Please Note: The following submissions were sent to a different site about old Washington Heights called "Personal memories of Growing up in the Heights" I reposted them in order to preserve the memories and photos. The original sites can be found at:
This site is an ongoing project and it is created by submissions from people who want to preserve the memories of old Washington Heights. Please feel free to submit your scanned photos and memories to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Old trollies on 181st street
Raul (AL) Conde Riverdale New York
"I guess the best place to start telling you about my memories of Washington Heights should probably be from the beginning as I remember it. I was raised in the 1940's and 1950's, on 160th Street between Fort Washington Avenue and Riverside Drive. It was a beautiful place to grow up and my friends and I would congregate at a wall that stretched from 157th to 164th Streets, and it was known as the "Greenees". This special spot overlooked New Jersey where we could see Palisades Park, the George Washington Bridge, and of course, we always had access to some great adventures exploring the area at the "Little Red Light House" under the GW Bridge. During those hot and sweltering summer nights in the 1940's and 1950's, everyone would come together at the "Greenees" wall to enjoy conversation and try to catch a cool breeze from the river (there were no air conditioners in those days). During the long cold winter months, we would all enjoy great snow events by riding our sleds down the steep hills at the drive along the wall.
Most of us who were lucky enough to be raised in Washington Heights should remember the Lowe's Rio movie theater that was located on Broadway. In those days, not only could you see a feature movie, two or three serials, six cartoons and newsreels, and you would get ticket for a chance to win a prize which consisted of glasses or plates, all for the admission fee of twenty-five cents. In addition to the theater, a poolroom could be found on the second floor of the same building. Right next to the theater, was a great Mom and Pop candy store, where we looked forward to having ice cream sodas, chocolate egg creams, lime Ricky's, banana splits and at the same time were able to buy our hero comic books. At the end of this same block, you could always find friends gathering at E&G Luncheonette. This was a favorite gathering place of teenagers who would come together to talk about the next dance party, who was dating who, or what was happening at school, and this was usually done while eating a hamburger and drinking a coke.
When I attended grammar school (Saint Rose of Lima) located at 164th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, it was at lunchtime that we all looked forward to having our lunches at "White Tower", located on 165th Street and Broadway, across the street from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. It was a wonderfully inexpensive way for us to gorge on hamburgers and soda. There was also a public school named "Stitt", which was a place that some of my friends and I, whose names you might recognize, Kenny Rankin, and Larry Khoury, who later took the name Tiny Tim, would gather. We hung out at this particular school to listen to the neighborhood singing groups practicing a new and exciting type of music, music they called "Rock And Roll". There was one particular group who had a lead singer named Frankie, and he seemed to have boundless energy, and an extremely high voice, . . . this group was called "Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers". I found myself loving this new sound in music, and just knew that I had to be a part of it.
It wasn't until I went to George Washington High School, that I was able to realize my dream by joining a singing group called the Spirals, and the first song we recorded was called "School Bells". The "Spirals" were mainly made up of my school friends, Larry Loeb, Larry Rizzo, Mike Cole, Paul Towey, and myself, Raul (Al) Conde. We would meet on weekends at Chat&Nibbles" Luncheonette on just across the street from the 175th and Broadway Lowe's Movie House.
We would practice our music near the park on Fort Washington Avenue, at an area we called the dead end. Because we all loved this new music, we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy it even more at our Saturday night dances at Saint Spyridon Greek Church. Following our dances, we would usually end our evening at "Bickfords" Restaurant on Broadway and 181st Street; at "Al's Diner" on 184th and Broadway; at Cinderella's at the corner of Wadsworth Avenue and 181st Street; or at "Falcaros Bowling Alley". "Falcaros" was located at the subway level on 181st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. Speaking of subways, there was absolutely no place like the tunnels for practicing our musical harmony. It was a sure thing that the people coming in and out of the subways either loved or hated our music, . . . there was absolutely no in-between.
After leaving the Spirals, I joined a group called "The Chevrons", which included friends I had made on Nagle Avenue, Marty Trautman, Gary Giordan, Dennis Minoque aka Terry Cashman, and Frank Willams. We would practice at the YMHA on Nagle Avenue, and recorded several regional hits. Our first national hit was called "Lullabye ". In between all of the above, mostly everyone I knew enjoyed other great places where we would be entertained or have their food cravings satisfied. These were places like "Nick's Tea Room" on 181st Street, "Good Will Chinese Restaurant" (just across the street from the "RKO Coliseum movie house"), the "St. James Restaurant" (an elegant place in it's time), and of course, "Nedicks" for a quick hot dog and a orange drink. There were several movie houses in a row on 181st Street between St. Nicholas and Audubon Avenues, the "Lane", the "Gem" and the "Astral". Let's not forget about the "Heights" Movie Theater where the first foreign movies were seen! All of these were located within blocks of each other and all of these were always packed with movie lovers. There was great shopping on 181st Street where you could get anything and everything you needed at Wertheimer's Department Store! Some of us can remember spending our allowances in "Woolworth's", and we could get a great lunch at "Horn & Hardharts", which was probably one of the very first "fast food" and "fun places" to eat. We also had a "White Castle" on the corner Audubon Avenue on 181st Street, where a great hamburger experience could be had. If you were looking for a great potato knish or a corned beef sandwich on rye, you could find it Arnold's Deli on 181st Street between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue, . . . and don't forget the sour pickle that you hand picked yourself from a barrel. Our parents would buy our school shoes from "Indian Walk"on 181st Street, we'd get our school supplies or toys at "Hobbyland" on 184th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, (has since moved to 181st Street and Broadway), and so on and so on! Last but not least, if it was Mother's Day and we needed flowers, they were bought at "Ft. Tryon Florists", on 181st Street and Broadway; and believe it or not, the original owner may be gone, but the flower shop and its name is still thriving.
We were all within walking distance of everything we needed including our Public, Jr. High or High Schools, and the only locks we depended on were those on the bathroom doors. We never could have imagined metal detectors or gated up stores. Washington Heights, . . . what a great place to live!
Washington Heights in the 40's and 50's was a wonderful time and place to grow up. I will always look back on these memories as a better way of life, a life that was filled with unequaled fun times.
I hope I have sparked memories of your own, of a wonderful place to grow up, a place we called "Washington Heights".
"I was living in NC, but had to come back to NYC and take care of my parents. Who still reside on Bennett Ave. I am only 40yrs old and remember some of the stores mentioned her from 181st. Please keep this web page updated. I enjoy reading all about the heights. I grew up on 171st and Amsterdam Ave. Then moved to 186st and Bennett Ave.( I believe we were the 2nd hispanic family to move into that area.) I used to visit with Ms. Mary Dawson( she was the wife of the sports writer for the NY Times Jimmy Dawson) She would tell me stories of the heights , she had great picture too... Please if any one has pictures of Palisades Amusement Park, please post them. I tell my kids that it was just like Coney Island but better. I would like to ask a question for some reason I keep remembering that we used to swim in the Hudson River? when I used to go to the Palisades or am I confusing it with when I used to go to Coney Island?
(I also attended P.S 115 & P.S. 132 and JHS 143 as well as H.S GW). Aagain I can't express the joy I get from reading and looking at the pictures.
thank you very much for this site, it is such an enjoyment to read."
Marcy (Mishkin) Alvo Anandale, VA
"Hello, I was entranced by your web site as my family history is steeped in Washington Heights. Both sets of grandparents settled there from Europe. My father maintained a dental practice on 191st and Wadsworth Avenue his entire career. I myself was born at Jewish Memorial Hospital in 1950. My maternal grandparents had a Singer sewing machine store on 181st St. and my grandfather was well known in the neighborhood. I have some photos which I can send if you are interested.
Thanks for keeping old memories alive. I can't wait to share this website with my aunt and uncle."
Yvonne Hernandez San Juan, Puerto Rico
" What a wonderful site!!! I wish there were more photos from 1957 to 1965. I was born in 1952. My parents moved to 511 West 171st Street (we had High Bridge Park down the corner), when I was 5 years old. My mother gave birth to my brother at Columbia Presy Hospital in October of 1957. My father and uncles worked there in the laundry department. My sister graduated from PS 115 and GW. I went to PS 173 and was there till the new school was built, PS 128. I got to enjoy the new school for 2 years. Then I went on to Humbolt Jr High 115 when I graduated from 6th grade from PS 128. (Remember the autograph books we would get at graduation time??). I finished 7th grade at PS 115 when we were moved to the new JR High PS 143 Eleanor Roosevelt Jr. High. I finished 8th grade there before my parents decided to move back to Puerto Rico in 1965. I was happy and sad at the same time. I remember going to White Castle near Columbia Pres Hospital, buying comics at 5 cents, spalding balls and playing handball, playing checkers in the middle of the street, skating, throwing ballons filled with water from the roof, jump rope, trick or treating at Halloween as soon as I got home from school, going to church on Sundays at St. Rose of Lima, playing with my friends at play street where incarnation Church was located, going to confession on Saturday nights,having a cherry soda at Mr. Gregory's, going to the A& P, double features at RKO or Loews.
Someone asked about doll hospital on Broadway, I remember that place. I had my mom take my Shirley Temple and Barbie dolls for fixing up a few times. By the way, I still have the Shirley Temple and Little Miss Revlon dolls. Those were wonderful times that I constantly remember with watery eyes. I often tell my 3 sons how fortunate I was to have lived there. My husband was baptized a week earlier at the same church I was baptized (St. Rose of Lima), and guess what? He was raised in Brooklyn and didn't move to Puerto Rico with his parents until he was around 16. We met in 1975 and got married in 1977. Turns out my parents knew his uncles and aunts that had lived in Washington Heights. What a surprise we both got that evening at our wedding reception. Please continue to post updates. I will be looking forward to it."
Maureen L. Wertheim
"Having been born in Wadsworth Hospital in 1955, which my mother walked to from our apartment building on 192nd and Wadsworth Avenue, I attended PS 189 and have my original composition book where I learned the ABC's. My dad was a butcher for Bloch and Falk and I sledded down Snake Hill and took the subway up, one stop to warm up."
Susie Hirsch (now Spokany) from 56 Bennett Ave
I've been back to good old "Melvin Hall" several times since leaving in 1960. I remember endless nights in "Al's Diner", as a teen. I went to P.S.132, but then left the "neighborhood" to attend Hunter JHS, and then Music & Art. But I've stayed in touch with a few of my Washington
Heights friends, like Bobby Weber ( Ft. Washington Ave.) and Gracie Graupe, Dorothy Katz. I'd love to find Pearl Frisch from 56 Bennett Ave. and anyone else from the building, like Mike Einhorn, Or Lee and Marie Einhorn, Irene Krantz ( I visited with your Mom), or Joanie Krantz. I remember it all as if it were yesterday. I guess we all miss those simpler times. Who remembers the teachers from 132, like Miss Opisso, and Mrs. Klein, Mrs. Gordon....my oh my oh my. Soooo long ago.Let me hear from you."
Alan Berger St. Petersburg, Florida.
"It's great reading thru everyones memories of the heights. I lived at 900 W. 190th St., corner of 190 and Ft. Wash. Ave. from 1955 - 1970. Also attended PS 187. I remember Mr. Alter. Does anyone remember Ms. Marva Lucas, 6th grade teacher. She was one of the best teacher's I ever had. Also Mr. Orange 5th grade. First and second grade I went to the Barnard School for Girls ( only 2 grades with boys allowed ) on Ft. Wash Ave, and was bar mitzvahed at the Ft. Tryon Jewish Center. Does anyone remember Aunt Daisy's nursery school on Bennett Ave just of 187th St., or Abes cany store and newstand on 187th st. After 1970, we moved to Riverdale and I went to the Barnard School for Boys, but still went to the heights alot as I had several friends still living there.
I went back to NY for the first time about 2 years ago, and drove thru the old neighborhood. Boy have things changed. What ever happened to Gideons bakery ? I can still taste the baked goods from there in my memories. It's nice to have found a site dedicated to the heights. Keep up the good work"
Rose Zunz Sowadsky Alpharetta, Georgia
"What wonderful memories! Only people from Washington Heights can appreciate the way of life the area represented. This article was sent to me from my dearest friend. We met in the Heights when we were nine years old. Now we're both 70 and still the very best of friends. I attended P. S. 132, the School of Industrial Art and CCNY.My parents and I came to Washington Heights in 1938 from Germany. Our first apartment was on the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and 177th street. We then moved to 181st street and I lived there until I got married in 1954. My husband and I then moved to Inwood. We had three children and lived there until 1969. We then moved to Atlanta, Georgia. We now live in Alpharetta, Georgia a town north of Atlanta.Does anyone remember the blizzard in the late 40's? The schools even closed! My friend lived on 183rd strret and we played stickball (with the boys) using sewers as bases. There was little traffic and we could play a long game before a car came by.
We loved going to Highbridge on Sunday's, Fort Tryon Park, Nick's, movies and so many simple things. It was a good life."
"Hi, I grew up at 485 W. 187th which is between Amsterdam and Laurel Hill Terrace.My family and I lived there until 1963.I attended PS 189, JHS 52 and GW. My parents had also attended GW and they had met when they both lived as teens on 187th and Wadsworth.. Every time I visit NYC, ( I now live in Colorado) I go to the Heights and walk the streets with tears in my eyes, lost in visions of the past. I LOVE NYC and especially the Heights."
Lew Geiger Beaverton Oregon
" Lived in the Heights from l933-l942. Attrndrd PS l73,ll5 aand The High School of commerce. Hung around the famous meeting place, "The Wall" on 175th St and Ft. Washington Was a member of the Bulldogs Athletic Club. Played basketball at thr Broadway Temple and softball at PSl73. Some of the old gang that comes to mind, Stan Cohen,Sonny Schwartz, Jack Rucker,Hal Harris. If any of you guys or others are familiar with this gang, I would centeraly like hearing from you. I now live in Beaverton,Oregon. I can be reached at my e-mail email@example.com"
"I must say this is really a walk down memory lane. I has stirred my heights juices. I forgot to mention in my last article, that my name is Carol Belleas(nee Leslie) I was born in the University Heights Hospital in the Bronx (no longer there) June 22, 1938. I went to kindergarten at P.S 132 and to this day I am still friends with a classmate, John Campanelli. We often talk about the old neighborhood, and how it has changed. He still goes there every now and again to visit his mother-in-law. I went to 132 with him till the zones changed, and had to atttend P.S. 173 starting third grade. We met up again in P.S 115. After graduation, I went to George Washingto High and he went to Samuel Gumpers. I remember the trolly cars on 181st street and Bdway. I would see them on my way to school(132) It was a sad day when the RKO was torn down. Also a sad day to not be able to go to Loews to see a movie any more. I was an usherette there in the late 50's and got to know all the words and songs from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Thank you for the memories of Nick's tea room. I baby sat for a friend who worked there. Also remembering Wertheimers. I remember the uniformed man that sat out side on a little wooden stool, and kept an eye on all the baby carriages while the mothers shopped. The cafeteria that so many of you remember (corner of 181st St and St. Nick) was the old Horn n' Hardarts. I would stop there on my way home from George Washington to get the best baked beans I have ever tasted. You would put a quarter in the slot, lift up the little glass door, and pull out your beans. Wow!! I can still taste them. This site brings back so many good memories. Does anyone remember Albrechts store? And Cushmans bakery on the corner of 181st and Fort Washington Ave. Thank you so much for the great memories.!! Can't wait till the next installment."