Van Harris and his wife, Shirley, grew up a block away from each other in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
They met in the late 1930s, and at StoryCorps, they looked back on their old neighborhood and the characters who congregated at Dubrow’s Cafeteria on Eastern Parkway.
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Later on, I used to take you with me when we'd go to our hangout which was Dubrow's Cafeteria.
SH: We'd come in late at night. We'd have a cup of coffee. And then, who was our friend who would have dinner and…
VH: Oh, Herbie the Nibbler. (Laughs) He ate so much…
SH: And they gave him a discount on his food.
VH: They sure did. At Dubrow's… Here comes Herbie, so they'd give him a table and he'd sit all by himself. And we'd gather around and watch Herbie the Nibbler eat. We used to say…
SH: He had a tapeworm.
VH: He didn't have a tape worm. We used to say he has a snake.
And we had a guy called One-Ball Barney. I don't think I have to explain it.
And there was a guy named Mendel Berman. Mendel...Mendel had a leaky ear. And he'd go to dances and he'd sit there. And he'd put a handkerchief in his ear. And it was a terrible habit. (Laughs) He would smell the handkerchief. (Laughs) How could you pick up a girl when you're there sniffing' a handkerchief that's got the deposit from a bad ear, you know. But that's they way these guys were.
Oh Shirley, you grew up with these fellas too. They loved her…
SH: Yeah… We'd sit around and everybody would be telling jokes. You just felt at home.
VH: Filthy Milthy was my friend. And when we got married, Filthy Milthy was our babysitter. And he was as crazy as a bedbug. While we were out wherever we went, he would take the dresser drawers and he would exchange them. He moved the top drawer to the bottom, the middle drawer to the top. So if we went looking for, let's say, underwear, it wasn't in the same place. This was Milthy.
SH: And it turned out that all our children have a great sense of humor as a result of being surrounded by these guys. And I say to you today, uh, thank-you for a wonderful life.
VH: Well, thank-you...