The Bronx is like Brooklyn without the hype.
Full Disclosure: I’m a proud “Bronx Boy” myself. Grew up in Tremont neighborhood and its P.S. 70, where my Mom, Harriet Levy, who was one of the most fiercely dedicated elementary school teachers EVER, Wade JHS 117 (Historical Oddity: Lee Harvey Oswald attended and after the JFK assassination, almost every kid carved “LHO sat here” into the then wooden desks) and ultra proud DeWitt Clinton ‘69 grad. My family left The Bronx as part of the massive white flight in 1969 and landed on the Upper West Side.
But this is not about me, it’s about Norman Vogel, another proud Bronx Boy whose family, namely his daughter Pauline and son, Ivan, decided to celebrate his 90th Birthday with a tour of Norman’s Bronx. Norman had regaled his family with Bronx stories for years and it was time for the family to see what he was kvelling about. Norman is still spry and sharp and his family adores him. Who couldn’t? He’s a humble man, thankful for the richness of his life and the warmth of a large and diverse family.
We’ve done similar “This Was Your Life” tours before: typically 80th Birthday celebrations planned by adoring next generations to Brooklyn, but this was our first Bronx version and you know this was going to be MY gig!
Norman grew up on Washington and Bathgates Avenues in the East Bronx. These were once thriving pushcart filled commercial streets similar to images of the Lower East Side. Norman’s father and uncles owned a grocery store where Norman worked and Norman continued in the food business for many years. Those buildings and store were long gone by the time we visited them: replaced with huge warehouses, but his schools PS 42 and William H. Taft High School were still standing and Norman was thrilled to relive his memories. A hardcore Yankee fan (another shared trait), we also had to include a visit to Yankee Stadium. It was a pleasure to share this experience with the entire Vogel family.