Family, Friends, First Love, and Politics
by Eric Fried
We moved to Sunnyside in 1946, to 3918 46th Street, and after two years, we moved across the street to 3925, to a larger house, on the corner of one of those alleys that went across to 47th Street.
My strongest memories are of family ties. My father (Isadore) was one of six siblings. The families of his two closest siblings joined us ("us" includes my mother Fannie, my sister Ellen) in Sunnyside. These families were my father's older brother Bernard and Bernard's second wife Cele, and their three sons, Robby, Marc and Richard, and my father's youngest sister Paula, her husband Lee Ariel and their daughter Lisa. We were constantly visiting, gathering for holidays, not to mention occasional Sunday meals together at The Asia on Queens Boulevard. A significant part of my education were conversations (often enough arguments) at home, and among my parents, uncles and aunts, about politics, education, psychoanalysis, literature, religion. The Brontes were my father's and Bernard's favorite writers. Lee, who had attended both the Naval Academy and West Point, had amazing stories to tell. My mother was a devoted Freudian. I went to Columbia (majored in English), and my frequent visits home (my father died while I was in college) always included stops at my relatives' houses.
My parents were also good friends with Bill and Irene Vladeck, who lived on the corner of 47th Street and 39th Avenue. Before moving to Sunnyside, our families had lived in Knickerbocker Village on the lower east side of Manhattan. Both our families were long-time members of Three Arrows, a cooperative summer community in Putnam County, where their oldest daughter, Susan Vladeck, lives today. Paula and Lee Ariel also lived there summers until the end of their lives. So the proximity of Sunnyside was braided with ties elsewhere. The Vladecks were among the first in our circle to get a television. I remember going regularly on Tuesdays to their house to watch Milton Berle.
There were other good friends; for instance, Harold and Dorothy Zuckerman and their two daughters, Carol and Rita, lived just a couple of houses from us. Boys on our block played stickball out on the street, and my mother reproved me for usually declining their invitations to join them. There was a car pool. Bernard, who had a dental practice in Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan, drove his car. Passengers were my father, in a law practice on Madison Avenue near 40th Street, myself riding down to Stuyvesant High School, and Bill Vladeck, an architect, who was usually immersed in the Times crossword puzzle.
Age 17, I fell in love with a 16-year-old girl, Grace Connor, who lived on 46th Street closer to Skillman Avenue. We went together for three years. Our romance crossed an ethnic divide: she had gone to a parochial school through junior high school age, then went to Hunter College High School. Grace said that until she left parochial school she had thought Jews had horns. Looking back, I see she was a remarkable person. Her father had died very young, of a heart attack. She put herself through college, then medical school, married, moved to California, and had career, I believe, as a radiologist.
Political recollections: At age 12 during the 1952 election , I handed out leaflets for Adlai Stevenson at the Bliss Street station. My family were liberal, democratic socialists of the Norman Thomas ilk. They would have appreciated Bernie Sanders. While they hated McCarthy and McCarthyism, they opposed communist influence. (I stayed home from school to watch the Army-McCarthy hearings, glorying in McCarthy's embarrassment.) My father joined with several others to wrest control of the parents association at P.S. 150 from local communists. As explained to me, the communists intentionally minimized public participation in order to keep control in their hands. The successful anti-communist strategy was to broaden participation. My father went on to leadership in the city-wide Parents Association, and trekked to Albany to lobby for funding for education. He also trained Judith Vladeck, who was one of the first woman lawyers, and became an eminent labor lawyer and advocate for women's rights; she was introduced by my father to and married Bill Vladeck's brother.
Retired from a long career as a wildlife biologist in the State Department of Environmental Conservation, Eric pursued a Master's Degree in Philosophy at SUNY Albany, and wrote a book, Inwardness and Morality. His marriage is 53 years long, he has four children and four grandchildren.