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On the Sidewalks of New York

Series produced by Margaret Poethig

Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Artwork by Richard Creps 

Richard Paul Poethig was born in 1925 and grew up in the tenements of Yorkville in Manhattan. In 26 episodes, Richard tells the story of his journey from his working-class roots to his ordination as a Presbyterian minister. The recordings of Richard reading his memoir are mixed with music that punctuates the humor and drama of his story.

On the Sidewalks of New York is a rich historical account of living in an “old law” tenement on 80th Street in Yorkville; attending Good Will Sunday School (Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church’s mission on the East Side); leaving home to attend the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1945 before the end of World War II; moving back to New York to study under Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Theological Seminary; courtship and marriage, graduation with a Masters of Divinity, and finding a church.

Richard devoted his life and ministry to urban and economic justice through the Presbyterian church’s “social creed” — a “vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination.” He wrote extensively on the church’s relation to the working poor and on labor issues both in the Philippines, where he and his family lived as missionaries for 15 years, and in the United States. Hide full description

On the Sidewalks of New York is a rich historical account of living in an “old law” tenement on 80th Street in Yorkville; attending Good Will Sunday School (Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church’s mission on the East Side); leaving home to attend the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1945 before the end of World War II; moving back to New York to study under Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Theological Seminary; courtship and marriage, graduation with a Masters of Divinity, and finding a church. Richard devoted his life and ministry to urban and economic justice through the Presbyterian church’s “social creed” — a “vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination.” He wrote extensively on the church’s relation to the working poor and... Show full description


26 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard receives an early political education from his Socialist cigar maker grandfather, by hearing over-the-counter conversations at the butcher ...

  • Added: Feb 02, 2013
  • Length: 24:25
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard’s first ten years on First Avenue lay the foundation for life ahead. Within a three-block radius were the essential building blocks for int...

  • Added: Feb 02, 2013
  • Length: 20:18
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
The tenement windowsill is the instrument of social interaction between neighbors and the social control of children on the street. The front wind...

  • Added: Feb 03, 2013
  • Length: 16:11
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Friendships on New York City streets are made and solidified by the games young Richard plays after school and on Saturdays. Which game is played d...

  • Added: Feb 04, 2013
  • Length: 18:01
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Plagued by her tuberculosis, Richard’s mother yearns to raise her children outside the city. On special days, she takes Richard down to Penn Statio...

  • Added: Feb 04, 2013
  • Length: 12:19
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
One summer, through the help of a tenement neighbor, Richard's mother sends him to live with the McCreery family on a farm outside of Stroudsburg, ...

  • Added: Feb 06, 2013
  • Length: 13:42
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard's mother enrolls him in Good Will Sunday School, an East Side mission of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. At Good Will, Richard lear...

  • Added: Feb 06, 2013
  • Length: 21:38
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Horace Hollister, the devoted choirmaster and youth leader, helps Richard break through the wall of established social cliques at Madison Avenue. R...

  • Added: Feb 09, 2013
  • Length: 17:42
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Too young for induction into the army, Richard works at Best & Co. and next with Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians in the shipping department. Upo...

  • Added: Feb 09, 2013
  • Length: 30:34
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard is caught between two philosophies of life: his father’s hard work ethic, which saw Richard’s responsibility to help meet the immediate exp...

  • Added: Feb 10, 2013
  • Length: 15:48
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard faces the uncertainty of college life and its requirements. And his heavy New York accent marks him as an outsider at the College of Wooster.

  • Added: Feb 10, 2013
  • Length: 19:47
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard learns the value of a liberal education at the College of Wooster, where the study of science and religion are complementary. During Easter...

  • Added: Feb 10, 2013
  • Length: 25:00
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
After his mother's death, Richard throws himself into his academic work, four jobs, and campus political and social activities. He earns a reputati...

  • Added: Feb 10, 2013
  • Length: 29:10
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
During the summer of 1947, Richard works for the Dress Joint Board in New York City’s Garment District. From his co-workers Richard learns more abo...

  • Added: Feb 17, 2013
  • Length: 16:11
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard’s leadership of the Student League for Industrial Democracy on the Wooster campus has not gone unnoticed. On of Richard's professors confro...

  • Added: Feb 17, 2013
  • Length: 19:17
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
In June 1948, Richard travels to Canada to see “democratic socialism” in action. First he hitchhikes 1,000 miles from Greenwich Village to Madison,...

  • Added: Feb 17, 2013
  • Length: 24:55
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard and his friends sign up to work on the newly organized Carrot River Co-op Farm in the sparsely settled, harsh northern terrain of Saskatche...

  • Added: Feb 18, 2013
  • Length: 19:30
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard spends the 1948 fall election season organizing student chapters of the League for Industrial Democracy on college campuses. Though loyal t...

  • Added: Feb 18, 2013
  • Length: 28:27
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard's course on Reinhold Niebuhr with Robert Bonthius, Wooster’s religion professor, confirms his decision to attend Union Theological Seminary...

  • Added: Feb 18, 2013
  • Length: 20:05
Caption: Artwork by Richard Creps
Richard looks forward to his studies under Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the most challenging theological thinkers of his generation. In his last summer...

  • Added: Feb 18, 2013
  • Length: 23:41