Friday, April 10, 2015
"Holes In My Shoes" - Jack Beers (2006)
Here’s a little documentary about a guy I never heard of before. His name is Jack Beers, and apparently he was very well known in certain areas of the city I grew up in; New York. He was born in 1910 on the Lower East Side, near where my Grandmother Marcus had been raised a few years earlier.
He was raised in and around East 6th Street in a cold water flat, the son of Jewish immigrants who had left Austria for a better life. What must have they thought about the Lower East Side? Like many of the immigrants of the time they may have seen it as a step down; but also as a stepping stone to a better future than they would have in Austria.
Jack was only about 5 when he started selling newspapers on the corner of Avenue B and East 10th Street. This was the beginning of a lifetime of odd jobs; including gleaning fallen coal from the wagons, to help the family keep warm in the winters. In the summer they slept; like so many others; on roofs and fire escapes. He had 4 siblings; one sister named Lilian, and 3 brothers named Manny, Julius and Hy. His memories of them are beautiful.
He became a self-taught Structural Engineer and worked on many of the most notable of New York’s famous buildings; including the Empire State Building and Radio City Music Hall. He also trained dogs and found the time to appear in over 200 films. He was married 3 times.
In 1950 he was responsible for erecting the radio tower on top of The Empire State Building for General Sarnoff and RCA. And in the 1960’s he did much of the steel design work for what would become Lincoln Center. So, he’s all around you, even today, 6 years after his death.
He passed away in 2009 in Stamford, Connecticut, still holding the title of "New York City's Strongest Boy". This man’s life tells like a work of fiction. To have him telling it on film is priceless, as he appears to be just another old man. The type you see in MacDonald’s nursing a coffee for the entire morning because he has nowhere to go. The type of guy who tells you stories you don’t really believe. Think of him the next time you talk with someone like that. There’s a lot of truth behind those old eyes.