Before the first world war began in 1914, Canarsie was a real country village with unpaved streets and lack of sewers. Many of its homes had to have a large cesspool built in the yard which had to be pumped out when full by a scavenger who would come around to pump them out and carry it away to dispose in some sewer outlet. Homes that didn’t have a bathroom & toilet had a booth out in the Yard.
Public baths were very popular at the time where you could go and take a bat spite these hardship the people lived happy with their horse and buggy to take a ride as far as Jamaica or to Rockaway or Coney Island.
For amusement those who stayed home would play a phonograph with the latest records or else play checkers or dominoes with a neighbor. Many homes had chickens and ducks in the yard and those who had them always had fresh eggs to eat. The ducks were just as good as a watchdog if you entered a gate of a home that had them. They would quack and quack in the still of the night and wake the owner to check who came in the yard.
We had about 25 ducks and we let them -out in the early morn and they would wander all over the empty lots and be away all day and just before dusk, like a company of soldiers they came down the street with the drake in the lead and all the others (females) would follow, one behind the other. What a sight to watch them as they entered the yard and went back to the coop, Many homes that had a barn for their horses also had one or two goats for company for the horse. Our house had 3 horses and a pair of goats. I had a wagon just like a police patrol and would hook up a goat and take about six kids in it and just as we go to the corner of Ave. K and E. 93rd I tickled the goat under his tail with the whip and he would kick up his hind legs and up went the wagon with all the kids spilled out in the dirt or mud if it had rained the previous day.
I would many times take my goat to go on an errand for Mom. Either to Henry Fortmeyer, the butcher, for 2 lbs. of pork chops for twenty-five cents and a pound of calfs liver for six cents and butch would give me my choice; a big piece of bologna or liverwurst for free which I would eat on the way home and up E. 94th St. in the middle of the block to stop in Hoffman’s Bake Shop and get six round flat cookies covered half white and half chocolate, which were three for a nickel and six crumb buns- for a nickel, all together a big fifteen cents.
Peddlers would come around with a horse and wagon to your door with peaches, a nickel a pound or strawberries ten cents a quart basket or three for a quarter. They would dump the basket over to show you they were all fresh.
In those days a man’s salary was about ten or twelve dollars a week and rents were ten or fifteen dollars a month with no income taxes or union dues take out.
We wonder sometimes if living those days was better or now with electric washers and frigidaires and T.V. and radio and high powered cars.