Springs Alley

AFTER REACHING ADULTHOOD, one of my strangest and saddest remembrances of Brooklyn was the fact that Spring Alley, a red light district, once existed there.
When my mother and other homeowners came to this far out boundary of the city to buy and live in their modest homes, such a notorious section was not there. I have often asked myself these questions: Why was it planned to be in this area of colored homeowners? By whom did it come into being? I have never known the answers to my questions.
We were never allowed to go near this alley or pass through it, but when we went to the corner grocery, we would often see some of these unfortunate young white women who had come to buy at the store. Most of them looked to be quite young and were often very pretty. They were always dressed in expensive negligees or some other fancy dress. Cosmetics were usually applied too heavily to their faces and nearly all of them had a white poodle dog trailing behind them.
They often gave you a friendly smile, but they seldom spoke to you. We were told that one or more of the most lavishly decorated homes belonged to the madam or the person who seemed to be in charge of the younger ones.
At first, this type of life existed only in Springs Alley, but afterwards it spread to another block in a nearby street and to another alley that came into existence because a part of several large lots was used in making it.
I remember hearing the Salvation Army play up and down these districts on Sunday evenings. Men dressed in the Salvation Army’s uniform frequently preached to the women at these services. What good they did, I do not know. But no doubt, some girls must have heeded their advice and returned to a better way of life.
When I hear the notorious of Brooklyn being discussed and written, I always remember these dens of sin being placed among decent colored people.
Many needy colored people were employed by these women and were often given lucrative pay to keep them as servants while the women pursued this way of life. This meant that many innocent children in the vicinity were exposed to much wrong-doing. They ran errands for these women and in all likelihood, discovered what constituted their living. It is true that this district was finally removed from Brooklyn after many years. But much damage had been done to the lives of many people. The bad, unprofitable seed had been sown. Unfortunately, it had not been the choice of Brooklyn’s residents.

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