Preface: The Yorkville We Knew

Memories Of Growing Up In New York City

65-70+ Years Ago

“You guys should write a book!” We did, an award-winning one that is required reading on college campuses! We can’t tell you how many times friends, relatives, and even strangers said this after hearing stories about our lives and unique experiences of 72 years, and reacting, usually with robust laughter. This did not start out as a public journal but as a series of private letters. It is, in part, an outcome of the Christmas letters we wrote to family and friends, describing our journeys and distinctive life events. When we intermittently stopped sending those letters, these folks protested, requesting the letters continue. They enjoyed reading about our adventures and sorely missed the narrative.

This memoir chronicles our first 18 years of life, plus two bonus chapters describing our under-graduate work (involving five to six additional years) in the Midwest and a twins’ chapter. I originally wrote this material only for my nieces and nephews and their children, to leave a legacy—or baseline, if you will—from which they might learn and benefit. I wanted them to know what life was like for us and our parents at that time, growing up in a tough ethnic neighborhood of Yorkville on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and to reflect upon how different life is today for them. John, on the other hand, thought our audience should be larger in scope, that others outside our small circle of family and friends might also enjoy our stories. In any event, we wanted to document the past and preserve our heritage and that of Yorkville by describing: (1) life in our neighborhood from 1944 to 1962, (2) struggles to improve ourselves as first-generation Americans, and (3) early lives as adventurous twins with predictive abilities, interacting, growing up, surviving, and succeeding in the urban jungle during this era.

Our memoir was written to give readers insight into and a better understanding of the historical, social, and cultural perspective of the past—perhaps one of a different time and place than the reader experienced. Hopefully, it will assist you in measuring that perspective against your own life and the times of yesteryear compared to that of today. You are invited to reflect upon your first 18 years of life, comparing and contrasting those experiences with that of the authors. What was important in life when you grew up? What has changed since then? What has not changed? Where change occurred, was it for better or worse? What has been lost and should be brought back? What might never come back? Why? How was life for you different or similar to those the authors experienced?

Growing up on the East coast, the Midwest, or the West coast, childhood experiences and memories are pretty much the same for all of us. Or are they?

Joseph Gindele, D.I.T.

This “laugh-out-loud” book will help readers (1) revisit childhood memories, (2) understand what it is to be an American, and (3) appreciate how the immigrant experience of the past has enabled our nation to grow. It is the story of twin sons born of immigrant parents in New York City during World War II. This is not a heroic story, but one of how love, discipline, hard work and sacrifice, tenacity, and ingenuity combined to produce productive and contributing members of society. Full of humor, wisdom and frank talk, it is historical, inspiring, and nostalgic, educational, fun, entertaining, and sometimes tragic. It is about survival and a life rich in relationships and friendships that have shaped us into being who we are, the story of the successful realization of the ultimate dream that immigrant parents wanted for their children in this great country called America.

  • PART I describes the early years, a general overview of life with our German father and Czech mother, our siblings, relatives, family friends, and neighbors.
  • PART II describes the learning years, our formal public education from kindergarten (1949) through high school (1962), various part-time work experiences, and how we vacationed.
  • PART III is a Bonus Section that includes (a) our post-high school move to Minnesota and the completion of our undergraduate teaching degrees and (b) a chapter about twins.

At the end the reader will find a helpful list of resources for those wishing to better understand the times and places of this era. The Annotated Resources section offers access to additional insight with Internet search terms, website addresses, organizations, references and book club discussion questions. The multilingual Glossary defines unfamiliar words and phrases.

We hope your journey with us fosters many fond memories and warm nostalgia of your childhood.

John Gindele, D.I.T.