On a walk through Jamaica in early 2012, I was surprised to discover that there's something of a Little Portugal (or perhaps a Little Little Portugal) out here. I saw a liquor store specializing in Portuguese wines and, two doors down, a Portuguese restaurant named O Lavrador that's been around since 1981. Now, three years later and seven blocks away, I've finally walked by the other mini-hub of Little Little Portugal: the soccer club pictured above and, just out of frame to the right, another longstanding Portuguese restaurant, A Churrasqueira.
I was hoping to figure out the meaning behind the name of this little two-block-long street, but all I was able to find out is that the street had become Spa Place by 1919, having formerly been known as Kouwenhouven Place.
While digging in vain through old newspaper archives for that information, I was surprised to see Spa Place mentioned a couple of hundred times, given that there are only eight houses on the street (with Spa Place addresses). Many of the mentions were for everyday things — real estate transactions, rental listings, wedding announcements, etc. A number had to do with crimes committed on the street or by people who lived there. Some examples:
- "Being intoxicated is no excuse for thievery," two young men learned when they were found guilty of petty larceny after showing up uninvited to a party at 108-05 Spa Place on New Year's morning of 1933, "joining in the hilarity," and then stealing a couple of coats and hats on the way out.
- In 1928, John J. Reardon, a bus driver who lived at 107-something Spa Place, was charged with third-degree assault for punching a female passenger in the jaw after she slapped him during an argument over a disputed fare.
- In 1937, at the age of 17, William Kotowski/Kotowsky/Kapowski (the Long Island Daily Press wasn't too consistent with its spellings) of 107-62 Spa Place was sent to a vocational institute after being charged with stealing some vacuum cleaners and "criminally receiving" a stolen car. Then, in 1941, he was convicted on a "morals charge" and sentenced to a reformatory for striking a girl who "resisted his advances."
- "A speeding truck driver [Theodore Kotski of 108-04 Spa Place], who refused to back up 500 yards so he could be arrested by a Queens motorcycle cop who had trailed him over the Nassau County line, nevertheless wound up in court here yesterday [July 6, 1952] charged with hampering an officer in the discharge of his duty."
The largest contingent of Spa Place mentions in old newspapers, however, is found between 1930 and 1935 in the Junior Press section of the Long Island Daily Press, where local kids would submit jokes, stories, poems, drawings, and the like (some original, many obviously not) for publication. A few children on Spa Place were members of the Junior Press Club, including Jessie Kotowska of 107-62 Spa Place, presumably the sister of the aforementioned William Kotowski/Kotowsky/Kapowski (again, the Long Island Daily Press wasn't very consistent with its spellings), but the bulk of the Spa Place contributions to the Junior Press came from the Szczesny/Szczesna/Szczensy/Szezesny/Szszesny/Szszesna/Szizesny/Scezesny/Szzesna sisters of 108-09 Spa Place. Some favorites:
Jones: "Sorry, old man, that my hen got loose and scratched up your garden."
Smith: "That's all right. My dog ate your hen."
Jones: "Fine! I just ran over your dog!"
Sent by Henrietta Szczesny, 108-09 Spa Place
Program Manager—"If you're late again like this, you don't have to bother showing up."
Tardy Artist—"Well, you see, it was like this: I squeezed too much toothpaste onto my brush and I had a hard time getting it back into the tube."
Sent by Henrietta Szczesna, 108-09 Spa Place
Two Irishmen stood in front of a drug store. In the window there was a display of rubber gloves.
"Now, I wonder what those things are for?" asked one of the Irishmen.
"Oh," replied the other Irishman, "You can put them on an' wash your hands without getting your hands wet."
Sent by Jane Szczesny, 108-09 Spa Place
Sister Susie's silly sister said to Sissy Simpkins, "Say, Sister Susie's suitor Simpson soundly sips soup, sitting with Sister Susie."
Seven small saps swam to school in sixty-six short, silent seconds hoping to see Sarah Samson slapping Samuel Stanley, Sally's sporty schoolmate.
Sent by Jane Szczesna, 108-09 Spa Place
GOOD OLD DOBBINS
O, Horse, you are a wonderful steed,
No buttons to push, no gas to feed;
You start yourself, no clutch to rip,
No spark to miss, no gears to strip;
No license buying every year,
With plates to screw on front and rear;
No gas bills climbing up each day,
Repairs don't steal your cash away;
No speed cops chugging in your rear,
Yelling summons in your ear;
Your inner tubes are all O. K.,
And, thank the Lord, they stay that way;
Your spark plugs never miss or fuss;
Your motor never makes us cuss;
Your frame is good for many a mile,
Your body never changes a style;
Your wants are few and easy met,
You've something on the auto yet.
Sent by Jane Szzesna, 108-09 Spa Place
On a final note, while flipping through the pages of the Junior Press from August 23, 1930 and August 30, 1930, I saw two different but very similar (and slightly creepy-looking) drawings of a young girl holding a couple of milk bottles. Do these look familiar to anyone? Was this a character from some old milk ads?
Originally a dammed mill pond created in the 1700s, Baisley Pond was acquired in 1852 by the then-independent city of Brooklyn for use as a municipal water source. In 1858, as workers were cleaning out vegetation and peat from the bottom of the pond, they found teeth and bone fragments from a mastodon — the first documented discovery of mastodon remains in what is now New York City.