Yorkville Twins: Hilarious Adventures Growing up in New York City, 1944-1962

Yorkville Twins: Hilarious Adventures Growing up in New York City, 1944-1962


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If you want to take a trip down memory lane, this book is for you. It's an endearing collection of stories involving immigrants, survival, growing up, coming of age, and learning what it is to be an American. More than a memoir, it's an experience, a love story of family, friends, neighbors, and the Yorkville of yore!

“Twin brothers Joseph and John Gindele spent their first 18 years growing up on the rough streets of Yorkville on Manhattan's ethnic Upper East Side over 60 years ago. This is their story—what the city was like then, how it changed, and how two kids from immigrant parents became accomplished Minnesota schoolteachers with earned doctorate degrees. They and their family succeeded in living the American dream. It's an American tale full of adventures and laughs, sweet memories and sad moments. How did their Czech and German parents and siblings—a family of seven—ever survive living with these guys?”

Yorkville Twins has numerous themes that will appeal to wide audiences:

* Rediscovering childhood memories

* Immigrants and immigration (past and present) that enabled our nation to grow

* Czech and German families and their descendants

* Memories of growing up in New York City in the 1940s, 50s and 60s in the colorful ethnic neighborhood of Yorkville

* Historical, cultural and social perspective of the past

* Twins/multiples and their special bonds, many having predictive abilities

This 328-page memoir took six years to write, contains 100+ period photographs, richly annotated resources, and a glossary. People tell us they love the book, and laughed so much reading it. The stories brought back so many fond memories, memories they only thought they had forgotten. Yorkville Twins was adopted by a college in New York City and is now required reading for students in three classes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780983933755
Publisher: Golden Valley Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 07/19/2012
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 11 Years

About the Author

Twins Joe and John Gindele were educated in the New York City public schools. After finishing high school, they moved to Minnesota where they both completed B.S. degrees in industrial arts education, and (Joe) mathematics at St. Cloud State College, St. Cloud, Minnesota. They spent the majority of years teaching in the same Minneapolis suburban school district. John also taught in New York (Long Island), and they both taught at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Their 64 years of combined public school teaching on kindergarten-university levels included industrial education, industrial technology, and mathematics, and they were Work Experience Coordinators (WECEP), audiovisual coordinators, school librarians, and media specialists.

In 1971 they received M.S. degrees in industrial education from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, in Menomonie, and in 1989 their Ed.S. degrees in information media from St. Cloud State University and simultaneously their doctorate degrees in industrial technology (D.I.T.) from the University of Northern Iowa. Both completed educational internships in Japan and industrial internships at 3M Company headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

While they taught full time and took graduate courses at night and during the summers, their entrepreneurial spirit helped them found and operate numerous businesses, including Edu-Pac Publishing Company (1971—1994) and Computer Poster Company (1973—1974). With a printing press in their apartment at the foot of one of their twin beds, they authored, printed, and published dozens of educational materials used in secondary schools and colleges in 23 countries. While their printing press hummed in one bedroom, they rented the other bedroom to student teachers. They also had numerous articles published in refereed scholarly journals. The Gindeles' publishing involvement with a curriculum on death education brought a telephone call from Washington, D.C., when a member of the U.S. Congress requested permission to use two chapters on Teenage Suicide and Living Preventively in Congressional testimony.

The Gindeles won numerous national and international scholarships and awards during their careers. In their spare time, they enjoy doing research, writing, making soup, working together, volunteering on food lines and at church, and traveling.

Decades of globetrotting experiences and meeting people helped them to better understand other cultures, and in return their own. They are grateful to have lived the American dream—living freely in America—truly a land of opportunity.

Except for one year in college, these bachelors have always lived together. Joe and John took early retirement from teaching in 1999 and 2000, respectively. They live in Crystal, a suburb of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Read an Excerpt

"The long, hard rain had finally ended. It wasn't yet 5 p.m., but twilight set in quickly as we walked along the tracks 1,200 miles from home and discussed our futures. The cold stink of heavy wet barley soaked our clothes, assailed our nostrils, and permeated our lungs. Joe was insisting that one day we would earn our doctorate degrees. I didn't believe it. We had barely started our undergraduate studies. Why this thought came into his head is still a mystery, but Joe seemed to have a knack for predicting the future. But I am getting 18 years ahead of myself. I'll tell you more about our move to the 'Mill City' of Minneapolis, Minnesota in Chapter 9. Let's start at the beginning and work our way there.

We were born several weeks prematurely at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital in 1944. We were not expected to live . . ."


"Mom told us chilling stories about the 'old country,' stories about hearing screams coming from the nearby cemetery. Once, townspeople dug up a recently buried coffin and found the body with scratch marks inside the coffin lid. Apparently in those days, people who 'died' were not embalmed and perhaps some presumed to be dead were actually alive but in a coma when buried. These were the 'un-dead.' When they awoke, they found themselves in a cold, damp, dark box underground with no escape."


"When Mom was in her 50s she decided to become a U.S. citizen. She studied the materials intently and when she went before the judge, one of the questions he asked her was, 'What flies over the White House?' She thought and thought silently to herself, got nervous and frustrated, and thought silently some more, thinking, 'Vhat dha hell, vhat flies ova Vhite House?' Then she firmly proclaimed, 'Pigeons!' The judge laughed, hit the gavel, and granted her full citizenship. He had expected her answer to be 'the American flag.' In fact, Mom had a large wooden placard of the American flag at home. It hung for decades on the wall next to her bed. She was very proud of it; it was an inspiration to her."


"At one time when we were about 8 years old, when we were supposed to be napping, John and I decided to have a water sports contest to see who could pee the highest up the bedroom corner wall, towards the ceiling, while standing on the mattress. So what if the farmhouse was built in the early 1900s and the walls were decorated with 1920s style wallpaper that couldn't be replaced? It didn't bother us. We figured that when the wallpaper dried, no one would know. Of course, we were wrong. The telltale 'ring' stain was evident. When our parents found out, all hell broke loose. Mom had to pay Mrs. Solar for the damages. What concerned us more was the beating we got and the whacks across the side of our heads. We could still see visions of the strap. John and I are still not sure who won the contest. I think I did. I was older. Each of us blamed the other for coming up with yet another 'brilliant idea.' I looked at John and shouted, 'How did you get me into this mess'?"


"Some of us thought bathing weekly was too frequent and a waste of good water. Later we protested over our mother's exclamation that we had enough dirt in our ears to grow potatoes and if we didn't clean ourselves up, she was going to come in and take care of the job herself. Being 12 years old at the time, we were mortified at the prospect. We quickly got religion and dug out those potatoes ourselves. At least we got most of them out. We think."


"Peggy always told us that she was born in a coal mine in Pennsylvania and that she was dumb. She was. Uncle Tom and Peggy were well known in Yorkville, especially in the bars. When our parents needed to get in touch with them, John and I would run out of our apartment and 'hit' all the bars on York and First Avenues, between 72nd and 79th Streets, looking for them, since no one in our family had a telephone. We were usually successful. Dad said over the years Tom and Peggy spent about $30,000 in the saloons."


"We had gangs in our neighborhood. . . . Our block was famous for its bad reputation. We lived in fear. Kids who grew up a few blocks away on 79th Street near East End Avenue also feared the 81st Street boys. John Tauranac, one of those kids, said he led '. . . a generally idyllic life except for the fear we had of the 81st Street boys. When we heard they were coming, we ran home with our tails between our legs.' Kevin Boland, also a resident at this time, considered Yorkville to be 'one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city referred to by many as a bucket of blood'."


"Our new 19-inch Emerson television arrived in the early 1950s, when we were 8 or 9 years old, bringing many hours of enjoyment to our family. The shows were all in black and white—colored TV did not become affordable until the late 60s. Rabbit ear antennas

sat on top of the television and were adjusted to length and rotated and angled to obtain the best picture quality. There were no remote controls. One had to get up each time and turn a knob to change channels or regulate the volume."


"I first remember seeing your father in 1939. We were sitting in the front room and my father and your father [two Ottos] were talking and from under the couch ran a mouse and in a split second your father stepped on it and killed it. My sister and I were so impressed. The conversation at the time in the room was always remembered because of the event [to wit, that]: Construction crews at the time were taking down the Second Avenue El (Elevated Railroad, above-ground 'subway') and your father said they (the U.S.) were sending the steel to Japan and a war was coming!"


"John's friend Thomas flunked kindergarten. (John sure knew how to pick friends.) John and Tom ran away from school one day, when their group was about to be bussed to the Guggenheim Dental Clinic on 72nd Street near York Avenue, where dental students practiced their torture by giving free care to children. . . . All dental work was done without painkiller or anesthesia, and children were strapped down into dental chairs. As patients, we remember seeing and smelling 'smoke' coming out of our mouths when dentists drilled. . . . John and Thomas had been terrified to find out they were assigned to the dreaded third floor area, where the specialty was tooth extractions."


"While in high school, John remembers many times going to sleep in our fifth floor apartment with his self-built HeathKit transistor radio against his ear, listening to distant stations. He picked up a radio station over 1,000 miles away in Waterloo, Iowa. Little did he know then that he and I would be living in Waterloo decades later, pursuing post-graduate studies in nearby Cedar Falls."


"Joe started working regularly when he was 11 years old. There was a New York City law that a kid needed working papers to get a job. Child labor protection laws, you know. This was good. Joe applied for the working papers, but they said he was too young to work, that he had to be 14. This was bad. Well, he was angry, stubborn and determined to work, so Joe, a sixth grader, started his own business as a carry-out boy standing in the front line of checkout counters at the local A&P supermarket on the corner of 79th Street and First Avenue. This supermarket did not have any such program to assist shoppers. They did not have baggers or carriers. Aha! Joe found a niche."


"When Joe left for college in 1962 at the age of 18, he had earned $5,500 gross from work since he was 11 years old. (Joe kept tabs on everything.) That was a lot of money in those days. From this he saved $2,500 net for upcoming tuition, room, and board."


"Dad tried to help us, but he spoke country or 'low' German, 'Swabish Deutsch.' In high school, we were taught formal or 'high' German. I survived, but John did not. There were a half dozen ways to say the word 'the' in German. John balked at this, thinking, 'I'm not learning this; they (all the Germans) will have to change it to one word.' When Herr Helmut Schmidt, one of the German teachers, asked John, 'Wie heissen Sie? (What is your name?),' John replied, 'Heute ist Montag! (Today is Monday!)' To make a long story short, John got kicked out of German and into Spanish. ('Ya! Ya! Er war ein dummkopf.')"


"Think outside of the box. That's where many hidden solutions to problems can be found. This reminds us of a true story of a man up on the roof of a three-story house doing repairs. The roof had a sharp enough pitch that he began to slide down. He knew he would be severely injured or killed if he fell off, so he made a quick decision to staple his left hand a few times with the power nail gun into the roof. The nails held him until rescue arrived. Ouch!"

Table of Contents

List of Figures viii

Foreword ix

Preface: The Yorkville We Knew xv

Poem: The Twins xix

Part I The Early Years

Chapter 1 The Cheesecake Phenomena 3

(Our Family)

Chapter 2 Sasha, Where Are Your Shoes? 47

(Relatives, Friends, and Neighbors)

Chapter 3 Free Toaster, Anyone? 67

(Growing Up in New York City)

Chapter 4 The Constipation of Mr. Kovo 75


Chapter 5 "Going Down" 117

(Amusements and Entertainment)

Part II The Learning Years

Chapter 6 No Reservations 147

(K-12 Public Schools)

Chapter 7 Got a Quarter, Mista? 171

(Part-Time Work)

Chapter 8 Outhouse: Family Bonding Time 189

(Vacation Days/Special Days—Playtime)

Part III Bonus Section

Chapter 9 YaSure, You Betcha! 215

(Undergraduate School, 1962-1967/68)

Chapter 10 It's a Twin Thing 239


Afterword 247

Disclaimer 250


Appendix A: Relatives, Friends, and Neighbors 252

Appendix B: Radio and TV Shows, Movies, Actors and Actresses that our family enjoyed: 253

Appendix C: Annotated Resources 256

1. Internet Search Terms and Websites 256

2. Organizations 267

3. References 271

Glossary 279

Acknowledgments 289

Testimonials 291

The Saga Continues 295

About the Authors 301

Ordering Information/Quick Order Form 303-305

List of Figures

1. Mr. and Mrs. Novacek's Three-Room Tenement Apartment 61

2. Map: New York City (and Five Boroughs) 68

3. Map: Yorkville on the Upper East Side 76

4. 410 East 81st Street: Five-Room First-Floor Tenement Apartment 91

5. 420 East 81st Street: Five-Room Fifth-Floor Tenement Apartment 105

6. Relatives, Friends, and Neighbors 252



Memories of Growing Up in New York City

Over 60 Years Ago

“You guys should write a book!” 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 68 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 and requested the letters continue. They had enjoyed reading about our adventures and sorely missed the narrative.

This memoir chronicles our first 18 years of life, plus two bonus sections describing our undergraduate 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 an 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 tales. 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.

This 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?

Joseph Gindele, D.I.T.

This book will help readers (1) revisit childhood memories and (2) understand what it is to be an American and how the immigrant experience of the past and the present 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 (WWII). 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. It is serious, tragic, educational, entertaining, humorous, silly, sad, and occasionally even naughty. 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 spent time vacationing.

• 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 you will find a helpful list of resources for those wishing to understand better the times and places of this era. The Annotated Resources section (Appendix “C”) offers the reader access to additional insight with Internet search terms, website addresses, organizations, and references. The Glossary defines unfamiliar words and phrases.

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

John Gindele, D.I.T.

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Yorkville Twins: Hilarious Adventures Growing up in New York City, 1944-1962 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
EdwardRoberts12 More than 1 year ago
The Gindele twins certainly captured my attention with their beautifully-written memoir of life in Yorkville during the years of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. As a native-born New Yorker from 228 E. 74sth Street, and being six years older than they were, I could totally relate to their honest recollections. One difference was that we traced our paternal Manhattan family line back to 1812, while they were first-generation Americans. In spite of this minor difference, our lives ran nearly parallel with all the same every-day events. We both had close and loving families, lived in tenements and, surprisingly, went to two of the same schools: P.S. 30 and the High School of Commerce on New York's west side. In both schools, German was the language to learn, and for me it paid off when I was sent to Germany with the U.S. Army. I loved seeing their German phrase in Chapter Seven, "Wie man sich bettet so liege man (What you do to prepare yourself in life determines what you will get our of life)." What better advice could a young man (or woman) receive at that important stage of life? Actually, their entire book is filled with sage comments and thoughtful conclusions, as well as being a total delight to read. I would highly recommend this book to folks of all ages, whether native New Yorkers or not.. My thanks to these impressive and generous twins who brought back to life some powerful old memories for me.
trpryor More than 1 year ago
This fine memoir by the Gindale twins accurately defines street life in my NYC neighborhood. It gives me great pleasure to connect our lives. Their world from the mid 40s through the mid 60s, is my street life, ten years later. As the author of "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood," I assure you, Joe and John reanimate our working class neighborhood to the tee - from the ghost of the long gone subway El on Third Avenue to the river front facing the east sunrise. Our linked pasts trigger wonderful memories for me of my first 18 years, as they will for you. My grandmother, Ann Pryor Rode aka Anna Cuccia from 1403 Avenue A, " The First Lady of Yorkville," an elected official for fifty years in the neighborhood would give this book five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yorkville Twins: Hilarious Adventures Growing Up in New York City, 1944-1962 is a quirky, chuckle-inducing memoir by authors and twins Joe and John Gindele, who grew up in Yorkville on Manhattan’s colorful Upper East Side in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s (eventually moving to Minnesota). Over 100 black and white photographs pepper this anthology of anecdotes about a first-generation Czech and German family working hard to realize the American dream. From the special bond they shared as twins (punctuated by moments that can only be describe as psychic), to keeping up in public school, putting one’s back into part-time work, the lifetime treasure that is family and friends, and much more. Yorkville Twins is a “you-are-there” memoir sure to evoke nostalgia and warmth. A quintessential true-life American story, Yorkville Twins is highly recommended. Carl Logan, Reviewer for the Midwest Book Review (Reviewer’s Bookwatch, May 2013)
aikoohohaiko More than 1 year ago
 very entertaining book.
addy80 More than 1 year ago
Knowing the Twins as adults made this chronicle of their childhood days all the more interesting and charming.  Childhood antics in  Minnesota were similar to John's and Joe's in New York.  Their descriptions of activities in their home and school lives refreshed my memory of my own early years!   The shortage of money was replaced with creativity, make do, imagination and a feeling of closeness not experienced  by today's youth.  You will sense the smells, tastes, longings, loves and frustrations of growing up within the pages of this book.  Read this book to enjoy those years of yesterday!!
Claude_P More than 1 year ago
A very delightful, very readable book that will stir your own memories and experiences. Born in Waterville, ME, in 1941, I shared similar stories as those written about by Joe and John. Railroad apartments: we also lived in those in Waterville. Heat only in the kitchen (didn't waste any in the bedrooms!), ice forming on the windows in the winter, running over the sill and down the inside wall. Ice houses: to store cut pond ice for real "ice boxes" in spring and summer. The joys of ethnic roots, with true local color. Mine was French-Canadian; Joe and John's were Czech and German. Read the "Yorkville Twins" for your genuine pleasure. . .and let it rekindle your own treasured memories of your family beginnings. This book will remind you that we are each the product of our roots; who we are now grew from what we were then.
GladysVK More than 1 year ago
I found this memoir to be interesting, amusing, insightful and motivating. It was my first trip to New York City through their stories. It was a new city and new culture to explore. I appreciated their honest and humble interpretations of their life experiences. The book motivated me to want to dig out some of my old prose and poetry and write my story. My thanks to the twins for sharing their story and helping me realize how important all of our personal experiences are and also how important it is to share those memories or they will be lost forever. Valarie Kohn, Retired Educator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found this book to be very entertaining with all the neat stories of what growing up in New York City was like. I was amazed with the stories of the housing and attending the schools. 
Art_Linden More than 1 year ago
Reading this book was a great trip down memory lane. Having grown up in the same time period as the Twins, I shared many of the same type of experiences as they so eloquently detailed in the book. Even though they grew up 1500 miles east of my childhood home in Montana, I can relate to them and their life experiences as if I had been raised next door to them. The book also reinforced the many memories of my time spent in New York City in the late 60’s . I am grateful for the chance to relive them through this book. Reading this book was a very enjoyable activity. Review by Art Linden