70s Flashback: The Queens of Montague Street

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 Both NY Times writer Sam Sifton (@samsifton) and BHB pal/Brooklyn Heights resident Teresa Genaro (@bklynbackstretch) tweeted today about a great piece by author Nancy Rommelmann called “The Queens of Montague Street.” For St. Ann’s alums of a certain age this serves as a trip down memory lane. But for anyone who grew up in New York City in the ’70s (such as your humble publisher) this piece rings very true.

Rommemlmann could very well be Brooklyn Heights’ answer to Jonathan Lethem. Only without the magic rings.

Nancy Rommelmann: There was Ronnie, a loud-mouthed, lisping Italian who lived right on Montague and who was sure to always be hanging out. There was Craig, a sly, adorable, fast-talking kid who lived with his mother and beautiful sister in a high-rise by the Brooklyn Bridge, and with whom I sang duets on the Promenade, memorably “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
There was Steve the Eskimo, quiet until he became violent, smart with no outlet for his intelligence, often in charge of his two-year old brother. (Rumors swirled around that his mom was a prostitute. I don’t know about that, but I do know she dealt pot, because one time I helped her roll joints from a kilo of Panama Red so sticky, my fingers were stained rust for days.) There was Nicky and Arnie’s little sister Titi, skinny and hyperactive, who taught Sarah how to Hustle and both of us the 16-Steps, and Lorraine, who Sarah and I met while she was working as a night-cashier at the King George coffeehouse, on another corner of Montague and Henry.

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  • AEB

    “Queens”? For a moment I thought…oh, never mind!

  • EHinBH

    Amazing story – totally a movie.

  • nabeguy

    For those of you interested in Heights history from the point of view of those who grew up here in the 50′, 60’s 70’s and 80’s, there’s a Facebook group called, imaginatively enough, “Growing Up In Brooklyn Heights”.

  • nabeguy

    AEB, too bad you weren’t around the ‘Que during the 70’s. There were truly some Queen Bees back then.

  • http://www.nancyrommelmann.com Nancy Rommelmann

    Thanks for the shout out! As for Growing Up Brooklyn Heights on Facebook: love. Head over. It’s really cool.
    See you in Brooklyn xx

  • Heightsguy

    There were brothels on State St. in the 1960’s. There was also a small Spanish neighborhood (Spain Spanish)., down by Columia Place. There was a Brooklyn Heights branch of the Socialist Party run out of real estate office on Montague St. (Kenneth Boss)

    In the 70’s there was a notions store, Netties, on Montague St.

  • Andrew

    Thanks for mentioning Nicky, Arnie, and sister Titi! And don’t forget papa Nick, who was the super of a building on Montague. He once threatened to cut my hair himself if I didn’t get a haircut. We used to hang out in front of the Montague St Saloon until papa Nick went to super on 36th St in Hell’s Kitchen. I have very fond memories of those days.

  • http://street-level-nyc.blogspot.com Andrew

    Doh! Trying to read this article on my phone, completely missed the link to the article. Anyway, still thanks for posting this!