When Steve Tuers read my column last week, he suggested that I write a book about my travels with John McNamara. I don’t know that I’m quite ready for that but there are very few areas of our borough that I didn’t traverse with John and Steve’s suggestion did give me cause to ponder some of those wanderings.
I recall John and I helping out with a walking tour of Locust Point that was led by Artie Seifert back in 1983. I have a vivid recollection of Artie’s wife, Terry, accompanying us on her bicycle. After pointing out all the points of interest and giving the history of Locust Point and the area around Pennyfield Avenue, we wandered over to the Theodore Korony Post on Blair Avenue. Artie and Terry had their wedding reception in that revered old mansion in 1956 when it was called the Vindabona. I recall pointing out the open fireplace to Jack McCarrick. It was so called because it was open on two sides, one side warming the south parlor which was later used as a catering hall, and the other end heated the main foyer as it was just opposite the grand staircase. This grand old mansion was one of John McNamara’s favorites and he never tired of telling stories about old man Wissmann, an early owner.
About three years later, I got a phone call from John Collazzi in the early morning hours of December 6, 1986. These early morning calls when darkness is still upon us always cause a certain amount of dread thinking that someone is deathly sick or that there’s been an accident. That morning, however, he told me that the Theodore Korony Post was about to be razed. John received a last minute call that the demolition crew was on site and that the building would soon be gone. He was busy that day and wanted to know if I could cover the story. I agreed and we met at the office where John handed me a camera with only two instructions: keep the shots tight and vary the F stops. With that, we headed off for the mansion where we were given a last minute tour before Mario Marciano and his crew set to work. It was a sad day for the veterans who called the old mansion home for many years but the building was beyond repair and a new building would soon take its place.
Later that day when I finished my interviews and got all the photos I needed, I picked up John McNamara and took him to the site where he once again recounted some of his memories of the old building. He gently picked up a couple of bricks as mementos of the historic site and I believe he gave one to the Bronx County Historical Society. Among the things we talked about that day was Artie and Terry’s wedding reception. Artie had planned a dinner for a small number of people and unbeknownst to him, Terry had invited everyone from the neighborhood so they had an overflowing crowd and no one to perform the miracle of the loaves and fishes. You had to know Terry to fully appreciate this story. She was a stout-hearted welcoming woman with a spontaneous laugh who loved having people around her, the more the merrier. It was just her way. Now the building where Artie and Terry were wed was no more and John McNamara and I had many more tales to share.