Reflections On 1974 Brooklyn Heights From A BHB Reader

We’re plucking this endearing reader comment from the June 10 BHB post “Montague Street Is Stirring As It Hasn’t In Years,” which was contributed by Richard Grayson, whose musings on growing up in the borough are published in his multi-series e-book “The Brooklyn Diaries,” available on here. Grayson was born in Brownsville in 1951 and now lives in Williamsburg. He has kept a daily diary entry—without missing a day—since August 1969, when he was an 18-year-old preparing to enter Brooklyn College.

He previews his journal entry from June 15, 1974: “Back in 1969 and throughout the early 70s, Montague Street was a wonderland for kids like me from the hinterlands of Brooklyn (Mill Basin). There were so many places to hang out and eat and cool stores. In my diaries I have lots of references to days and evenings spent on Montague Street. To me, it was the best street in Brooklyn, maybe in the city.”

And here are his innocent 20-something observations, coming to you live from 1974…

Ronna and I decided to go to Brooklyn Heights. It was still daylight at 8 p.m. I parked on Remsen Street, by Shelley Wouk’s old office, now adorned with a sign that says ‘Somebody, M.S.W., Primal Therapy.’ We took in the shops around Montague Street. There was a beautiful sign in a florist’s window, a sort of essay called ‘Diversity, Thy Name is Life,’ talking about how wonderful the differences between people are and how they should not lead to hate but love.

There were trendy stores, tea shoppes, cheese places and sidewalk cafes. Children were playing and people were walking their dogs. We strolled the length of the Promenade, holding hands and staring at the river and the Manhattan skyline. We walked along Willow Street, looking for Norman Mailer, and Ronna pointed out Mona’s old apartment on Pierrepont: She and Ivan broke up there one night when they baby-sat for his niece. We got root beer ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, and it started to get dark so we went back to Canarsie.”

You can sample more of Grayson’s everyman’s perspective on growing up in Brooklyn via the link here… although with a Kindle price of 99 cents, why not indulge in the entire collective, right?

Postscript: BHB reader Andrew Porter adds: “Richard, the florist shop with the giant hand-written philosophical signs in the window was the old James Weir Florist shop on the south side of Montague. Although the store continues on the north side, the owner is, I believe, Weir’s son, and not given to philosophy.”

Please keep this kind of Heights history coming. These reflections trump historical photos any day.

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  • PromGal

    The “philosophical” florist was the nutty con man/ florist, Bernie Atkins, who with his equally nutty wife Charlotte, scammed his neighbors and colleagues and wound up broke. He managed to squander all his money, lose his brownstone on Columbia Heights,
    The original florist, James Weir was a very old establishment when Atkins bought it. The father/son story was probably but one of the tall tales the Atkins told about themselves.
    My parents told me how they drove through the streets in a flower bedecked horse drawn carriage when they married in the sixties.
    He was an entertaining neighborhood character who was an extravagant exhibitionist who lived the high life for a while, but wound up dead broke living gratis above his neighbors store, never paying the rent, living in what was zoned as commercial space.
    Bernie and Charlotte Atkins met a very sad end, winding up at Cobble Hill Nursing Home on Medicaid.

  • Muskrat

    Prom Gal, thanks for the note on Atkins – I was going to make the name “correction” myself but wouldn’t have had all the details you were able to supply! Regardless of the owner, though, I remember that florist shop as magical – a deep space with high ceilings and plants that went forever.

  • gc

    Is it possible that Bernie is still alive. I googled his name and “Public Records” came up with a 92 year old Bernard Atkins in Brooklyn with a wife named Charlotte.

  • Penny bridge

    How about Paul Meuniers wonderful shop!