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Street Pusher: 1943

Street Pusher: 1943

January 1943. "New York. Ice man on Mulberry Street." Photo by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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And to think!

This image (tho 6 years later) could absolutely be the inspiration for Dr Seuss's very first children's book, "And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street!".

It was the only Dr Seuss book extent when I was little, the rest came along just after my optimal age for him. But, OMG!!! did I LOVE that book!

Edit: The Mulberry Street that Dr Seuss based his story on was in his home town of Springfield, Mass., I just learned. Oh, well.

Ice Man

My father's lawyer put himself through law school working as an ice man with his father, plying the streets of Little Italy and Greenwich Village. He stood about 5"5' but was built like a fireplug.

The Godfather

Baptism interior scenes were shot in Old St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Price Of Ice

That 50 lb. block of ice, which possibly had to be walked up five flights of stairs and put into the ice box probably sold for a quarter.


My grandfather (Dad's Dad) was also an "iceman". My father was born in 1919 in the Hell's Kitchen area of NYC, on 39th Street and 11th Avenue to be exact.

My grandfather plied his trade in that area. As a small child, I remember how small and wiry (but also extremely muscular and strong) he was. That area of NYC had a lot of apartment buildings, and grandpa would climb many stairs (most of those buildings did NOT have elevators at that time) to bring ice up to customers.

Hard, backbreaking work!

Really makes you appreciate your ancestors....

Skim Job

Unbelievably, it looks like at some point the cathedral got a skim coat covering that beautiful stonework, but since restored.

Similar view recently

No ice man needed. This is July 2011. Old St. Patrick's looks a little better cared for now.

Most of the changes aren't visible

Very little has changed in this view in the ensuing 70 years. The church's exterior has been cleaned up very nicely, the fence is slightly different, trees in the cemetery mostly block the view of the buildings on Mott Street, but that's about it.

The neighborhood, however, has changed a great deal. In 1943 it was solidly within the still-thriving Little Italy neighborhood. Most of the nearby residents were of Italian descent and the area businesses were not unlike what you'd find in Rome or Naples. More Italian than English would be heard on the streets.

In the postwar years, however, Little Italy declined precipitously as its older residents died off, the younger ones moved to the suburbs, and few new immigrants arrived to replace them. It was a decline mirrored in most other European-ethnic neighborhoods around the city, such as German Yorkville in Upper Manhattan and Scandinavian Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. Starting in the 1960's what remained of Little Italy got squeezed by Chinatown's constant expansion.

By the 1980's, Little Italy had mostly retreated to its present state, just a block of (mostly bad) restaurants and tchotchke shops on Mulberry Street a few blocks south of Old St. Patrick's. It barely qualifies as a residential neighborhood at all. The area around the church has been re-branded as "Nolita," short for North of Little Italy, though it's also sometimes considered to be an eastern extension of Soho. While it's a prosperous area, it no longer has any particular ethnic character.

St. Patrick's Old Cathedral

This is the Mulberry Street facade. There's an entrance on Mott Street, too.

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