Interview: Fred Mannarino

Artist and Brooklyn native Fred Mannarino lives in the house he had built 29 years ago in Spring Hill, Florida. Mannarino is now 87 years old and remembers a stunning amount of details from his Williamsburg, Brooklyn childhood during the 1930s until the 50s. Yet, as he pointed out with a laugh; “Although I can remember when I delivered the Brooklyn Eagle in the 1940s when it cost just a nickel, but hell, I’m getting so old now I can’t remember what I was doing an hour ago.” His father, Joseph Mannarino, was an immigrant from Calabria, Italy, who came directly to Brooklyn when he was 13 years old. During his teens he worked in German restaurants as a potato peeler making $37 a week, which was where he learned how to cook. His mother was also from Calabria. She was a seamstress and played the “numbers” a lot. Once she won really big and was able to buy the family a diner that was for sale on Flushing Avenue.
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Brooklyn Stickball in Florida: Norm Graff

Brooklyn native Norm Graff played stickball with the Wycliff Stiffs until he was 89. He was born in East New York in 1926 so he has memories of how difficult it was for his family during The Great Depression. Graff has a great sense of humor. When he was joining the Navy in 1944, during his mental aptitude test the Navy psychiatrist asked him, “Does anybody in your family suffer from insanity? Graff, being a young wiseguy replied, “No, they all seem to enjoy it.” During the interview he said his wife of 64 years recently celebrated her 85th birthday; Graff said, “And she’s still a knockout.” … Read More >Brooklyn Stickball in Florida: Norm Graff

Brooklyn Stickball in Florida: Mel Zupnick

Mel Zupnick has played with the Wycliff Stiffs stickball league since it started about 20 years ago. He was born in East Flatbush and grew up in Brownsville. Zupnick is the third Brookyn native in Florida we have interviewed who delivered the Brooklyn Daily Eagle during his childhood to earn extra money. “I lived with my grandparents. My grandmother took whatever my grandfather earned and saved it so from the money I earned delivering the Eagle I would give my grandfather a few bucks a week to keep in his pocket. That would leave me about $6 or $7 to get what I wanted; you know, comics, movies, whatever. … Read More >Brooklyn Stickball in Florida: Mel Zupnick

Interview: Fred Serrano

I was raised in the streets of Brooklyn; the world was mine back then. I had a great childhood. We didn’t have TVs, cell phones or computers, but we had whatever we could make. The football we played with was made of newspapers rolled and wadded up with a rope wrapped around to hold it together. After we moved to President Street off Van Brunt, two blocks from the docks, I remember seeing aircraft carriers severely battle-damaged in the war being brought back to the Navy Yard. I was so young when I delivered the Brooklyn Eagle I had to get working papers. … Read More >Interview: Fred Serrano

Brooklyn Stickball in Florida: Harry Klaff

Harry Klaff, Chief of Operations for the Wycliff Stiffs Stickball league, is Brooklyn through and through. He grew up in a six-story apartment building on Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst. After graduating from Layfayette High he went to Brooklyn College and received a Masters in history and then taugh history at Tilden High in Brooklyn for 34 years. One of his favorite memories is watching the Dodgers raise their only World Championship banner on opening day at Ebbets Field in 1956. … “You gotta remember, in those days the average ball player made about three or four times what the average working stiff made, which was not a real lot of money, at least not like today. They were regular people, and in the off season they had real jobs. The Dodgers were part of the community.” … Read More >Brooklyn Stickball in Florida: Harry Klaff

Brooklyn Stickball in Florida

One of the founders of the popular stickball league in Wellington’s Village Park near Palm Beach, Florida, is former New Yorker Marty Ross. As Ross recalled: “Every time I asked them about their memory of the “spaldeen” their eyes would light up and all these stories came out of the woodwork. It’s like I made them relive something fantastic.” That’s when Ross decided he wanted to start a regular activity with all these people who had played stickball during their childhood, but he didn’t have a place they could play. … Read More >Brooklyn Stickball in Florida

Interview: Roger Rossi

From being thrown out of kindergarten to composing a critically acclaimed version of Ave Maria, during his life as a band leader and musician performing in nightclubs and high end hotels around the country – particularly in Florida – Brooklyn native Roger Rossi has rubbed elbows with some of the 20th Century’s greatest musicians, entertainers, and sports figures. In 2000 he published a book, “From the Piano Bench”, in which he details his encounters with (to name just a few) the legendary Tony Bennett, crime figure Jimmy Hoffa, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, jazz great Chuck Mangione, movie star Shelley winters, and renown violinist Itzhak Perlman. … Read More >Interview: Roger Rossi

Interview: Charles Randolph

Charles Randolph lived on East 15th Street in Flatbush until he went to graduate school at NYU to study dentistry. He has maintained a dental practice in Westchester County since 1971. In the late 1980s, as part of a deal between the New York and Italian Trade Commissions, he commuted to a dental clinic in the Parioli section of Metropolitan Rome to help patients with TMJ (jaw bone joint) issues and orthopedic training. Eventually Randolph bought a home on the Mediterranean coast in Ladispoli, a Province about 25 miles west of Metropolitan Rome. He said he discovered the spirit of Old Brooklyn in Ladispoli. … Read More >Interview: Charles Randolph