August 5, 2014
Last week I was looking for a piece of ephemera for a project packet I was creating on Brownsville when I stumbled across something different: a digest, if you will. This digest then went on to change the entire course of my day. How did one small magazine change the entire course of my day, you ask? Well, I immediately stopped looking for information on Brownsville, that's how. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading about sports, history, restaurants, and women in "The Magazine For Brooklyn, About Brooklyn, In Brooklyn."
Brooklyn Digest Magazine was a small monthly magazine published out of the old Ridgewood Times Building on Cypress Avenue. Side note: The Ridgewood Times Building is quite different as well. Built in 1932, the newspaper castle (I mean, look at those merlons!) was taken over by a public school in the 1960s and is now condos and a Rent-A-Center. Such is the way of the world, eh? Oh, if you want to see the old Ridgewood Times, we can help you with that too.
852 Cypress Avenue - Map Data: Google Maps, 2014
I am not sure when the magazine started and I don't actually know when it ended, either. I did try to cross-reference some of the information I found in The Digest with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, but when I searched for 'different digest' all I found was this snide looking Cream of Rice child:
Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 14 Feb 1943.
I'm sure with a bit more digging I'll be able to find more information as to The Digest's specifics. I'll keep you posted.
I do know that the Brooklyn Collection has four issues in the ephemera files: July, September, November of '46 and January of '47. Each issue was ¢15 or you could pay $1.50 for a year's subscription.
As expected, the stories and articles inside revolved around Brooklyn. These little booklets had their work cut out for them, as Brooklyn was and is a pretty big borough. As you'll see, they did a decent job covering all of their bases:
You've got your feature!
In November of 1946, Gene Tierney was hot. Brooklyn born with a "love for fresh paint and gasoline," she was all over the silver screen and Brooklyn couldn't have been prouder. Below is a photo of Gene from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's portrait collection. She was a looker, no joke.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle. "Gene Tierney." Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.
In January of 1947 the feature was funnyman Mickey Rooney (who was also adorable, am I right?).
You've got your sports!
Some of the sports columns detailed past games or future matches, while others were just lists of incredibly relevant and helpful facts. Apparently the average speed of a hockey puck is 88 miles per hour. Golly gee, thanks Different Digest!
You've got your history!
The Digest had stories about old Brooklyn and some old Brooklynites: Coney Island, the Battle of Brooklyn, Whitman, Gershwin. One of them, coincidently the one about Walt Whitman, was written by George Wakefield, the former head of General Reference at the Central Branch of BPL (hey, that's where I work!) and, at the time of writing (July of '46) he was the Branch Manager at the Bedford Branch.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle. "Bedford." 195-?. Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.
George Wakefield is pictured here with his colleagues at the Bedford Branch. He is the gentleman in the back on the left.
You've got your humor!
From a section entitled "In Brooklyn It Happened."
Wild Bill Ames, the mimic-king from Ridgewood, tells of the nun who found a hundred dollar bill on Central Avenue. Not wishing to keep the money, the sister approached an ill-shaven character leaning against a poolroom window, handed over the large bill and said, "God Speed!" The next day the ill-kempt man knocked at the convent door, and when the Mother Superior opened the door the individual gave her $800. While the mother looked at him in astonishment, the man ejaculated, "Give this to Sister Francis; tell her that 'God Speed' paid seven to one."
You've also got some pretty fantastic cartoons scattered throughout. In light of all we know about the Gowanus, this one is pretty spot on.
Now that's a merman any Brooklynite could love!
The editors of The Digest felt that Brooklyn had long been glossed over by travel guide writers. The September '46 issue contained a Brooklyn Pocket Guide:
(FYI - Baedeker is this guy.)
The Pocket Guide touched on a variety of topics including but not limited to:
"The Geography: Brooklyn is a territory bounded on the west by a huge body of water described as the East River and on the north by a place known as New York City."
"The Topography: The region's terrain is moderately level excepting the Myrtle El and Ebbets Field. The site of Coney Island, however, is never on the level."
"The Geology: The striking aspect of the territory of Brooklyn is the number of underground chambers known as subways, generally used to quarter drunks and other such nondescript characters as Giant's fans who've fallen asleep coming from the Dodger game."
"The Language: Philologists maintain that the greater part of the population by and large speaks two languages - English and Doubletalk. A strange and somewhat fictitious dialect has emerged for which a Bronx publisher has printed a "Brooklyn-English; English-Brooklyn" dictionary."
And, finally, you've got your ladies!
Brooklynology has reported on many past beauty pageants: grandmas, babies, beer. Beauty was big in the 1940s and 1950s and, what with the wars and the sailors and the like, finding a pinup girl in the middle of The Different Digest didn't surprise me. As expected, these girls were quintessential Brooklyn and each one of them came equiped with her own "Zoot Suitor from Brooklyn".
Miss January - February 1947
Miss November 1946
Miss July 1946
These sweet, silly little monthlies were clever and, I assume, well-liked by their readers. Aside from the aforementioned sections, there were also restaurant guides and reviews, short stories, poems, and editorials.
What would today's Brooklyn Digest Magazine look like? Inevitably we'd have new faces and new topics, but surely the spirit would be similar: a cheekiness, a boldness, and a wealth of artistic talent.
I do know one thing for sure, there are still smoking longshore(mer)men in the Gowanus.
Don't believe me?
I'll bet you two wooden nickels and a bottle cap.
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