Co-Founder Remembers The Birth Of A Weekly
The following was written by the founder of the Canarsie Courier for the newspaper’s 50th anniversary issue.
By Walter S. Patrick
As the famed Albert Einstein once said, "Everything is relative." How true. For instance, looking ahead forty years seems to encompass a much longer period of time in our thinking than does looking in retrospect that same number of years. Although I entertain no expectation of ever seeing the year 2001, it being a long four decades off in the future, yet looking backward to 1921 (four decades ago) seems, in some respects just as though it was yesterday.
It was in 1921 — April the 21st to be exact — that the late Lester J. Stillwell and I published the first issue of the Canarsie Courier, a four-page seven-column sheet, that was printed in Manhattan. I might add here that, in order to get started on this questionable venture, we borrowed the sum of $200 from a local bank.
At that time I was 27, Lester was 25, and we were ready to conquer the world with our initiative and drive. Referring once again to Einstein’s remark, it seemed, relatively speaking, as though (at 27) I had lived a lifetime.
I’ll never forget "getting out" that first issue. With the help of half a dozen youngsters, who are now grandfathers, we went door-to-door giving out the thousand copies we had printed and had to practically force local residents to take a copy. I should add that this was our distribution method for the first six months, until we finally got the courage to start charging two cents a copy).
I think I ought to state here that Mr. Stillwell, one of the finest friends a man could hope to have, was unable to do any actual work on the Courier (except to help fold it Thursday nights). He had a family, a wife and three growing boys to care for, and I just had a wife. Some readers may remember her weekly column "About Town With Peggy." So Lester continued working as a linotypist for a firm in Manhattan, which I had resigned to "sit" on the old New York World, also as a linotyper, to carry on the destiny of Canarsie’s only newspaper.
For historical purposes I should say here that a few years before the advent of the Courier, Robert Dunnet had printed a small weekly, The Canarsie Local, which only lasted a few months’.
I‘ll never forget after the Courier had been published for about six months, I told Lester that we finally made a profit of $1.00! What a wonderful feeling it was! Each week, Lester and I financially nursed the paper along. He contributed $50 a week and I donated $25. I should add that I worked one or two nights a week on The World to augment my weekly Courier salary.
The Courier was "born" on a desk in the office of the late Jacob Harkavy, a young real estate dealer who had a small office on Rockaway Parkway, on the present site of the GreenPoint Savings Bank, next to the old BMT subway station.
Our second office was a little six-by-ten wooden shack, which we rented for $10-a-month. It was located where the public health building now stands at East 95th and Conklin Avenue. We couldn’t afford a telephone, so we used the one in Charlie Lehman’s grocery, which is now the Courier office on Conklin Avenue.
For a long time I held various positions, including office boy, reporter, advertising manager, circulation manager, editor and general factotum. Lester’s title was General Manager. Years later the Courier engaged the services of Ted Rowland as the go-getter Advertising Manager and Latimer "Pick" Kidd as Bookkeeper. The late Bill "Pop" Klee used to help with some editorial work, and Ted Hamm was invaluable as the Assistant Advertising Manager. Then there was Harold Seiders who was an apprentice. He is now a linotype operator with the Long Island Press. Charlie Wagner was one of our first reporters and ad-solicitors.
Our "news" back there in the twenties was fifty percent local ‘gossip’ and the other half ‘boiler-plate’ (syndicated news already prepared in plate form). As for the ‘gossip’, it proved the most interesting and the life of the paper such as: "Mrs. Alice Whose this (no street given, as everyone knew where everyone else lived) visited relatives in Valley Stream last weekend" ... "Mr. and Mrs. William You know motored to Coney Island last Friday in their new Model T Ford automobile"... "John Wachamacallet had shock absorbers installed on his Ford, also new side curtains"... "The Jones family had purchased an eight-room house on East 93rd Street for $5,000 ... "Round steak chopped this week’s special at Jordan’s Market, 19 cents a pound"... "Canarsiens fear subway fare may go higher than the present nickel"... Canarsie hopes to get sewers by 1938," etc..
We so well remember that when Rev. Myers, pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church, died, the Courier came out that week with its front page column rules upside down showing heavy 6-point black border rules between the columns.
I recall the time the old Schenck Homestead, erected in 1650, stood in Canarsie Park at the foot of Remsen Avenue, Canarsie shore. Since that it has been dismantled and reassembled as an historic attraction in the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway. Then there was Golden City Amusement Park at Canarsie Shore and its annual Beautiful Baby Parade. Parents would come by the B.M.T. and trolley to the shore to show off their little ones. Prizes were given for the most beautiful little ones, also for the most novel costumes. This particular year, (I think it was 1922, when the Rosenthal brothers, Irving and Jack, now owner of Palisades Amusement Park, were managers there) the three boys of Mr. and Mrs. Lester Stillwell entered the parade. They were Donald, Lester Jr., and Kenneth, ages 6,4 and 2. The day before the parade Lester, Jr. had fallen down the stairs at his home and had a very bad "black eye". However, the parents decide to let the children enter the parade anyway. The Dempsey-Carpentier fight had just taken place and the two older children (Donald and Lester, Jr.) were arrayed in fighting trucks and boxing gloves. On Donald was pinned a sign "Dempsey" and on little Lester, he with the "shiner," was pinned "Carpentier." They were the hit of the parade and won first prize.
Another event that comes to mind was that The Courier conducted a contest to see who was the most beautiful girl in Canarsie. By popular vote via Courier ballots, Miss Margaret Sullivan was entered in the Atlantic City Beauty Contest. Although this beautiful maid of Canarsie did not become Miss. America of (1925?), she was given a royal reception and parade on there return, the Courier picking up the tab. I remember engaging Jimmy Fullerton’s limousine and going with him to Penn Station to take Margaret to Canarsie when she returned from Atlantic City.
It was back in 1930 or thereabouts that I entered the S-51 submarine while it was docked at Canarsie Pier. Old timer will recall the tragedy of that craft some weeks before. It became submerged and all efforts to raise it proved unsuccessful. For several hours there were signals from those still alive within her. But finally all hope of saving the lives of the crew were abandoned. When the ship was finally raised it was towed to Canarsie where it was later sold for junk.
I also recall the New York papers playing up that wealthy society 55-year-old "playboy" called "Daddy" Browning who later married his protégé, "Peaches." Just before his romance with "Peaches," a news story (more or less sensational in character) broke right here in Canarsie. I heard, through a friend, the "Daddy" Browning was in Canarsie visiting 18-year-old (she said that was her age) Mary Spar. It seemed every newspaper reporter in New York City heard of it and rushed to Canarsie. I got in to see Mary (being a friend of the family where she was staying), got an interview (until "Daddy" interfered) with Mary. After she was secreted out of town, she left part of her wardrobe, supposed to be worth thousands of dollars, but which proved to be "junk." I had some of it, "jewelry" and all, on display in The Courier window for a while.
One day back in the late ‘20s, riding along East 92nd Street in my Model T, I passed some children waving what appeared to be white sticks in the air, and setting on top of the sticks were what proved to be human skulls, the "sticks" being leg and arm bones of Canarsiens, long deceased. They had gotten them from the old cemetery near Grace Protestant Church where the city was excavating to extend Remsen Avenue, skulls and bones, together with pieces of disintegrated coffins, were all over the lot. I gathered up, several took them to The Courier office, and wrote a strong (I thought) editorial regarding the matter. Right after my editorial was read a police sergeant (a close friend) dropped by The Courier office (It was a late night). He told me that I should get rid of the corpus delecti or I’d find myself in trouble. So that same night (dark and stormy, of course) together we drove down to the cemetery and I threw said remains back into the place.
The "Little League" baseball for boys had not been organized during the first years of The Courier yet this paper had its own baseball team. We furnished uniforms and equipment and the team - well, as I recall, it proved better at delivering Couriers. It was, however, one of the pioneer endeavors to organize sports events for Canarsie youth.
Say, come to think of it, forty years IS a long time ago. As I sit at my typewriter driving my mind back through that corridor of time, many events come back to me, albeit somewhat vaguely. Surely I must have known everyone living in Canarsie in those days.
There were among the clergy for instance, Rev. Kidd (Grace Protestant Church), Rev. Groenent (Dutch Reformed), Rev. Peterson and Rev. Nolting (Lutheran Church), Rev. Stevens, Rev. Walker (St. Albans Episcopal), Rev. Reynolds and Rev. Vogal (Holy Family), Rev. Holmes (Plymouth) and Rabbi Dana (Synagogue).
Then there were old timers names such as the Lankenaus, Quaritiuses, Harkavys, Goldsteins, Smiths, McCroddens, Rowlands, Johnsons, Schencks, Stahles, Silvers, Srenes, Baisleys, Klees, Morrisons, Valiants, Schnupps, Van Houtens, Schmelks, Cahns, Popkins, Zimmermans Richters, Hartwigs, Dunnets, Fullertons, Mocatos, Abrams, Wagners, Pincuses, Willners, Boehmes, Hussmans, Sands, Kinds, Hulls,etc. Then there were the doctors: Kurz, Shack, Weinberg, Estabrook and Thal. Of all the above named, by far the majority have "gone on." After all, forty years is almost half a century.
Yes, forty years is the equivalent of 2,080 weeks — which means there were that number of issues of the Courier — and I don’t believe the paper ever missed a date - except for a period in 1923 when it temporarily "folded" due to a business "depression."
By the way, I wonder if some old-time Courier readers recall when its office was located on Glenwood Road (a real estate office is there now) just around the corner off Rockaway Parkway (where Bohacks supermarket used to be). Next we moved to Rockaway Parkway (I’ll never forget Abe Lurie moving our heavy safe), half a block from the BMT station. That was about 1928.
Two years later the Courier bought its first linotype machine, and a year later moved next door to what was then the Brooklyn Trust Company, northeast corner of East 92nd Street and Flatlands Avenue. This bank had taken over Canarsie’s first bank, The Guardian Trust Co. That was our location when Ed Herrschaft purchased the paper in 1935.
By the way, Joe and Bob Samitz, the present Courier publishers, were two of some 60 newsboys when the paper’s office was on AvenueL..
In 1927, I started studying for the ministry and six years later was made supply-pastor of the Moriches L.I. Methodist Protestant Church. In 1936, I was ordained in Atlantic City, and about thirty-five people from Canarsie’s Grace Protestant Church attended. Since that time I served churches as pastor in Hardingville, Barnsboro and South Amboy, N.J., and for 23 years was pastor in Lynbrook, NY. Last Janaury, I retired from the active pastorate, and now I occasionally preach in different churches.
As I approach my "-30-" (newspaper language for the end of a story), I want to congratulate Ed Herrschaft for carrying the Courier through the trying times in the Depression to the new management of Joe and Bob Samitz, who are doing a grand job of giving Canarsie a live and interesting weekly paper since 1958.
Thanks so much for reading this and putting up with the effort of a fading old newspaper man.