86th, 1965

by Kevin Walsh

I set my H.G. Wells model time machine for 1965, not too long ago this time, and so was not overly dizzy from whizzing through the years. After awhile you get used to it–believe me, when you have to get to the Mesozoic you’re in the seat for awhile and it can get pretty hairy. Anyway, I stepped out of the machine (which is invisible, by the way, so no one noticed it) at the SE corner of 5th Avenue and 86th Street in my ancestral home of Bay Ridge. 

It was Christmas time and red and green wreaths holding bell-shaped sconces over incandescent bulbs lit the sidewalks. A phone booth was still standing on the corner, and a Chock Full o’Nuts sits where a Verizon mobile phone store is found today. Behind me is the 68th Police Precinct, which was replaced by an ugly parking garage, and behind that is the RKO Dyker movie theatre, which in a future age would house Modells Sporting Goods.

Looking down the street we see a GM “fishbowl” bus, first used in 1960, and behind it you can recognize a Bond bread truck. The red and gold sign is not a Woolworth’s; the local 5 and dime is to my left, on the opposite corner. The Century 21 complex is still a few years away. Instead, the local hardware store, Birnbaum’s, has a rear connection to what was merely called Century Stores. 

86th Street is lit by double-masted octagonal lampposts with Westinghouse AK-10 “cuplights.” These survived the overall purge of the early 60s and were outfitted with green-white mercury bulbs. Nonetheless they would succumb in a couple of years to GE M400s and Westinghouse OV-25s, which dominated NYC at this time.

A pair of nuns, probably Notre Dame School sisters, who taught school and maintained order by the ruler at St. Anselm’s School on 4th Avenue and 83rd Street, have avoided getting run over by Divine Providence.


Ah, there’s the local F. W. Woolworth, looking south on 5th Avenue toward the newly minted Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The Woolworth Luncheonette offered a variety of sandwiches and fried treats for less than a dollar. A collection of classic cars can be seen from here. Women wore dresses and high heels to go shopping in this era.

The kid crossing the street carrying grocery bags? That’s me, and to avoid a major space-time calamity — which would happen if I met myself–I was forced to quickly get back in the time machine and set the controls for 2018 again. Sometimes this time traveling can be a pain in the rear.

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Joel Frid September 13, 2018 - 9:13 am

That was very well done, the part of meeting yourself.

Larry September 13, 2018 - 9:31 am

I lived on Ft Hamilton Pky nearby for a few years at that time…..I remember Bakery and the Key Food there too on 86th. The 86 Street bus was very handy in that it went to Coney Island and Nathan’s in one leap to Stilwell and Surf….There was one model in that GM “Fishbowl” that had only side seating that went all around the bus like a U shape…..and plastic seats that never dried once they got wet…..

ny2az September 13, 2018 - 10:04 am

Those Kodak cameras cost between $5-$10 in 1965 & if you saved the photos you took back then your old Kodak became your time machine. A photo album was your cloud storage, your negatives were your back up. The mid 20th century holds so many great memories for so many.

Edgar September 13, 2018 - 12:12 pm

It was the 64th precinct on 86th Street. I played baseball for Leemark Lanes on the PAL

Jeff B. September 13, 2018 - 10:39 pm

Great pix. Looks like Jerome Av between Gun Hill Rd and Mosholu (I typed it Mashoola, which is how everyone I knew said it) Pkwy in the same era. I think the car behind the bus is a 1962 Chevy.
The Bond Bred truck in International Harvester Metro in the 1st pic. Looks like a 1958 Buick parked to the right of Woolworth’s. Thanks for memories.

Mark 805 September 15, 2018 - 9:56 pm

i spotted that ’58 Buick too! One of my favorite cars from the 50’s. I think the car turning might be a Lincoln Continental, circa 1962 or 1963 – if a Continental could ever be found in Bay Ridge.

Anonymous March 5, 2023 - 11:00 am

What was the name of the Buick Dealer on 86 st and bay 8 st.

Mitch45 September 14, 2018 - 1:22 pm

I was born in 1965 – looking at these pictures I feel ancient indeed.

Tal Barzilai September 14, 2018 - 4:45 pm

Did you actually know at the time that you were being photographed or did you just figure that out recently?

Kevin Walsh September 14, 2018 - 5:01 pm

I can’t recall.

Tal Barzilai September 15, 2018 - 4:08 pm

Even if you didn’t know, I can still remember finding a picture of me on a blog known as the Gothamist back in 2008 that was shown in 2005 of me looking at a model of Twin Towers II over at the Trump Tower, and I was the supposed fattie in the comments.


Bill Tweeddale September 15, 2018 - 6:31 pm

I was more familiar with the 86th Street of “French Connection” and “Saturday Night Fever” fame, further east in Bensonhurst. My family used to do a lot of shopping in the outdoor stalls underneath the West End elevated. I barely remember the street in your photos, although I must have been on it dozens of times.

Massimo August 17, 2020 - 12:30 pm

I lived in Bensonhurst as a child in the 1960’s and on Saturday’s my family would go shopping on 86th Street.They loved the Century-21 Dep’t Store and afterwards,we would go to a diner across the street for lunch.There also was a Woolworth’s and that avenue was mecca for shopping in South-West Brooklyn in those days.Those childhood memories remain with me today at 63 years old.My parents are both long gone now,and I still often wish I could go back in time for just one day to see them again and be a kid once more !

Lee Nilsen June 2, 2021 - 7:13 pm

That 61 Chevy behind the bus could be my brother’s. We lived in bay ridge from early 50s .my father was a general foreman on the varazano my brother worked on it to and I was a coffee boy and messenger there right out of high school . As a teen I hung with my friends at the luncheonette next to the rko


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