I was checking out a popular auction website when I came across this most fabulously, awesome picture. Now, I know you’re saying to yourself “Wow! How can I NOT buy this?” and that’s exactly what I said to myself and now this here picture is in my house and of course, I had to investigate it.
The address is 4905 Fifth Ave., in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn. It was taken in 1910 and it is of Alvin N. Vrooman (at least I’m assuming this handsome young fella is Alvin.) According to my research on popular genealogy websites, Alvin, twin brother of Alfred and older brother of Lee, was the son of Daniel and Margaret Vrooman of Schoharie, NY – Sharon Springs to be exact. The Vrooman name can still be found in Schoharie and this particular gaggle of Vroomans were farmers.
Alvin was born in 1869 and while his family all stayed upstate, Al appears to have taken a chance and ventured out on his own. By about 1900, he had left rural Sharon Springs, moving almost 200 miles away to the thriving city of Brooklyn – well, it had been its own city just two years earlier, until it was consolidated with NYC in the “worst mistake of ’98”. Anyhow, as I was saying, we first find our hero in Brooklyn on the 1900 census where he is living as a boarder in some family’s apartment, only about a 10 minute walk away from what will be his new venture. His is currently a Rail Road Conductor, still single, just checkin’ out the city, a dashing 30 year old bachelor. But his free wheeling days will soon come to an end when he marries none other than Emma VanValkenburg, daughter of Schoharie County’s own Physician /Farmer, Jacob VanValkenburg. The newlyweds can be found in 1905 living in an apartment at 4913 Fifth Ave., a few doors down from their delicatessen. By 1910 they had moved to a nicer place (I am only guessing) across town on Flatbush Ave.
Alas, I can’t find our lovely couple in 1920, but by 1930 Alvin and Emma appear to have given up on their Deli-Days and Al is now a garage mechanic in Wyckoff, NJ. They aren’t broke, they own the house they live in and it’s valued pretty damn high. I guess he made a pretty penny selling those eggs, even though it seems that he only sold them to SOME of us. From what I can tell, he and Emma had no kids and he died sometime between 1930 and 1939, when his younger brother, Lee, passed away. The End.
But what the hell is up with the eggs? Are you telling me that if I wanted to buy eggs from Alvin’s posh deli he’d say no? What’s up with that? WTF I declare!
Now, now, don’t get your bloomers in a bunch. Apparently, eggs for good health were all the rage at the time, and for some time before that. According to all kinds of doctors and other authorities on nutrition back in the old-timey days, eggs were a super food. And the best way to eat those eggs, especially if you were a child or an invalid? Raw. That’s right, the less they were cooked the better. It was said that the more an egg was cooked, the longer it took to digest and the delicate digestive systems of young people and the infirm should not be forced to break down a hard-boiled egg for up to three hours. According to page 462 of Mrs. Hale’s New Cook Book (1857):
Eggs.- An egg broken into a cup of tea or beaten and mixed with a basin of milk, makes a breakfast more supporting than tea alone.
A serving suggestion from the 1911 Bulletin/North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture, Vol. 32, page 32 is to serve eggs steamed or frothed, as once the egg white hardens your tummy will not like it:
Steamed or Frothed Eggs – One egg, a few grains of salt, a small piece of butter. Have a little water boiling in a large covered saucepan. Separate the egg, beat the white to a stiff froth and heap it into a dainty bowl. Make a little well in the center, drop in the yolk (whole), place the bowl in the saucepan, cover the pan closely. Remove all from the fire and let stand five minutes. Remove the egg from the water and serve immediately with salt and butter.
Aside from the nutritive properties of eggs, they were a hell of a lot cheaper than meat. You can find tons of books from the time breaking down what it costs to feed a family eggs for dinner rather than beef or pork, for example. Besides, who didn’t have a chicken or two running around the yard?
I’m guessing Alvin was taking advantage of this trend – did he get the idea from his Physician-father-in-law? Did he get the eggs from the Vrooman farm? Who knows? Alvin knew, and this it may seem is how he made a boat load of cash and bought him and the wifey and $20,000 house out in Jersey. Or maybe the deli flopped and he inherited some money from dad.
If you are looking for eggs now, you will need to go next door to the bagel place at 4903. If you accidentally walk into 4905, they will not have any eggs. According to google-maps, it’s electronics place now.