Murray Goodwin: In Defense of Brooklyn

HOLIDAY MAGAZINE was published from 1946 to 1977. A blog I recently discovered is highlighting some of the notable pieces from the magazine over the years. I liked this piece by Murray Goodwin, “In Defense of Brooklyn,” published in 1946:

Where in Manhattan can the hot and tired gentry plunge into the ocean from a six-mile-long frontage of beach? Seek high and low; you’ll find no spot in Man­hattan which can offer so much comfort to so many people as can Coney Island. From Manhattan, from the Bronx, they pour into Brooklyn laden with children, paper bags, vacuum bottles, water-wings, patched inner tubes. In myriad tongues they sing their happiness at finding a square yard of tan sand to plump upon, just spitting distance from the surf, and where the sun may fall on them in warm embrace. Brooklyn, with a heart as big as its body, bids them all to try the breakers in the daytime, or seek a thrill at night aboard the giddy roller-coasters, giant swings, and midget dodgem cars.

Yet Coney Island, the “nickel empire,” is not the big borough’s only source of en­joyment. Brooklyn offers quieter and calmer ways to get more out of life. You prefer green and verdant thin Hop into a subway or bus or trolley car, and in less time than you can say “Leo, Durocher,” you find yourself outside the justly famous Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Go on in. It’s absolutely free, all fifty beautiful acres of it. Feast your eyes on the horticulture collections and plantings. Take your time viewing the Japanese landscape garden, probably the most celebrated in America. Cared for mainly by expert Japanese gardeners, these landscapes embody the religious and social traditions of Japan. But even if you cared nothing for the symbolism, you can’t help but be impressed by the sheer beauty of these gardens. Besides these Japanese “Niwa,” you’ll find other areas devoted to wildflowers, rock gardens, pools of graceful water lilies. The magnificent buildings spotted among the gardens contain still other collections, in addition to mountains of data on flora and fauna. This material is available to whomever wishes to peruse it.

A pebble’s heave from these gorgeous floral displays lies Prospect Park. Here, at your disposal, are 526 rolling lush acres of trees, green meadows and bluffs, con­taining picnic grounds, a zoo, a colorful lagoon, tennis courts and baseball dia­monds for the young and athletic, band­stands where summer evening concerts surfeit the music-lover, parade grounds, and wide gravel walks. Why, it puts New York’s spindly little Central Park to shame; just a mere collection of thorns and fagots! The site of Prospect Park is steeped in American history. North of the zoo is the Battle Pass, appropriately marked by a bronze plaque which in­forms the curious that General Sullivan made his stand against the British here in the Revolution’s Battle of Long Island. Stroll north to Lookout Hill and pause a moment before the monument commem­orating the bravery of the Maryland regi­ment which held the Hessians at bay in the same heroic battle. Wander south­ward along the East Drive, and you will bump into the Lefferts homestead, built in 1777 by Lieut. Peter Lefferts to re­place his home which was burned to the ground by the British. Mount the steps and go in to see how graciously the early Brooklyn settlers lived the rich paneling, the sturdy trundle beds, the hand-hewn timbers in the attic.

Read the rest here.

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If you’re interested, here’s some some other reads from Holiday which I am reading or have saved to read for later:

1) “Nobody Knows More about Chili Than I Do”

2) “Opening 100 Clams” (the very first article to appear in Holiday)

3) “Living with a Peacock” by Flannery O’Connor.

Finally, there is this profile of Holiday in a recent issue of Vanity Fair.

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