Former Hicksville resident John Fabrizio recently published his first book, In the Shadow of the El: Images of a Brooklyn Childhood.
Many Long Islanders started out as Brooklynites and John Fabrizio is no exception. Fabrizio, who grew up in Brooklyn during 1950s and 1960s, has turned that migration into a book, In the Shadow of the El: Images of a Brooklyn Childhood.
According to Fabrizio, "Brooklyn has always been a magical place. In fact, one out of every seven Americans grew up in Brooklyn, had relatives there, have family there or know someone from there."
In the Shadow of the El: Images of a Brooklyn Childhood focuses on his childhood in the Navy Yard section of Brooklyn during the 1950s. Fabrizio's book is part nostalgic trip down memory lane for the "good old days" and part coming of age story where a boy struggles through adolescence, which makes the book relatable to both those from Brooklyn and not.
The author moved from Brooklyn to Hicksville in the 1970s to raise his children. "We had moved from the city looking for a nice place to raise our kids. Hicksville was ideal - not yet expensive and yet close enough to the city to make the daily commute on the LIRR tolerable" said Fabrizio. "This book is especially for all those who grew up there during the fifties and sixties and want to recapture a little bit of their own Lost Eden."
Writing has not been the primary goal of Fabrizio's career; in fact it was only after retiring from a 30-year long career in various managerial and executive positions at JPMorgan Chase a few years ago that he decided to give it a try. " ... Literally, one day it hit me that I had always enjoyed to write - going all the way back to sixth grade where I wrote a two-part mystery, Murder in Room 402, for the school newspaper. Even in high school, I was the sports editor for the yearbook and wrote all the articles for the various teams," said Fabrizio.
In Brooklyn, Fabrizio attended Catholic school complete with nuns in habits. The nuns, he said, "carried a clicker and on its sound you immediately knew what you were supposed to do. They were tough but they gave me a great foundation. The high school I attended was all boys, and could have passed for the scene in the movie Heaven Help Us. Four hundred or so boys, all with ties, black blazers and grey pants," Fabrizio said.
Fabrizio noted that the Brooklyn of today is different from the Brooklyn of his childhood, but that the changes vary by neighborhood. The trendy neighborhoods are, "no longer a place to get out of [but rather the] place to be and enjoying a current surge of popularity among the upper middle class. Unfortunately, so is the cost of living. A two bed [room] apartment with a river view can cost you a couple of million," he said.
However, remnants of the Brooklyn he remembers remain. "Back in the regular neighborhoods, with the regular people, it's the same Brooklyn. Brooklyn has always been...where life's dramas can be heard, above and below you in the apartments, every night. The kids [today]...have the same ambitions and dreams. In a sense, they are creating their own book of Brooklyn memories," said Fabrizio.
Although this first book is about his memories of Brooklyn, Fabrizio does have many memories about Hicksville and Long Island including those of his daily commute on the Long Island Rail Road, which he had to take during the day of the "Great Ice Storm."
"I left the house around seven in the morning just like normal and returned after six, just like normal - the only thing was I never made it into the city and work. [I] spent the whole time on the LIRR," he said.
A graduate of St. John's and Pace Universities, Fabrizio spends part of his free time mentoring students from his former prep school and has plans to continue writing. "I could continue and add more stories of my Brooklyn during my teenage years. However, lately, I've been mulling over a book about the homeless and letting them tell us their stories, many of which must be fascinating," Fabrizio said, adding that he would not rule out writing a book about raising his children in Hicksville and what he learned while living here.
In the Shadow of the El: Images of a Brooklyn Childhood is available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Additional information on the book is available at www.BrooklynShadow.com.