Brooklyn Babies

Hello Everyone–Today I want to give a shout out to my Brooklyn friends, like my dear friends, Sharon Kalina and Linda Wakschall (as we were known then), andparticularly those of you who resided in the beautiful borough during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  Let’s share some memories of those good old days.  Anyone from Erasmus Hall High School (Barbara Streisand wasn’t the only famous one)?  How about Flatbush Avenue, Manhattan, Brighton Beaches, and Coney Island?  Anyone for clove gum or button candy?  How about those movie theaters?  Let’s share some reminiscences…

I hope you enjoy this poem of Brooklyn…




I am a Brooklyn girl.

Potsy on the heat cracked sidewalk

sweating now pink blue green pastels.

One long braid that smacks us on the back as

we run for a chocolate egg cream and

salty pretzel stick, a three o’clock treat.

Red and white plaid pleated mini-skirt so high now,

crossing our legs we are

on the verge of naughtiness.

Pouring our hopes into the lap of Desiderius,

clang the coins play on each other.

“Erasmus Hall, our hearts to thee with

fervent impulse turn.”

Summertime birthday parties,

Jahns with the “kitchen sink” that you can’t finish

with less than five–no, ten people.

Heap it on, boys!

We can handle it.

Just like we indulge in books,

as many as our skinny girl arms can hold

standing on the bus

across the street from the Grand.

The D line creaks finally to a stop.

We emerge past the smoking dankness

to the light of stars.

And Flatbush,

not the sun, we know

is the center of the Universe.


If you should see me sipping a white drambuie

at the Posh

and someone interrupts with a call for the Professor–

If you should see me there,

remember first

First I was a Brooklyn girl.


Thanks again to Dr. Paul Winkler, Executive Director of the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education for organizing the first “Gathering” of first and second generations held at Mercer County College last Sunday.  I was truly privileged to have participated on the panel at this successful event.


About shirleywachtel

Shirley Russak Wachtel is the author of The Story of Blima—A Holocaust Survivor (publ.2005), a novel which recounts the early years of her mother, Betty Weisstuch Russak. The novel s listed as a recommended novel by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. Wachtel is the author of several children's books, including a series of interactive mysteries, Charlie Wonder, Chef-Detective (2005), which includes several recipes; Brad Sureshot, Coach-Detective (2007) which details basketball skills; and Howie Rocket, World-Traveler-Detective (2009) which has handy foreign language phrases. In The Mellow Light (2009) is her first book of poetry. She is a professor of English at Middlesex County College in New Jersey. In addition, Wachtel is the co-author of Spotlight on Reading (2011), a textbook for college-level students. A mother of three sons, she resides with her husband, Arthur, in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Initially written as a doctoral dissertation for her Doctor of Letters Degree from Drew University, My Mother's Shoes , says Wachtel, is not just the novel of her life, it is the novel of her heart.
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One Response to Brooklyn Babies

  1. susan pilcer says:

    Shirley..remember punch ball and stick ball with a pinky ball. You were the cool kid if you owned the ball.

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