Welcome to Vexed in Park Slope -- a column about every day things that FIPS would have reported on had FIPS existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. All stories come from the NYTimes online archives, so if you don't believe one, look it up.
It's been a while, VIPS readers, but as you know summer is here and (if you're like me and hate hot weather) the time is right for ... staying inside and reading history of Brooklyn summers past.
It seems only right to start with the heart of Brooklyn in the summer: Prospect Park. The next time you're there, offer thanks to our Slope forebearers who, in 1866, fought to establish (in the words of the New York Times in July of that year) Brooklyn's "magnificent enterprise." According to the paper, our park would be "what Central Park is to us, this will be to our sister city" and offered the following support for the project:
Jumping forward to June 1894, Prospect Park played host to a party for 2,500 "happy temperance children" who gathered to celebrate May Day, Decoration Day and Independence Day in one gigantic, super sober, crazy party. Per the NYTImes of June 10th of that year, the "little temperance soldiers" were treated to a parade, ice cream, sandwiches, "temperance beverages" (milk and water), all manner of party games and at the end of the day sang in unison this song:
(Tip: You can enhance this mental image by picturing a tiny, creepy Michael Shannon singing along with gusto and dreaming of his future as a prohibition enforcement agent patrolling the boardwalk of Atlantic City...)
In the summer of 1908 a new trend was sweeping the Slope -- roof sleeping! Actually, tenement dwellers across the city had been sleeping on roofs for years, but when middle class denizens of Brooklyn caught wind of this happy alternative to sleeping in hot, stuffy quarters, they really made it their own. Take for example, this description of the President Street roof of "Mme. Alma Webster-Powell, the singer":
"Young Angler" fishing competitions have been taking place at Prospect Park every summer since 1947, and for the most part the winning fish has been in the 15-18oz range. But not in 1956. That year, 13 year-old Brooklynite Jerome Burgle took the $200 prize with a particularly large catch...
And of course, since July 4th is a not-so-distant memory, I'll sign off with this exhaustive list from the New York Times of the new fireworks for sale in the summer of 1870. If it doesn't make you long for a world of amateur pyrotechnics and minimal regulation of things that explode, I don't know what will.