Growing Up in the Bronx from 1928 to 1957
was born in Brooklyn on October 9, 1925. My father, Thomas Gaynor, was of Irish descent, and my mother, Dorothy Marotta, was of Italian descent. When you are Irish and Italian, you don't know whether to get drunk or sing a song.
In 1928, when I was about three years old,we moved to 400 East Mosholu Parkway on the corner of Webster Avenue in the Bronx. My father was in the real estate business and this was one of his apartment houses. On the street floor facing Webster Avenue were stores. Mr. Wilson, a black carpenter had his carpentry shop in one, and Mr. Berlin had a beauty parlor in another. I don't recall who had the other stores, but there were four of them.
In 1930 we moved to the other side of the park to 225 East Mosholu Parkway. That apartment house, called Brendan Hill, had an elevator, and we lived in the penthouse.
My mother enrolled me in P.S. 80, also on Mosholu Parkway. I remained at P.S. 80 for eight years and graduated in 1938. In the first grade, my teacher was Mrs. Sailing. As I progressed, my teachers included Mrs. Haugney, Mrs. McWilliams, Mrs. Ross, Mrs. Brown. Miss Burgi, Miss. Fanning, Mrs. Lifflander, Mrs. Richardson, Mr. Harris, Mrs. Adams, and Mr. Petlock. Our gym teacher was Mr. Autote. The principal was Mr. Stantial and the assistant principal was Mrs. Meesom. Many of my fellow students lived on Mosholu. We did not know that most of us would be fighting the Germans and Japanese in the years soon to come.
P.S. 80 was a great school. There are so many fond memories, like playing Ring-A-Levio and Johnny-Ride-the-Pony in the schoolyard. In the summer, there would be showers in the schoolyard to relieve us of the summer heat. In the winter, we would sleighride down the small hill in front of 155.
Mosholu Parkway had a large boulder sitting on it. In the winter, we would light a fire next to the rock and roast mickeys. Those were the days of the great depression and a roasted potato was a treat.
Tragedy struck on September 20, 1932. While on business in downtown Manhattan, my father, forty-one years old and an Army veteran of World War One, died of a heart attack. My mother and I were devastated. Richardson's Funeral Home on Perry Avenue handled the arrangements. My father was waked at home. He had a military funeral with a flag-draped coffin and an Army Escort. The troops marched behind the hearse to St. Brendan's Catholic Church. From there, the funeral cars drove to Calvary Cemetery where the honor guard fired a salute and the bugler blew taps.
Soon after, my mother and I moved back to Brooklyn for two months to be near my grandmother, but then we returned to 225 Mosholu Parkway on the first floor. My mother was not too happy there because of memories, so she found a place on Marion Avenue. I was not aware of it until I came home from school one day and found our apartment empty. I ran to the policeman on the corner next to the school. He called a patrol car. They put me in it and we drove around to places my mother and I had looked at. Fortunately, we found her. I guess she had told me about the move, but I was only seven and had probably forgotten.
The officials at P.S. 80 found out that I was living out of the school's area and wanted me to transfer to P.S. 8. Mrs. Haugney, one of my teachers, asked that I be able to stay at 80. They agreed. Then we moved back across the park to 75 E. Mosholu so I was back in the realm of P.S. 80.
In 1933, the Independent Subway Line was being built. People who lived in 155 and 165 E. Mosholu had to evacuate the buildings due to the blasting of rock under the houses to build the tunnels. In those days, apartments were readily available so no hardship existed.
When I was eleven or twelve I joined the New York Naval Cadets. We met each Friday evening at P.S. 85 on Webster Avenue, about three blocks south of Fordham Road. As I grew older, I was able to join their Marine Detachment, commanded by Major Ray Crovato, a fine gentleman. During my last years with them, I met who would be my future wife. Her name was Dorothy Hull and she lived at 2323 Valentine Avenue. In the apartment house behind hers lived June Allison.
In 1938, my mother and I moved to 2940 Grand Concourse. This was on the corner of the Concourse and Bedford Park Boulevard (200th Street). We attended mass at St. Phillip Neri Catholic Church. On Saturdays and sometimes after school, I would deliver orders for some of the stores on 200th Street just east of Jerome Avenue. I remember them well. There was a vegetable store owned by Mr. Trentacosti, Nat's dairy, Spiegels butcher shop and Webber’s bakery. I used to have to push a cart filled with groceries up hills and into apartment basements, then pull the dumbwaiters to deliver these items.
During this time the old Wiliamsberg Reservoir was drained and the city built a playground and sports area with an oval track. It was a great place for us kids. The only playground we had was on Mosolu Parkway about three blocks north of P.S. 80. The reservoir was at the top end of Van Cortlandt Avenue. On the corner was a house that had been built in colonial times. They had a goat in the front yard.
When I graduated from 80, I went to DeWitt Clinton High School Some of my friends attended Clinton too, and others went to Evander Childs. During my days in high school, our group would hang out at Glantz's Candy Store which was on the corner of Mosolu and Jerome Avenue, under the IRT El. We'd order egg creams, or mellow rolls or a 2-cents plain. Mr. Glantz treated us like family. Sometimes we would deliver the Bronx Home News for him or on Sunday, the Sunday papers: the News, the Mirror and the Journal. We all enjoyed life in the Bronx.
I graduated from DeWitt Clinton in 1942. The war was on and many of us knew we would have to go. I enlisted in the Army on August 10, 1942. I was sent to Fort Dix reception center and then shipped to Camp Blanding, Florida for Infantry training. I volunteered for parachute school because they gave you an additional $25.00 for hazardous duty pay. I was sent to Fort Benning jump school and upon graduation assigned to the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. I went overseas with them and participated in airborne operations against the Germans all through WWII. Curiously, our doctor, who lived in our building, wound up with the 101st Airborne Division.
In December of 1945 I returned from the war to my beloved Bronx. My childhood sweetheart and I were married on April 13, 1947 at St. Simon Stock Church. Being a reserve officer and being in the National Guard, we had our reception at the Kingsbridge Armory on Kingsbridge Road on Jerome Avenue. Across the street from the armory was Regan’s bar. A watering hole for us for many years. It was owned by Bart Regan, a good-natured Irishman.
We lived with my mother for a while then found an apartment on Mosholu Parkway. Our first child, Patricia, was born at Fitch Sanitarium. As my daughter grew older, I would take her sleigh-riding down the same hills I had enjoyed as a child.
In 1957 I was chosen as Commandant and Professor of Military Science at Peekskill Military Academy. It was then that we finally left the Bronx forever.
Growing up in the Bronx was an education in itself. I remember many of the wonderful people I knew in the Bronx. I will be 81 years old soon. I still miss the Bronx and hope to return someday to where I grew up.