Dominic Ambrose Blogblot

of words: narrative, film and non-fiction

InterGloss of 1971-72, page 4: Prospect Park to Angela Davis

Final page of the Nickel Fare Interactive Glossary of 1971-72. So how do we get from Prospect Park to Angela Davis? She’s in the Women’s House of Detention. Actually, the page ends with Yorkville, but I thought Angela would be way more sexy for the title.


NOTE: the glossary had to be broken up into separate pages, otherwise, the search engines would banish it for having far too many links.

Prospect Park, Brooklyn. The landscape architects Friedrich Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux teamed up in the creation of several landmark urban parks. Among them Central Park in Manhattan, and Prospect ParkbyJosephOHolmes in Brooklyn. This park contains a large meadow and some noteworthy structures, such as the landmark boathouse, and is home to a Quaker cemetery where Montgomery Clift is buried.

Rincón, Puerto Rico : A casual resort town on Puerto Rico’s west coast. It has been a favorite destination for surfers from around the world for decades, because of the favorable wave conditions (breaking at up to 25 feet) and the long season (from September to May). Although it was founded in the 17oos, there is not much to see of historical interest. It faces the Mona Passage and the Dominican Republic beyond that.

Roosevelt Hospital : Located at W. 59th Street and Tenth Avenue, this large hospital serves the midtown west area of Manhattan. John Lennon died in the emergency room here in December, 1980.

Staten Island Ferry Terminal : The old terminal on Staten Island was small and dingy and covered with sickly green tiles and plastic panels. In the 1990s, it was torn down and replace by a bright new terminal which is the centerpiece of a development area that includes a minor league baseball stadium and other amenities. More recently, the grim terminal on the New York side, has also been replaced. Hallelujah.

sadopaediaSadopaedia : erotic literature from the Edwardian era. First published in 1907, it presented the titillating story of a young Oxford students coming under the spell of a dominatrix, thus awakening the sado-masochistic pleasures in him. The book is in print.

seaarundus The Sea Around Us : Rachel Carson’s best-selling non-fiction work of 1951 had an enormous impact for decades afterwards. In 1971, it was still considered fresh and was embraced by the rebellious young readers as part of the required reading for a budding ecological movement. Another popular book by Rachel Carson was Silent Spring, an exposé about DDT that eventually led to its banning in the U.S.A.

Silver Lake Reservoir : A large and picturesque lake in the northern part of the island. It is a drinking water reservoir, the end of the line for New York City’s Catskill Water supply. During this period, the lake was blocked off behind fences as work on new water tanks was being completed.

SIRT : Staten Island Rapid Transit. A commuter railway on open air tracks, which is part of the New York City Subway System, despite its separate history and development. Because of the physical isolation of Staten Island, it is not connected to the rest of the subway system, and is generally unknown to the New Yorkers of the other boroughs.

token1Slugs : aluminum disc cutouts the size of a coin, in this case, the exact size of a New York City subway token. This was not a new phenomenon in 1970, the subway system had been plagued by the daily use of thousands of slugs since at least the Depression. For a short history of subway tokens, click the token on the side.

Soho : Historically, a factory district in Manhattan, south of Greenwich Village. It was built up with large factory buildings with cast-iron facades in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The area went through a

explore Soho

explore Soho

remarkable makeover during that period. The manufacturing businesses relocated out of Manhattan and the old buildings, now landmarks and renovated, became artists studios. No longer a forgotten corner of the Lower West Side, it now became an important residential and commercial district.

Stonewall Riots : The Stonewall was a gay bar on a quiet stretch of Christopher Street. However, the increased level of police harassment in New York City and the rising level of militancy in the youth patrons made an explosion inevitable. This happen in June, 1969, and Christopher Street was nice and quiet no more.

Students for a Democratic Society : the iconic national student organization with an orthodox marxist profile, it strived to bring together leaning university students in the 1960s. It devolved into the Weather Underground by the 1970s.

Sylvie Vartan : A French pop star of the 60s and 70s. With her mod coiffure and her go-go fashions she was very trendy. Her pouty style of singing and her blinding blondness matched well with her frequent duet sylviepartner, Johnny Hallyday. In the story, she is pictured on the cover of Paris Match. Click the picture to see the duet in a b & w videoclip in which they pout and pose so much, they almost forget to lipsynch.

The Tombs : description in the 1939 WPA Guide to New York City: “Raymond Street Jail … is Brooklyn’s “Tombs.” (Raymond Street was the former name of Ashland Place.) The dark-gray building, medieval in design, with castellated turrets, comprises a four-story central wing and a six-story annex. Obsolete, inadequate, and unsanitary, it has been repeatedly condemned by investigating Grand Juries. Prisoners are held here pending trial. … When the main building was completed it was discovered that it had no front entrance; this singular defect was attributed both to the architect, William A. Mundell, and to the Board of Supervisors.” – It was finally closed in 1963. Click on The Tombs for a fascinating guided tour.

Tompkinsville Pool : A pool along the waterfront of Staten Island. Tompkinsville is the name of the neighborhood bordering on St. George, where the Staten Island Ferry docks. This is part of the older urban development on the island, with some substandard housing and many of the island’s historic structures.

Tuinals : barbiturate capsules which were used and abused as recreational drugs during that period. Called “downers” because of their sedative high in contrast to amphetamine “uppers.” They had a deceptively cheerful color scheme of red and pastel blue.

Vanity Fair : Is probably best known as an upmarket magazine. Next would be the 1847 novel of the same name by Mr. Makepeace Thackaray. In Nickel Fare, the oblique reference to Vanity Fair is to the town in the novel the Pilgrim’s Progress by Paul Bunyan and published in 1678. The main character of Nickel Fare compares the lives he has lived during the past year as in some way similar to the trials incurred on the way to Vanity Fair. These novels are public domain, so download them from Gutenberg Project and see what the fuss is all about.

Venus Theater : This was not a historic cinema, but a store front conversion that opened only in 1970. It was located on Eighth Avenue in an area of expansion of the Forty Second Street sex-trade during that period of neighborhood deterioration.

The Washington Square United Methodist Church on West Fourth Street. Was known as the “Peace Church” during the Vietnam War, and was a major supporter of the gay movements during the 1970s. The building was sold to developers in recent years and the congregation has moved elsewhere.

pictures of Willie

pictures of Willie

The Williamsburg Savings Bank : Built in 1927, it is still the tallest building in Brooklyn, and a beautiful sight to see. The banking floor is opulent and the tower unique. The building is presently being renovated for luxury condos, and the great panoramic terraces that were still open to the public in 1971 have become somebody’s private patio. Click on the image for more pictures.

Willowbrook Hospital : An infamous state school for the mentally handicapped, it was a place of scandal and deplorable conditions. An exposé by Geraldo Rivera in 1972 led to its closing and brought the young reporter wide recognition for his work. A symposium of the same year at New York University focused on this school as a case study in unethical human experimentation. People’s lives were touched in intimately horrible ways, as this blog suggests. The buildings and grounds are now used as the campus of the College of Staten Island.

The Women’s House of Detention : a grim and thoroughly forbidding building that used to stand on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Greenwich Avenue, right next to

some Angela history

some Angela history

the courthouse, is long gone, its place now taken by a walled in green space. In 1970, Angela Davis, the famous black activist known for her communism and her enormous ‘fro, was held there for two months. In 1971 and 72, it was still fully occupied and the women inmates still shouted insults down to the passersby night and day. Few people seemed to notice.

Yorkville : A gentrified, formerly working class neighborhood of the Upper East Side, which served for many decades, as a buffer between the swells of midtown east and the scary working class of Italian, Spanish and Black Harlems. In the early 1970s it was still possible to find rent controled railroad flats in Yorkville that rented for less than 100 dollars, and featured such amenities as bathtubs in the kitchen and toilets in the hall.


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