‘When Brooklyn Was Heaven’ revives Depression-era Brooklyn

Stan Levenson. Image courtesy of the author.

People from all over the world who love stories about New York, particularly about growing up in Brooklyn, are fired up with enthusiasm over Stan Levenson’s memoir, “When Brooklyn Was Heaven,” (Outskirts Press, 2011). In her review on Amazon, Anna-Lena Haverdahl writes, “If you are a fan of Woody Allen and his films about Jewish family life in Brooklyn in the forties you will just love this book.” Talk of a possible movie or TV series is in the works.

Who could have ever imagined Levenson would amount to anything? He was poor and fatherless during the Great Depression and World War II. He had no academic aspirations and was a goof-off in one of the roughest vocational high schools in New York City. Through sheer grit, determination, and chutzpah, Levenson graduated from high school, attended college, earned advanced degrees including a Ph.D., and made an international name for himself as a fundraising guru for the public schools. His journey was hardly a smooth ride, but it’s the bumps, challenges, and laughs along the way that make his stories so compelling.

In this inspiring and entertaining book of 135 short stories and 60 photos, Levenson takes readers on a loving and carefree 30-year journey (1931-1961) through Brooklyn neighborhoods rich in history and culture, a small college town in upstate New York (Oswego) where he studied to become a teacher and found himself in the awkward gropes of his first encounters with the opposite sex, unimaginable stories of his Cold War days in the U.S. Navy off the coast of Newfoundland, marriage and fatherhood in Southern California, and life-changing experiences in Europe, the Middle East, and back in L.A.

Levenson says, “My early Brooklyn years were far from auspicious. My dad died when I was four years old. We were dirt poor and ate a lot of vegetable plates in those days. I had little aspiration other than to immerse myself in games of basketball, stickball and punch ball on the streets and playgrounds of Brooklyn including some questionable capers at Coney Island.”

Levenson shares his hilarious and challenging experiences with female babysitters, snowballs from heaven, an exciting invitation to a sweet 16 party, a voluptuous French maid, crazy college capers, and sexy and daring females in the Borscht Belt. He also includes an array of stories of his days in the U.S. Navy that would make the Admiral blush and shares with readers his experiences in Paris, Rome, London, and Salzburg on five dollars a day; experiences in the Middle East riding camels to the Pyramids and the Sphinx; and, a most embarrassing experience ordering his first bottle of wine in a very elegant restaurant in San Francisco.

Stan Levenson holds a B.S. from SUNY, Oswego; an M.A. from UCLA; and a Ph.D. from USIU, now Alliant International University. This is his fifth book. His “Big-Time Fundraising for Today’s Schools,” Corwin Press, is being used around the globe as a blueprint for fundraising success in the public schools. At the present time, Levenson is on a speaking and radio/TV tour, having appeared on the Michael Dresser Show in Los Angeles, the Rhett Palmer Show in Vero Beach, Florida, and the Double D’s in the Morning Show in Wahpeton, North Dakota, among others. He resides in San Diego.


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