The Holiday Party the Cold War Hijacked

Number 37

Friday, December 23, 2011 - 10:00 AM

Opening of the Brownsville Boys Club, 1953 (Brooklyn Public Library, via

On December 27, 1951, the Brownsville Boy's Club hosted  5,000 children to an inter-faith party at the 106th Regiment Armory in Brooklyn. 

The inter-faith party (probably a relatively novel concept in 1951) was introduced by master of ceremonies Sam Levinson, who welcomed listeners to the celebration, where the children of "all faces, all kinds, all sizes, all creeds, all colors" cheer and exchange handshakes in "a gesture of brotherly love."

The president of the Brownsville Boys' Club Abraham Stark proclaimed: "Call it what you may ... to everyone here - to everyone in America - we would like to call it an inter-faith party ... and all we are concerned [with] is that you are happy!"

Despite the festive setting and the ostensible purpose of the party, the central themes of the day's speeches were anti-Communism and American pride. Flanked by a Christmas tree to the left and a menorah to the right, comedian Harry Hershfield encouraged the children to cheer loudly to "drown out those in Eastern Germany who were put together against their will to cheer for a subversive communist country."

As if to reinforce free market ideals, Charles Horowitz, acting on behalf of Mayor Impellitteri, announced that in addition to lunch and individual gifts, 5,000 of the children present will receive their very own bank account with $1 already deposited, "so they may be started on a career of saving and [have] something of their own."

Two children are welcomed to the dais to receive their bank book from East New York Savings Bank president Judge Edward Richards, who called the bank book their most important possession (second only to their bibles and prayer books) "so that you may build up your financial structure while you are young, for I know you'll need it when you are old!"

The days festivities closed with the enthusiastic singing of "God Bless America" accompanied by the Police Department Glee Club and the Fire Department Band.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.


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