siblings. We lived on Hayward Street in Williamsburg Brooklyn in a four-story tenement across the street from an old Armory.  The apartment layout is known as a railroad flat a narrow four room apartment with two small bedrooms in between the kitchen and living room.  We entered the apartment through the kitchen.  The bath tub was located in the kitchen. It had an enameled top with hinges so that it could be used as a food prep table or a place to iron clothes when it was not being used for bathing. Next to the tub was a single cast iron sink with the high back splash.  You could stand in the kitchen by the sink and see straight through the bedrooms into the living room.  My mother remembers it as the “cold flat $ 27.00 a month rent”.  I would occasionally revert to my toddler tantrum days right before it was time to go to school.  I didn't like school because of the Cuban missile crisis we did a lot of air raid drills in those days and it would scare the hell out of me. When you heard the air raid sirens you were instructed to drop to the floor crawl under your desk and put your hands over your head fingers locked, your face cradled between your arms facing the ground in a fetal position and pray!   My thoughts were why would somebody want to kill us all?  Whenever we had to do this I would urinate in my pants.  I would rather stay home and watch the television my father found on the street.  He repaired it by changing a tube he plucked from another discarded television.  On this particular day Just before it was time to leave for school, I threw myself on the floor my mother looked at me and said “Hoy no" (not today) I am not going to drag you down there and I am not going to trash your ass today, "hoy no”.  So off to the living room to watch cartoons I went, while my mother talked and made coffee for her friends in the kitchen.  I could see them, and they could see me. I could smell the coffee. My mother would check on me and bring me snacks. I napped, played with my toys and watched TV.  I remember watching my favorite afternoon cartoon, Popeye on the Officer Joe Bolton Show.  That day it was Popeye meets Ali Baba (also known as Bruto) and the Forty Thieves and, off course, Popeye was defending Olive Oil, his girl friend's honor.  Popeye is pounding and knocking out Ali and the robed thieves, one-by-one conveyor-belt-style.  I wondered what would happen to Bruto and his gang if Popeye would eat two cans of spinach instead of one can and become even more powerful then, maybe, Bruto would go away forever. 

    Then, the Popeye show was all of a sudden interrupted just as he was ready to get Ali himself and now there is an old guy on the screen with his glasses in hand talking. I got upset, and threw myself on the floor yelling and screaming “Ma la televisión ! .  The coffee crew in the kitchen ignored me, so I tried again: “Maaaaaa la Televisión maaaaaa! Finally I ran to the kitchen and threw myself on the floor again Maaaaaa Maaaaa please la televisión maaaaa . My mother started to give me a trashing.  I rolled away “Mira Malcriao” ( poorly raised boy) She lunged at me again, I ran  past the two rooms towards the living room. My mother and her friends followed suit, yelling. 

    I ran into the living room and jumped behind the couch. Now, I am starting to feel like its time to pee again. In the living room, my mother and her friends looked at the television set and froze like kryptonite did to Superman, they were frozen like statues.  All of a sudden and in unison, they all started screaming and jumping up and down and crying.  I peeked from behind the couch as I thought: Hmmm I didn’t know they like Popeye Too!  Then my mother yelled “ya, ya mataron al Presidente Kennedy el era bueno” they killed President Kennedy he was good! 

    It wasn't until my teenage years that I learned that the old guy who disrupted Popeye that day was Walter Cronkite and that JFK was the first Catholic President, who called for Americans to serve their country. Under his administration, laws were put in place to end segregation in inter-state travel facilities and The Redevelopment Act, which assisted states that were suffering from high rates of unemployment.  He issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination in the sale or lease of housing that was financed by federally guaranteed loans or owned by the federal government. It was John F. Kennedy's cautious and sensible approach to the standoff during the Cuban missile crisis that ultimately diverted a nuclear war with the Soviet Union and secured the removal of missiles from Cuba.

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Comment by Rafael Ramos on November 21, 2012 at 9:06am

Final edit !

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