Our recent visit to the Brooklyn Historical society was very beneficial to my understanding of my hometown and also of our reading of “Only The Dead Know Brooklyn.” I had no knowledge of the Brooklyn Historical society prior to this class and once I heard about this trip I was looking forward to it. I can now say that I enjoyed the trip, not just because we got to leave the classroom but I found everything about the BHS so interesting and inspiring. I loved the architecture, and the mood of the building. It isn’t like a mundane public library. The resources are rare and precious and the BHS is very cautious about how their resources are shared with the public.
Being there was also constructive because we were able to have a hands-on experience with the materials. The group I worked with had a display of two maps of Brooklyn. One map was a railroad map and the other was a transit map. We also had folders that contained photographs of scenes in Brooklyn in much earlier times. I particularly studied a photo that showed the beach at Coney Island from the summer of 1958. I, along with one of the BHS hosts had noticed that many of these beach-goers were fully dressed in the summer time. I thought that this could be attributed to the different culture at the time and maybe people were more reserved in the way they dressed, even at the sunny beach.
Our study of the maps went along very well with our reading of “Only The Dead Know Brooklyn.” In the story “the big guy” claimed to use a map to find his way around Brooklyn. He found he’s way to Bensonhurst, Flatbush, and Red Hook. I found this interesting because these neighborhoods are not exactly very close to each other, and I mentally made a comparison to the time this story took place (it was published in 1935) and today and how maps are hardly used. Every now and then I’ll see a subway passenger squinting at a map, but technology has advanced and nowadays many people use GPS or search for directions online. One can make the argument that technology has made us lazy in this regard because reading a map successfully requires extra effort.
One thing I must point out, however, is that I could not locate Red Hook on the transit map I studied. I just could not find it, but I was indeed able to find “Bensenhoist.” Brooklyn is a very big and deep borough, and I agree that one may never able to to know Brooklyn through and through.