The Sterling Place Candy Store Crowd Responds to WWII
Phil moved to Crown Heights as a small child, and he and the people he grew up with were all drawn into World War II in one way or another.
I lived in Crown Heights on Sterling Place, just off of Rochester Avenue within one block of an elementary school, which then incorporated a junior high into it, and I moved there when I was about 3 years old. And I lived there right up until the time I enlisted in the air force in December of 1942.
It was a very close neighborhood – people knew each other and there was a candy store on the corner where the younger people all congregated of both sexes, some of which lead to successful marriages as they grew older, but everybody knew each other and at one time after WWII there was a reunion held in Huntington Long Island at the big catering house there and I believe 240 people showed up, including the young people who grew up there, and their parents, and their relatives who knew us, and we had such a gleeful, tearful reunion where people were hugging each other and crying after some hadn’t seen each other for years.
When the war broke out and Pearl Harbor occurred, many of the people from our corner and candy store disappeared into various parts of the service. Some were in the Navy, some the Air Force, some the regular Army, some the Marines, and unfortunately we had several casualties from the war and some of the closest friends in the group there were killed.
The candy store owner on the corner would take whatever pictures he could get and addresses he could get from the service for the fellows who he knew hung around his candy store. He would put them in the window of the candy store for everybody to see. Now, some of the fellows – a few – were what you called 4-F and that is they had medical disabilities which disbarred them from serving in the military.
One of the leaders was Murray Bress who just recently died at, I believe he was 91 when he died a couple of years ago and he was one of the leaders. Frank Schaffer was another one who was not in the service, Al Harrison was not in the service, but whoever it was, lead by Murray Chernow, went to the parents of the guys who were regulars at the corner candy store and collected money and published a little local newspaper which was sent to the all the service people whose addresses they had in the service.
I believe I have a copy somewhere in my memorabilia, I think that I got one of those papers in China where I served, so it was an amazing thing, but then this guy Murray Chernow was an organizer – he was a great organizer.
Photo: Single propeller plane in WWII, photo courtesy of Phil Schneider