I recently had the pleasure of meeting Helene Hoenig, Wynne’s childhood best friend on the Lower East Side. Wynne often mentioned Helene (2nd syllable rhymes with “clean”) when reminiscing about her elementary school days. She liked to tell me how Helene was the smartest girl in school. And both of her parents were teachers. And, as it turns out, Helene was apparently Wynne’s link to Jewish American culture.
Helene and Wynne re-connected a few years ago via Facebook. And Helene, who now lives in Oakland, CA, and I have been in touch over the past year through Facebook. So when she mentioned she was planning a visit back to NYC in the next year, I told her I wanted to meet up with her and just walk around the Lower East Side together for an informal tour.
This past Thursday we finally met up and it worked out really nicely. We got to know each other, and I got to see the Lower East Side through Helene’s eyes which felt like Wynne’s eyes as well. Helen also got to meet Helen (rhymes with melon) whom she’s already become familiar with via Facebook.
Here are some photos from our meetup:
Helen and I with Helen and her father Leo in Seward Park, one of the parks where Wynne and Helene used to play. Incidentally, I first met Leo last year the week after Wynne died. Not knowing me at all, he came by the apartment to pay his respects, which meant so much to me once I realized who he was and how he was connected to Wynne. He shared many stories and recollections which I appreciated greatly at the time and still hold on to.
Dogan’s candy store on Grand St., where Wynne and Helene used to buy their candy. It goes by another name now, but the sign out front still says Dogan’s, and according to Helene everyone in the neighborhood still refers to it as Dogan’s.
Helene, Luciana and Helen in front of P.S. 110 (I think that’s the right number) where Wynne and Helene were all smarty-smart together in elementary school before their lives diverged when they went off to different junior high and high schools. The school is practically below the Williamsburg Bridge, and nearly as far east as you can go before hitting FDR Drive. It’s also a half block away from what remains of Sheriff Street where my mom’s father lived when he was born. (Update: Thanks to Lee, who says his great grandparents also lived in Sheriff Street for sharing more info about Sheriff Street here and here.)
Sitting on a Grand St. stoop: “When your mommy was a little girl….”