I was dazedly shambling about in Bensonhurst in August, mad with the unbearable 82-degree heat, and in a momentary spark of lucidity, I noticed a tailor shop across from the 79th Street el station at New Utrecht and 17th Avenues – more specifically, its one-handed clock, of which more later.

It wasn’t till months later when I noticed the inscriptions on the signage, which, despite being in Helvetica, the modern, sensible typographic choice, are definitely old country, Mother Russia, all the way.

For example, “men’s purses” are either available here or can be repaired. The mind rolls back to an All in the Family episode in the Super 70s when Archie mercilessly berates the Meathead for using an over-the shoulder carrying device. In those unenlightened times, you could use the word f-g onscreen unironically, and that, I believe, was the word Mr. Bunker used. This was a few decades before the kids started using backpacks, and men could then carry their belongings about without being called f-gs.

–“Keys Made Dying.” Definitely an impenetrable lyric Van Dyke Parks should look into if Brian Wilson ever wants his help with a “Smile” followup.

–“Watch Batteries Replaced.” I often say that I’ve done things throughout my life that would bore people to death if they had to do them for less than an hour. Like this website, for example.

–John Simonetti points out “heel” is misspelt.

I affectionately kid. Mike is better at English than I would ever be at Russian. As Fernando Lamas once said to an individual making fun of his accent: ‘My accent means that I know two languages, and you only know one.’

The clock, a nifty Seth Thomas, has just the minute and second hands left.

Giving the clock a close look, I noticed that the awning sign was flimsily constructed over an older sign. And, there was a handlettered ‘shoe repair’ sign underneath– as well as an older clock!

The clockface was rusted out and several holes had appeared. The numbers, though faded, were still visible.

I like 17th Avenue just west of the el — there are a couple of long blocks, which long ago developers filled with attractive attached homes with stoops. Some have their original railings.

A kitsch in the front yard.


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8 Responses to CLOCKWISE ON 17th AVENUE

  1. Old Skool says:

    Kitsch me Kate.

  2. John P. Simonetti says:

    I am surprised that you had no comment on the “sole and HEAL repair” portion of the sign. Should be spelled HEEL. Unless of course, he “heals” any bad repairs or repairs someone who has not been completely “healed” by their doctor or spiritual advisor. Oh heck! – you know what I mean….

  3. Dan Schwartz says:

    I’d say that clock has just the MINUTE hand and the second hand, and no hour hand.

  4. CaroZ says:

    Perhaps it’s not “heel” that’s misspelled, but rather “soul.”

  5. Bill Tweeddale says:

    I wish our intrepid Webmaster had done an about-face and snapped a picture of my alma mater – New Utrecht HS!

  6. ForgottenNYFan says:

    17 avenue just west of the el – photos of these long rows of attached houses with their bay window design could, except for the little gardens in front, be scenes from almost anywhere in Boston.

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