Pigtail Alley

by Charles McGrath

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In the late 1930's I lived at 48 Myrtle Avenue in the Roseville Section. It was a working class neighborhood which didn't require locked doors. One night my mother was sitting near the front window reading the paper and my father was sleeping on the sofa. I was laying on the floor playing with something. From the street it looked like my mother was home alone. The front door opened and in walked a stranger. My mother screamed" Charley wake up there's a man in here" and my father jumped up out of a dead sleep and grabbed him. He threw him up against the wall and asked him what did he want? The guy said he was looking for money to go down south. My father took him to the front door and threw him down the steps. When he came back in he was just about awake and he realized what he did. He ran outside again to arrest the guy but he was gone.

Between Myrtle Avenue and Roseville Avenue there was an alley. To my knowledge there were two other similar alleys and they were both in Vailsburg. There was one between Alexander Street and Pine Grove Terrace and another one between Smith Street and Sandford Avenue. The purpose of that type of alley was to gain access to the back of ones property to stable a horse or garage a car. Many of these house lots were very narrow some only 20' wide which made access to the rear difficult.

The alley near Myrtle Avenue was affectionately called "Pigtail Alley". Most city kids played in the street but playing in "Pigtail Alley" was very special. There was no traffic to deal with and in some ways it was like our own special playground. This last winter I visited "Pigtail alley for the first time in over 60 years. It didn't seen as big to me as it did as little boy. It's funny when your a little kid everything looked bigger than what it does as an adult. I left my wife in the car as I went into the alley to take pictures. The area is very tough and it is no place to take someone on a tour. When I was in the alley I saw no one but I sensed that I was being watched. Within seconds someone sent a dog out to greet me. Looking back I laugh because the same dog must have been released to greet the person who took the Roseville Tour, Part II from Saint Rose of Lima. Roseville Tour, Part II from Saint Rose of Lima

I have attached three pictures of Pigtail Alley. The above is the entrance from Myrtle Avenue with Orange Street and The Armory in the background. Below left is Pigtail Alley. Below right is the entrance to the alley from Sussex Avenue with the Roseville Avenue Presbyterian Church on the right.

The two alleys I knew in Vailsburg were nameless and will probably will remain so. But the one in Roseville with the houses that have locked doors will always be affectionately known as Pigtail Alley.

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Click on photo to enlarge:
Response from Jeff Schick


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