My Autobiography by Michael Normandy, Sr.

181 MAUJER STREET, WILLIAMSBURG
BROOKLYN, KINGS COUNTY, NEW YORK
 
 
 
This is the famous 181 Maujer that Grandpa Simonetti owned. It was built in 1920 and it's too long ago to know how much it cost. It was a narrow building, only 25 feet wide and 60 feet deep. The whole lot was only 100 feet deep, and of course, I kind of remember an outhouse in the back of the lot. Our family called the layout of the apartments "railroad rooms" because like a railroad car, each room opened to the next room. You entered a good-sized kitchen where a window opened to the fire escape so you could get out in a fire. The next room was sometimes set up as a dining room and sometimes a living room. Our parents were children of Italian immigrants so most of them were dining rooms because when company came, usually family, life happened around the table. Meals lasted for hours and you never asked anyone if they wanted coffee until the end of the meal or they might say, "What, you want me to leave already?!" Anyway, you had to walk through that dining/living room to get to the first bedroom and finally through that one that had no privacy, to what we would call the master bedroom. All the apartments were rent-controlled and I don't think anyone paid over twenty-eight dollars a month rent, so hardly anybody ever moved until they very old. Some lived there all their lives until they died.
 
Grandpa owned the buildings at 181 and 184. I imagine he kept busy as the handyman/maintenance man for both buildings. He was a quiet, soft-spoken, gentle person, never to anger or raise his voice. He catered to Grandma night and day. 
 

 

      Aunt Josie was a happy-go-lucky sort. I remember her singing all the latest popular songs hits of the day. Like the other 93.5% of the women of that era, she was in love with the famous actor, Rudolph Valentino, who died when he was only 31. When he died in 1926, 50,000,000 hearts stopped beating...for awhile anyway.  Most of the 50,000,000 were women.

But Valentino had some effect on the men. All the "gigolos" of the day wore their hair slicked down and coated with some sort of hair pomade. Long, pointed sideburns were grown to keep with the "Valentino" look. Black patent pointed shoes, tight fitting dark suits, white stiff collar shirts, and a silk tie (with a "diamond" stick pin) completed the Valentino look for the would-be gigolo. (Gigolo - a name given to those egotistical males who imagined themselves to be the "Cock of the Walk." Today we would say they were trying to make a statement!

I sound a little envious. I never had the "moxie" to attempt anything so blatant. Wait a minute! I remember a gangly boy of seventeen wearing the "Zoot Suit and Pork Pie Hat." Letís move on!

On the third floor of 181 Maujer was my second home. Thatís where Aunt Margaret and Uncle Mike lived, with their children "Lou Lou" (She hated the nickname. She was really Louise), "Louie" (Louis), and "Sugar" (Beatrice). Very few days passed without a visit to Aunt Margaretís house. People didnít live in apartments. They lived in "their" house.

         

 

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Now Playing: "The Sidewalks of New York"

By Wurlitzer 146 Carousel Organ

From the Album: Good Old U.S.A. Wurlitzer Carousel Music, Vol. 1

East Side, West Side, all around the town
The kids sang "Ring around Rosie," "London Bridge is falling down"
Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O'Rourke
We tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York
 

 

 

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