Street Sounds

When I was a kid we lived on a dead end street in Brooklyn – one could stand at the foot of the street and survey the NY skyline and the Statue of Liberty. On foggy nights the tugboats went up and down the river singing their mournful songs and if we had guests they would come to breakfast bleary-eyed from lack of sleep. We were all so used to it we never even heard them.

There were other noises also – not existing today such as the hurdy-gurdy man who wandered up and down, turning the handle on his music box, in hopes of having a few coins thrown his way.


Hurdy-Gurdy Man photo courtesy of


The clop-clop of hooves signaled that the ice man cometh! With his huge blocks of ice to be placed in – where else? the ice box (whoever heard of a refrigerator?) – or the milk man in his wagon?

This photo is courtesy of where you can also see photos of other jobs that have become part of history.

The postman walked his route so didn’t make any special noise, but then we had something called an Extra – a special news sheet which was hawked by boys shouting “Extra! Extra!”, at the top of their lungs, indicating that some very newsworthy event had taken place which couldn’t possibly wait for the morning edition. I only recall 2 such incidents – one was when Lindbergh flew across the ocean for the first time and the other was on the birth of the Dionne quintuplets – maybe the first ever but I’m not sure of that. They weighed 1 or 2 lbs. each and what amazed me was that after reading about them my mother turned to me and said “you weighed more than all 5 of them put together!” – I had been 3 weeks late and arrived at 10lbs 2oz.!

The only other comment I wish to make about our street is this:

During the war in 1945, my Navy husband, who was in charge of a PT boat, was sent out to the Pacific. He had already been injured off the coast of Sicily in 1942 and had been in a Naval hospital for 8 months. We had been married after his discharge from there and he was ready to go back on duty. They had been at the Brooklyn Navy Yard waiting for the ice to go out of the river. So when it did they were set to go. He told me they would be leaving early one morning and would go right past our street. I told him I would go to the foot of the street and wave goodbye. When my Mother heard that, she volunteered to get up early with me and take a sheet to wave as we felt nothing else could be seen. I’m certain he never saw our sheet but of course he assured me that he had. In any event, I felt that I had tried, and I was always grateful to my dear Mom for her support.

Jeanie Henry
Southbury, CT © 2013

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