Old South Brooklynites don't forget easy. To some, Columbia Street may seem like a fairly bleak thoroughfare with a few nice businesses and a lot of charmless, recent-vintage, red-brick architecture (right). But to them, it's where they spent the Saturday nights of their youth.
From 1900 to 1960 of so, Columbia Street was what Court and Smith Streets are today—the place you bought your goods, ate out, saw movies, met friends, had fun. Pushcarts lined Union Street between Hicks and Columbia. There were shoe stores, movie houses, luncheonettes. Absolutely nothing of it is left today. The death of the docks, neglect and a big dig which caused many buildings to collapse utterly erased the street as a life force. But it didn't erase memories.
Go in Two Fifteen, the newish Italian chowhouse with the oldish customers, or Sonny and Nancy's corner shop on Union, and you'll see old black-and-whites of the bustling strip in its heyday. (The same pictures, actually.) One notable feature of the street back then was a huge, standing street clock. It was on the east side of Columbia between President and Union (just about at the spot pictured above). It was well-known enough that people would use is as a meeting place, they way they do the information booth in Grand Central.
It was removed sometime in the '70s. It may not have disappeared altogether, however. As one oldtimer said to me, "Somebody's got that clock somewhere." —LC