Gwen Gilyard originally researched and wrote about the Grinnell "children" in an article for the March 1999 edition of The Grinnell Gazette, an in-house newspaper that appeared periodically between 1998 and 2000. She has updated her article for The Grinnell's Centennial Year celebrations and will continue adding information as she gathers it during the centennial year. If you have information to share about young people who grew up at the Grinnell, please send it to info@TheGrinnellat100.com
Kareem and Khaleed Alston
Kareem and Khaleed Alston, sons of James Alston and Nuri Richards, spent a decade of their youth at the Grinnell. Both young men attended Dalton High School on the Upper East Side and both did community work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Kareem, who graduated in May, is now at Stanford University in a very progressive engineering program. Khaleed is a student at Morehouse University in Atlanta, GA. and plans to earn a PhD that will prepare him to work with homelessness in Atlanta’s Afro-American community. He worked as a volunteer in AIDS clinics in South Africa one summer and spent another summer in the Scholars Academic Program at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. In addition to their academic achievements, both young men have excelled in athletics.
Sarah Anderson’s daughter Francia (Francine) was fifteen when Sarah moved into the Grinnell. Her three children, Patine (see Patine Shamia Milon, below), Kalil, and Derrick spent a lot of time with their grandmother at the Grinnell when they were growing up.
Now living at the Grinnell, Francine is a legal case manager, working with people who have social disability claims, preparing them before they meet with an attorney. She has been active with the NW Bronx Community Clergy, fighting for improved schools. Her favorite past-time is cooking.
Andrea and Gregory Barrow
Andrea and Gregory Barrow are children of Glenston and Susan Barrow. Andrea was in junior high school when the Barrows moved to the Grinnell. She worked on weekly TV shows on PBS from the time she was fifteen, working with Bill Moyers and traveling to London to do a show. She has known Ruby Ross since they were in elementary school together. Her other Grinnell friends are Micco and Jamilyah Kanze (8F). Andrea attended the New School, where her interests were journalism and urban studies.
In 2010, Andrea lives in Brooklyn, after trying out every borough except Staten Island. She became interested in prison reform while doing a Masters Degree in African American studies at Columbia and has now finished her second year of law school at CUNY, where she has done internships with the Innocence Project in New Orleans and with Legal Aid in NYC.
Gregory Barrow, now married and living on Long Island with his wife, is 27 and continues to run an internet business that he started in high school. He is expecting to be a Dad at the end of the year.
Jonathan Devlin was a youngster when he moved to the Grinnell with his mother Chrystal Devlin in the late ‘90s. At age 23, he is a business entrepreneur with a clothing business called “Young and Successful.” He is preparing for professional weight-lifting and now lifts 250 pounds. His physique comes in hand as he sometimes works as celebrity security. He also occasionally works as a personal trainer. In his spare time, Jonathan puts together compilations of 1960s music; he particularly likes Soul Train and says he wishes he had been born in that period. In addition to his other pursuits, Jonathan plays chess and studied fencing under Olympic Bronze medalist Peter Westbrooke.
Nadjwa and Imani Garner
Nadjwa and Imani are the daughters of Aisha Garner. Nadjwa was thirteen and Iman seven when they came to the Grinnell straight from the Virgin Islands. Nadjwa attended the United Nations International School where she met Sharis Ingrham, another Grinnell resident. After high school, she first attended Adelphi, then St. John’s University where she obtained her pharmaceutical degree. After living in New Jersey, rearing her two sons and working as a pharmacist for Rite Aid, she moved to Stroudsburg, PA where she is a state licensed pharmacist.
Imani attended New York University and concentrated in music and music business. She was an intern with music companies from the age of fifteen. Some of the places she worked were at DEF Jam, with Motowns’ Eddie F., Allied Digital Technology, and in WBLS’ research section. Imani has worked for a top executive of Sony and composed R&B music and lyrics.
Maisha and Tulani Gilyard
Mani and Gwen Gilyard’s daughter Maisha was three when they moved to the Grinnell in 1973. Tulani was born three months later. Maisha and Tulani grew up experiencing most of the good things in the Grinnell, e.g., the conversion into the co-op, the street fairs, piano lessons with Janet Olson, the big snowstorms, watching the fireworks on the Hudson, the stamp club, and Children for Worldwide Peace. Maisha had a wide group of Grinnell friends including Sarah Coelho, Danielle and Eve Gordon, Vivienne Omura, Sharis Ingram, Sheba Riley, Chad James, Kathurima Mwaria, and Hugo Zamora.
When interviewed for the 1999 article, Maisha spoke of several memorable events which included the street fair held on the occasion of the self-purchase of the Grinnell. She sold T-Shirts for the building and kept the proceeds safe during the short rainstorm which briefly interrupted the otherwise beautiful day. Unfortunately, she forgot to tell anyone until they came looking for her.
She also remembered the filming of the movie Gloria (first time) and the trip the Children of Worldwide Peace took to the Soviert Union in 1984. Among her interesting memories are the times that she, Sharah Choelho, and Vivienne Omura crossed the roof to visit each other when the elevator was out of service.
Maisha studied engineering at Duke University and Georgia Tech. and worked for awhile as an independent contractor in the technology and digital printing industries. In 200, after a few years trying her hand at the graphic design industry, then working on the World Trade Center security upgrade project, Maisha began working with Securitech, a lock manufacturer, in the Technical Documentation department, commuting from Concourse Village in the Bronx to Maspeth, Queens. (She thinks she remembers bumping into Hugo Zamora on the MTA, and holds a lasting appreciation for organized mass transit.)
Luckily she also learned a lot more about Queens from new beau Thierry Dejean of Jamaica Hills. The two decided to move to Miami in 2005 and were married in 2006. Since arriving in Florida, Maisha has worked as a project manager for Trebor, a contract distributor of Division 8 construction materials.
She and Thierry enjoy the warm weather, and the company of his parents and family, but Maisha always brags to anyone about her hildhood home and how easy it was to gain access to the city - the world - by hopping on the #1 train. Maisha frequently visits New York and completed the New York Marathon in 2008.
Tulani Gilyard’s main friends in the building were Kiki, Chad, and Jennie and Michelle Izquierdo, whose father was “Lefty” the superintendent. When interviewed for the 1999 article, Tulani said that what she liked most about the building was the friendliness and the money-making opportunities for youngsters. She started early as an entrepreneur at age six by selling her toys outside the building, with the aid of her doe-like eyes. She later sold her own home-baked cookies within the building. Babysitting was a natural for her because of her patience, so she often got jobs among the Grinnell parents. Her most dangerous adventure was when at the age of seven, she operated the freight elevator by herself round-trip from the lobby to the fourth floor, nearly giving her father a heart attack. Tulani attended North Carolina A&T University. She now lives in Silver Springs, MD and works in Washington as an accountant.
Kimathi, the son of Doris and Roy Innis, grew up at the Grinnell. He continues an interesting career in broadcasting. After attending Howard University, he lived at the Grinnell for awhile and interned at WNET, Great Performances. Then he worked at Betelgeuse Productions and at Creative Management Partners, a management agency for film directors in commercial advertising. After spending time as a freelance filmmaker and illustrator, he moved to Kawasaki, Japan, where he has lived for the last five years. He first worked with Lehman Brothers, Tokyo, making corporate films and taught English in Tokyo. Currently, he is the assistant and consultant to the production head of the Japanese film company, NICE+DAY. Since 1994, Kimathi has been a practitioner of Wing Chun Kung Fu. He became a certified assistant instructor in 1998 and now teaches Kung Fu in his spare time in Tokyo.
Catherine Riley moved to the Grinnell when her daughter Sheba was age six. They already knew Richard James, as he and Catherine had grown up together. During Sheba’s interview in 1999, she related how much she had enjoyed playing with Grinnell friends Alé Olugebefola, Sarah Coelho, Maisha Gilyard, Danielle and Eve Gordon, Kamathi Innis, and Chad James. Her fondest memory about the Grinnell was when the first street fair was held. She remembers being so envious when the older girls got a chance to sing on the stage in front of the Grinnell that day. She had her share of being babysat as well as babysitting herself. Even though she had an acting career as a child, Sheba went to college with theater far from her mind. She planned to study veterinary medicine, but finished with a degree in broadcasting and began pursuing an acting career.
A majority of Sheba's time in the last decade was spent as primary care giver to her mother, but Sheba says that the most important thing that happened in that time was meeting and marrying the love of her life, Gregg Jackson. They were married in October 2003. Sheba and Gregg make their home at the Grinnell, where Sheba is a member of the Grinnell Green Committee, working to help Grinnell residents become more environmentally aware and efficient.
Chad James, son of Richard James and Jean McClain James, moved to the Grinnell when he was about two years old. When interviewed for the 1999 article, he spoke very lovingly about the friends he grew up with here: Jessie Snyder and his sister Cree, Kamathi Innis, Maisha and Tulani Gilyard, and Kathurima Mwaria. The tragic shooting of Kathurima by the police was “the most traumatic and saddest thing he had ever seen happen at the Grinnell.” Chad said. Having family structure all around him—his father, mother, aunt and cousin—was the happiest aspect of his life here.
One of the most interesting stories he has ever heard about the Grinnell was from Leon, the ex-porter/guard: when Leon began working at the Grinnell, he and the other porters could enter the building only through the back entrance at 157th Street. Chad has worked as a computer technician and is still living at the Grinnell during its Centennial Year.
Robin continues a long career with The City of New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which creates tenant-supported co-ops. She handles the Division's Special Projects. She is daughter of the late Ruth Johnson, one of the community activists and cornerstones of the Grinnell HDFC. They moved to the Grinnell when Robin was in third grade. Robin has lived here most of her life except for when she was away at school. She is now raising her son Mitchell here.
What Robin remembers most fondly about growing up in the Grinnell are the comfortable spaces if offers and the friendliness of the neighbors. She also loved the Christmas parties her mother used to give, where there was plenty of eggnog and musical instruments for guests to try their hand at. Many friends and neighbors came including Dr. Ross, who was a magician. On other occasions, such as at a gathering at the Rothschilds, Dr. Ross would have parents and kids sitting in awe under his profound magical spells. (He had once performed for the Queen of England.)
Robin also remembers fondly her playmates the Hamlins, Judy Hershberg, and Peter Reid. The youngsters helped the tenant’s association in those days. Some of the younger offspring of the shareholders remember the cooperative gardening done with the Johnsons on their farm in upstate New York.
Robin Johnson's son Mitchell, a third-generation Grinnell resident, is now 15 and has many interests, including baseball and computers. Many of his neighborhood friends are children of his mother's childhood friends, continuing the Grinnell's sense of community.
Sharis, Micco, and Jamilyah Kanze
Bruce Kanze and Yvonne Smith are the parents of Sharis, Micco, and Jamilyah. Sharis, the oldest, had strong friendships with Sarah Coelho and the Gordon girls. Her mother recalls that on certain days when these kids were out of school and the parents were working, they would play hide-and-seek throughout all the accessible areas of the Grinnell. Sharis was a member of Children for Worldwide Peace.
Micco was born after her parents moved to the Grinnell. Some of her good friends were May Levine, Atiyya Rahman, and the Barrow children. Micco attended Temple University in Philadelphia.
Faythallegra Coleman, the daughter of Lillian Coleman, is another “Grinnell baby.” Harmarkhis McCannon and Solar Olugebefola were two of her Grinnell friends growing up. She studied film and anthropology at Wesleyan University. As a student, she directed scenes she wrote and worked on a film about Black religion; she also worked on a documentary about a Montessouri school in Harlem. In 2009, she wrote and directed The Way Home, which appeared on the CW network. She starred in “Gossip Girl: Real NYC Stories Revealed.” Her film credits include Life Sucks, Damsko, Travel Channel segments, and Dirty Clothes.
Afrodesia Egyptia and Harmarkhis McCannon
Writer, artist, designer Dindga McCannon is one of the group of artists who knew each other before they moved into the Grinnell. The others in the group were Ademola Olugebefola and his wife Pat Davis, Sandra Ross, and Lillian Coleman. Their children grew up together in the Grinnell.
Dindga’s daughter, Afrodesia Egyptia was eleven when they moved into the Grinnell in 1978. Afrodesia, better known as Desia, a very serious, ladylike youngster, babysat several children in the Grinnell. Having done her undergraduate work at Oberlin University, she received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at Berkeley in 1998 and was for awhile an adjunct professor of English at Queens College in Flushing. In 2001, she married Brian Zumhagen, a journalist who is now the weekend anchor for WNYC. The couple spent a year in Tunisia, where Desia had a Fulbright scholarship for study at the University of Tunis, researching the death of King Louis IX of France, who died there in 1270. She is now a Master Teacher in the history department at NYU.
Harmarkhis, following somewhat in his mother’s footsteps, studied at F.I.T. with a concentration in men’s wear. He has owned two companies: TimesLine and DIP Contemporary T-Shirts.
Patine Shamia Milon
Patine Milon, who readily says that she loves the Grinnell dearly, is a third-generation Grinnell resident, daughter of Francine Anderson and granddaughter of Sarah Anderson. She began life living at the Grinnell with her grandmother, and after her death, continued to live here with her mother. Patine is training to be a nurse. Meanwhile, she has two jobs, one as manager of a Starbucks and the other as receptionist at a New York Sports Club. She loves that job because it gives her free access to exercise at any club.
Geraldine Moore, moved in with her family in 1937 when she was sixteen. She attended St. Catherine’s Academy, a private school located on 152nd Street near Broadway in the space that the Modern School now occupies. Her best friend in the Grinnell was a girl whose parents were connected to the Planters Peanut Company.
Ms. Moore also remembers the Lally’s who had a garden on the roof, as well as dances that were held there twice a month from May to July. She has seen many people come and go especially after 1942 during the War when people’s lives were uprooted. She remembers the O’Malley’s and also Alice Childress, an African American writer/actress who broke the color barrier when she moved into the Grinnell in the early 1950s. Ms. Moore related that her cousins, the Ready offspring, think of the Grinnell as their ancestral home since their grandparents and great-grandparents had all lived in the Grinnell. (Geraldine Moore was living at the Grinnell when she died in September, 2004. For more about her, see Miss Moore Remembers.)
Cheryl Mwaria and her brother Andre moved into the Grinnell with their parents when Cheryl was fifteen. They had been living elsewhere in the community. When interviewed in 1999, Cheryl said she remembered the days when the Grinnell was much grander. It was exciting for her to live in a duplex and to live across the street from where she thought Ira and George Gershwin once have lived (809-811 Riverside Drive). She remembers the neighborhood as being more ethnically Caucasian and also racist until the co-op was built on the outer Drive and more Blacks moved into the neighborhood.
Cheryl lived in Africa awhile until her husband passed away, after which she came back and began rearing her two children Kathurima and Kiki in the Grinnell. Kathurima and Kiki grew up and had friendships with many other children in the Grinnell such as Baron, Chad, Kamathi, Hugo, Maisha, Sheba, and Tulani.
Cheryl remembers enjoying working in the struggle to go co-op. She regrets some of the ugliness that developed out of the building’s growing pains. She and her family moved, as did her brother. Her son Kathurima later returned to the building as a young man and head of the apartment. To everyone’s regret, a tragic event occurred when he was gunned down by policemen in front of the building in 1995. In 1999, Kiki Mwaria was working on her Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology at Columbia University.
James, Glen, and Peter Olsen
Janet Olsen moved to the Grinnell when her children were very young, James, Glen, and Peter did most of their growing up here. Glen married lived at the Grinnell for several years with his wife. As a board member for several years, he participated in the development and running of the Grinnell HDFC.
Alejandro and Solar Olugebefola
Alejandro and Solar are the sons of artist Ademola Olugebefola and photographer Pat Davis. Alejandro aka Alé was seven when the family moved to the Grinnell. He was always a favorite friend of many of the youngsters in the building, especially the girls. At the time of the 1999 article, he was now working in the film industry and the company he worked with Gabriel Films, had won first prize in the Sundance Film Festival in 1998 for its film The Farm: Wildest Show in the South. That film was also nominated for an Academy Award.
Solar was born after his parents moved here, as were his friends Harmarkhis and Ruby, with only months separating their birthdays. Solar, always a scholar, completed an undergraduate degree at MIT and then continued with graduate work, earning his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering in 2007. He married shortly afterwards and is now a professor at the University of Illinois.
Alexander, Vivienne, and Richard Omura
Rose and Yoshiaki Omura are the parents of Alexander and the twins, Vivienne and Richard. They seemed to have had exciting and interesting childhoods. For the 1999 article, Rose remembered how interested the children were in animals and nature. Once someone gave Richard a garter snake that they kept in a habitat. They discovered that the snake had been pregnant when they found twelve live baby snakes in the habitat shortly afterwards. They tried to keep the babies alive by feeding them egg yolks, but they did not survive. The mother escaped to freedom down by the river.
Vivienne lives in New York where she works for a television station. Alexander has a twelve-year old daughter and lives in Montana where he practices anesthesiology with a professional interest in high-altitude medicine and physiology. On the internet he lists his personal interests as “changing diapers, mountaineering, shooting sports, and bicycling.” Richard finished a five-year pharmaceutical program in Colorado. His challenging sports are snowboarding and mountain-bike climbing.
The Pimentels have been living in the Grinnell since Francia was about 12. Francia has lived a considerable amount of her time as a youth and as an adult parent here and now, four generations of Pimentels have called the Grinnell home. Great-grandmother Luisa Pimentel, grandmother Francia, her three children Michael, Ada, and Monica, and her grandchildren.
Ada graduated from Iona College in 1998 with a degree in Spanish and Education. In 1999, she began teaching Spanish Language Arts at a school in Yonkers. She is now married with two children, and teaching at a university in the Dominican Republic. Ada’s most memorable occasions at the Grinnell were the Christmas caroling in the courtyard, the Halloween and Christmas parties in the community room, and the politeness of everyone. Her babysitting was limited to Beth Ferdirko’s children for two years.
Michael is also married and in the Marine Corp.; he has served in Afghanistan.
Monica, who still resides at the Grinnell is employed by Clarins, a European cosmetics firm.
Ruby Ross, the daughter of Sandra Ross, was born in the Grinnell. Her childhood friends were Solar and Harmarkhis. Ruby, a tall, striking young woman, considered modeling. Ruby still lives at the Grinnell and is in touch with several of her childhood friends, including Solar Olugebefola and Faythallegra Coleman. Currently, she is writing a science fiction novel.
Michael, Judy, Lucinda, Rachel, and Rebecca Rothschild
Joel Rothschild and his wife Dorothy Pixley-Rothschild moved into the Grinnell in 1964. At that time Michael, the oldest, was three and Judy, who had been born in Copenhagen, was one. Cindy was the first child born in the Grinnell. Rachel followed a year later. According to Joel, the children seemed to have had a happy childhood at the Grinnell. Rachel was interviewed in for the 1999 article and confirmed that belief.
Rachel spent much of her childhood with her playmates Nicole and Betsy Green. Her mother had to make weekly trips to the Greens to collect shoes and other abandoned clothing that left there. Rachel spoke of some of their money-making schemes that included 1) Taking down tenant’s garbage during the porters’ strike in the ‘70s; 2) Gathering from neighbors items to sell at their own rummage sales in the lobbies; 3) Selling lemonade outside the building.
Rachel also mentioned exciting (but dangerous) thing they would do, such as 1) walking the wall that leads up to the park at 162nd Street; 2) rolling around in the clothes drier; 3) Climbing into the Green’s window from 157th Street. What Rachel loved most about the Grinnell was the communal spirit that the families had. Rachel is now a pediatrician in Danbury, CT. She lives in Redding, CT with her two sons, Max (born March, 1996) and Nick (born October, 2001).
After living in New York and working for HBO, Michael Rothschild now lives in Quaker Hill, CT and is currently writing a novel. Judy Rothschild was a social worker for the Army in Maryland in 1999. A decade later, she is married to Herman Hensley and lives in Ohio near her husband's family in West Virginia. Lucinda (Cindy) married a New Zealander and lived with her family in New London, CT. She died in 2007 of metastic breast cancer after seven years illness. Her husband, Jim O'Malley, and three children, Tess (born in 1993), Megan (born in 1995), and Emma (born 1998) live in Quaker Hill near their "Uncle Mike."
Rebecca Rothschild, 23 during the Grinnell’s Centennial Year, is the daughter of Joel Rothschild and Bonnie Kaufman. She graduated from the University of Chicago in June 2010, majoring in anthropology. She performs with the Rhythm Jaw, a Chicago group that has visited the Grinnell at Christmas and sung carols in the courtyard.
Ameer Sharif, the son of Kauther Sharif and nephew of Kellie Williams, grew up at the Grinnell. Ameer’s playmates in the building included Solar Olugebefola and Miles Armstead. One of the most memorable events of his life was when he, Solar, and Toree went on a trip to Egypt when he was ten.
David Sutton was born to Constance and Sam Sutton in the Grinnell two weeks earlier than he was expected, Connie says because of the move. David grew up an only child but he had playmates all around, such as Judy and Michael Rothschild, whom his parents knew before moving here. He also played with the Pimental children and the Jenny Dubnau, whose parents then lived at 790 (they have lived at the Grinnell since the late 1990s). David’s exciting but dangerous activities included climbing up the banister from the 7th Floor to the 8th Floor to visit his friends the Hamlins.
Now he is married and the proud father of two children who when they were children, loved to visit their grandmother and run up and down the hallway, replaying the scenes their father once experienced. David, following in the footsteps of both his parents, attended the University of Chicago, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Anthropology. He also studied at Oxford University; there, he received his post-doctorate degree. He is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale.
Alan Waldau is the tall, athletic-looking son of Alta Waldau and the late Roy Waldau. For many years, Grinnell residents could see Al pushing his bike out onto the street to do his cycling to and through Central Park. The Waldaus came to the building when Alan was five years old. For the last six years, Alan has been employed in the technical support division of ADP (Advanced Data Processing), a company that manages large companies' payrolls. He loves the work!
Carmela, Allen, Rodney, and Shawn Wiley
Walter and Emma Wiley lived at the Grinnell from 1977 until their deaths in the late 1990s. Their four children, Carmela, Allen, Rodney, and Shawn did most of their growing up here. As of 1999, both Allen and Rodney were married with children and both worked in horticulture—Allen in Rome, NY and Rodney in Queens. Shawn also had three children and was training in business management. Carmela was a business manager at the Beth Abraham Health Facility; she also had children.
Hugo Zamora and Osvaldo Zamora
Hugo, Jr. and Osvaldo Zamora are the sons of the late and Hugo Zamora, long-time Grinnell residents. Hugo Jr., the oldest, was an only child for quite a while. All the kids thought he had more toys than anyone in the whole world, and they couldn’t wait until Berta held her annual used toy sale. Hugo played with a lot of kids because his mother was babysitter to several of them living in the building.
Hugo Zamora, Jr. continues to climb the ladder at MTA New York City Transit; he is now a Superintendent at The Rail Control Center. He manages emergencies and daily service to the millions of New Yorkers who use the subways. He was 20 years under his belt – how time flies! Hugo is married to Neira and has two wonderful children, Hugo and Alessandra. They call Long Beach, New York home but come back to the Grinnell often to make sure the kids enjoy their Uncle Osvaldo.
In the decade since the 1999 article, Osvaldo has gone from teenager to young adult; following in his brother’s footsteps, he also works for New York City Transit, as a Traffic Checker. He assures that all departments are meeting their goals in terms of scheduling, rider comfort, and train/bus cleanliness by conducting ridership and environmental surveys. Osvaldo is single. He enjoys photography and has picked up Bertha’s enthusiasm for traveling.
When contacted for the 2010 update to the “Where Are They Now?” article, Hugo, Jr. wrote:
The last ten years have brought many changes to the Zamora family. Although our parents are no longer with us, Bertha passed away in 2002 and Hugo Sr. in 2008, their commitment and admiration of the Grinnell carries on in us. It is rare in today’s mobile families that one can say to their children, “This is where Dad, Grandma and Grandpa lived and grew up.” It is something I enjoy passing on to the new generation.
The Zamora Brothers are looking forward to celebrating the building’s 100th anniversary and continuing to make memories that will carry on for generations to come.
Other Youth Whose Families Are No Longer at the Grinnell
During the centennial year, we hope to hear from other children who grew up at the Grinnell: the Brodys, the Choelhos, the DiSilvas , the Gordons, the McDowells, the Youngs, Helen Murray’s daughters, Jorge Rebollar’s children, Olivia Gonzalez, David, Eve, and Margo Troutt, Miles Armstead, Nicole and Betsey Green, Lorrie Jacobson, and Trudy Orange. Can you add other names?
Neighbors Who Interacted with Grinnell Kids as Leaders of Youth Activities
For many years, Janet Olsen taught piano to Grinnell children and some of their parents, among them David Sutton, Maisha Gilyard, the DiSilva children, Vivienne Omura, Eve Gordon, Judy Rothschild, Solar Olugebefola, Kathurima and Kiki Mwaria. Her adult students included Bill Green, Daisy Brody, Mark Gordon, and Beth DiSilva. Janet’s end-of-year showcase became more than a recital. It was a feast where, after the children had performed, a smorgasbord of food was put out, and the families and their friends celebrated.
Another musical professional was violinist Dottie Rothschild (Dorothy Pixley-Rothschild), who helped a few children with their music. Although her only official students was Glen Olsen, as an exchange for piano lessons for Judy Rothschild, she also helped Tulani Gilyard and Eve Gordon learn to tune their violins.
Mark Gordon established a stamp club in the late ‘70s that involved such Grinnell kids as Eve and Danielle, his daughters, Chad, Maisha, Jessi, and Cree. In the latter days of the Club, they began holding their meetings in the Washington Heights branch, and other branches of the New York Public Library, where they could also read and borrow books. When these youngsters grew older, Mark involved them in another meaningful organization called Children for Worldwide Peace, a group encompassing other youth (ages eleven to eighteen) in the city. They group’s activities included speaking, marching, and protesting for peace and a ban on nuclear arms. The highlight of their activities was a trip to the Soviet Union in 1984. Most of the Grinnell members went.
In the late ‘70s, Vera Sims and Marilyn Nixon organized the Grinnell youth in meaningful activities. They periodically held meetings with the kids to plan events. They also showed educational films, complete with popcorn. The teenagers were helpful in organizing the first and second street fairs. They also helped with the bazaars, which the Grinnell Tenants Association held to bring in capital and to advertise the building’s plight. Vera and Gwen Gilyard involved some of the Grinnell youth in the Soujourner Truth Adolescent Rites Society.
Berta Zamora, a professional babysitter, helped many a parent by offering her service right here in the building. Her charges included Lorrie Jacobson, the Gordon girls, Chad James, Faythallegra Lancaster-Coleman, and Tulani Gilyard. Her home was always alive and interesting. One day you could go there and find all the kids (except the babies) sitting among piles of toys. On other days they would each have a book. On other days you might hear the music and the castanets from as far back as the elevator door. When the apartment door opened you would find all the kids and Mrs. Zamora having a fiesta and bailando to the music.
The children would wait eagerly for Hugo Jr.’s birthday when she would invite them to a themed birthday party. Themes like Hawaii or Superman would involve her making cakes and piňatas and decorating the house to match. She sometimes directed themed parties for some of her charges as well.
Other memorable events involving children at the Grinnell were: when the tenants and their children painted some floors and lobbies; the bazaars that included vendors and performers, and spanned two levels in each wing, the lobbies, and first floors; the tall ships of ’76 moving down the Hudson on the Fourth of July and the Macy’s fireworks which could be seen from the Grinnell at points; the big snowstorm of ’82 when many cars got stuck in front of the Grinnell, and fathers and children got into the street to push cars out of the snowdrifts.
Places for Activities in the Community
Before development of the park along the Hudson, this community offered few places where children and youth could go for organized activities. The nearest park with play equipment was located at Riverside Drive and 162nd Street. Adjacent to the park is a slope clear of trees where the kids would go to sled whenever a big snow came.
Some brave parents would take kids down stairs at 160th, 158th, or 156th Street to the river, and either walk north towards the George Washington Bridge or south alongside the Hudson. Walking southwards, one could find another park at approximately 153rd Street. Some folks did and still do hold picnics around that area. Closer to 155th Street down near the river was a wall where handball was played by some of the teenagers.
Farther north (sometimes close to the Hudson and sometimes not) one found picnic tables and benches that some families utilized. Going closer toward the bridge, one could see the Little Red Lighthouse, of storybook fame. Most Grinnell parents and youth knew it was not safe to go down to the river without proper companions.
The “White Spot” located at the southeast corner of Riverside and 155th Street is so named because of the coloration of the new cement. It is a very spacious area where pre-puberty kids would go roller-skating, skateboarding, practice dancing and riding their bikes. When they got older, they met friends there just to “hang out.”
The Trinity Cemetery behind the Church of the Intercession was a multi-purpose facility in the community. If a youngster proved part of the Church community by attending Sunday School, Day Camp, etc., she or he would be invited to the Easter Egg Hung held in the cemetery among the graves. Some parents took their children there to do rubbings on the tombstones and other grave markings. It was fascinating in a historical way to find out where some of the city’s famous people were buried. Every Christmas, the Church of the Intercession paid homage to Clement Clark Moore, the author of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” one of the city’s noted who is there in Trinity Cemetery. And, of course there were the museums in Audubon Terrace, 156th Street and Broadway.