Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Read it and Weep--"Brooklynites are Natural Born Hayseeds": George Washington Plunkitt

Read it and weep. Famed Tammany Hall Philosopher and Politican George Washington Plunkitt told all in his book "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall as Recorded by William L. Riordon"

Speaking from a couple of centuries back, in his magnum opus "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics, Delivered by Ex-senator George Washington Plunkitt, the Tammany Philosopher, from His Rostrum-the New York County Court House Bootblack Stand as Recorded by William L. Riordon" (a lucky man -- truly I wonder if he was on the pad?). We know Tammany was a truly evil place, almost as evil as 110 Livingston Street, site of the former Board of Education, which Presidential Candidate Giuliani once said "Should be blown up" (would he have anti-terrorism on his tail now for that remark? ) but the BOE has now been moved from Brooklyn to what was once a central boondoggle of Tammany Life, the Tweed Courthouse so go figure..

Well, despite all of the Borough of Kings' contemporary grandeur of high rises, massive construction projects, and Brooklyn's continuing real estate boom, it appears that Plunkitt thought that he had all of us pegged. No matter what, whether of the manner born or fresh from Hong Kong, once a Brooklynite ALWAYS a Brooklynite. So, according to Plunkitt, best to get our rears in check and realize that we should shake the corn silk out of our hair and the hayseeds from between our buck teeth. We may put on airs because of our fancy Zagat-listed restaurants on SMith Street and our Oscar-nominated residents and multi-milliion dollar condos but hicks we shall ever remain. So, here is something to chew over along with that turkey leg (or slab of tofurkey). And as for its unforgiving tone regrading Brooklyn's Democrats, well peehaps Mr Markowitz can chime in...But for now you decide:

"Chapter 10. Brooklynites Natural-Born Hayseeds

SOME people are wonderin' why it is that the Brooklyn Democrats have been sidin' with David B. Hill and the upstate crowd. There's no cause for wonder. I have made a careful study of the Brooklynite, and I can tell you why. It's because a Brooklynite is a natural-born hay. seed, and can never become a real New Yorker. He can't be trained into it. Consolidation didn't make him a New Yorker, and nothin' on earth can. A man born in Germany can settle down and become a good New Yorker. So can an Irishman; in fact, the first word an Irish boy learns in the old country is "New York," and when he grows up and comes here, he is at home right away. Even a [person of Japanese or Chinese ancestry] can become a New Yorker, but a Brooklynite never can.

And why? Because Brooklyn don't seem to be like any other place on earth. Once let a man grow up amidst Brooklyn's cobblestones, with the odor of Newton Creek and Gowanus Canal ever in his nostrils, and there's no place in the world for him except Brooklyn. And even if he don't grow up there; if he is born there and lives there only in his boyhood and then moves away, he is still beyond redemption. In one of my speeches in the Legislature, I gave an example of this, and it's worth repeatin' now. Soon after I became a leader on the West Side, a quarter of a century ago, I came across a bright boy, about seven years old, who had just been brought over from Brooklyn by his parents. I took an interest in the boy, and when he grew up I brought him into politics. Finally, I sent him to the Assembly from my district Now remember that the boy was only seven years old when he left Brooklyn, and was twenty-three when he went to the Assembly. You'd think he had forgotten all about Brooklyn, wouldn't you? I did, but I was dead wrong. When that young fellow got into the Assembly he paid no attention to bills or debates about New York City. He didn't even show any interest in his own district. But just let Brooklyn be mentioned, or a bill be introduced about Gowanus Canal, or the Long Island Railroad, and he was all attention. Nothin' else on earth interested him.

The end came when I caught him-what do you think I caught him at? One mornin' I went over from the Senate to the Assembly chamber, and there I found my young man readin'-actually readin' a Brooklyn newspaper! When he saw me comm' he tried to hide the paper, but it was too late. I caught him dead to rights, and I said to him: "Jimmy, I'm afraid New York ain't fascinatin' enough for you. You had better move back to Brooklyn after your present term." And he did. I met him the other day crossin' the Brooklyn Bridge, carryin' a hobbyhorse under one arm, and a doll's carriage under the other, and lookin' perfectly happy.... "

[End of Reel...]

1 comment:

  1. As an amusing sidelight to Plunkitt's view of Brooklynites, a few years ago my wife and I took a walking tour of our neighborhood, Brooklyn Heights, and were told by the guide that the Hicks family, for whom Hicks Street is named, had a farm which was known for top quality produce. Back in the late 18th or early 19th century, there was a regular farmers' market in Manhattan somewhere near where the South Street Seaport is now. Farmers from Long Island would bring their produce across the East River on barges, each bearing a flag identifying its owners. When the Hicks' barge pushed off from the Brooklyn side, someone watching from Manhattan would shout, "Here come the Hicks!" this, according to the guide, was the origin of referring to farmers as "hicks." So, if Plunkitt thought of Brooklynites as hayseeds, there's some historical basis for it.


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