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Alfred and Lucille Kolkin papers

Call Number



1942-1965, inclusive
; 1944-1946, bulk


Kolkin, Alfred
Kolkin, Lucille Gewirtz


0.42 Linear Feet in one manuscript box.

Language of Materials

English .


Alfred "Al" Kolkin and Lucille "Lucy" Gewirtz both grew up in the Brooklyn Jewish community of Bensonhust. They were married in 1943. Al Kolkin worked as a Navy radio technician during World War II, while Lucy worked as a ship fitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Alfred and Lucille Kolkin papers span 1942 to 1965 and contain correspondence between Al and Lucy Kolkin during Al's Navy training and active service in the Pacific in World War II. The collection also includes handwritten training notes by Lucy Kolkin and official Navy publications from her employment at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a ship fitter, along with employment records, identification badges, union membership materials, and miscellaneous personal papers.

Biographical Note

Alfred "Al" Kolkin and Lucille "Lucy" Gewirtz both grew up in the Brooklyn Jewish community of Bensonhust. Al Kolkin, born August 3, 1918, began his naval training as a U.S. Navy Radio Technician in Sampson, N.Y. (272 miles upstate on Seneca Lake in Seneca County) in 1944. He transferred to Chicago, IL for technician training, then to Del Monte, CA for further training. Kolkin shipped out of Oakland, CA in the summer of 1945 as a Radio Technician first class on the USS Patroclus, an auxiliary repair ship, and later received promotion to Radio Technician, second class. He was discharged from the Navy in January, 1946, and returned home to Brooklyn.

Lucy Gewirtz, born September 20, 1918, graduated from college and became employed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942. Her notebook indicates that she received training as a ship fitter. She and Al Kolkin married on November 27, 1943, but the two may have first been acquainted in their community, since their mothers were friends. Lucy remained in Brooklyn while Alfred trained and went at sea, and lived with her parents at 8620 20th Avenue in Bensonhurst. Letters indicate that she planned to visit California in September of 1944 to be with Al during his stateside training but became ill and did not go or did not complete the trip. She apparently became employed in clerical office work as of 1945.

Scope and Contents

The Alfred and Lucille Kolkin papers are made up of a single series grouped by subject and therein by chronological order, consisting of Al's letters to Lucy, 1944 to 1946; Lucy's letters to Al, 1944 to 1945; Lucy's training materials from her job as a ship fitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, 1942 to 1944; and employment records, identification badges, union membership materials, and miscellaneous personal papers, 1945 to 1965. Al's letters to Lucy offer a rich and humorous description of the training and life of a Navy Radio Technician during World War II, including descriptions of his travels and interactions with people in New York, Chicago, Northern California, and Japan. He wrote about books he read, movies he saw, his studies, V-J Day, anti-Semitic encounters, and newspaper clippings sent to him by Lucy and his sister, Mimi. Folder 2 also contains a letter from Al to Lucy's mother, and Folder 7 contains comments on personnel losses in the Pacific.

Lucy's letters to Al, whom she sometimes addressed as "Butch," provide descriptions of her daily life and work in Brooklyn. She updated him regularly on news about their family and friends and described her experiences as a working woman in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and as a secretary for the Midtown Manhattan Committee.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Alfred and Lucille Kolkin papers, ARC.048, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Alfred and Lucille Kolkin, 1990.

Related Published Materials

An informative commentary on the Alfred and Lucille Kolkin papers can be found in author Jennifer Egan's essay "Reading Lucy," featured in the Brooklyn-based anthology Brooklyn Was Mine (New York: Riverhead Books, c2008).

Other Finding Aids

An earlier version of this finding aid, containing a detailed folder listing, is available in paper form at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Please consult library staff for more information.

Collection processed by

Eden Marie M. Picazo

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:19:59 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: English.

Processing Information

Minimally processed to the collection level.

The collection combines the accessions 1990.009 and 1992.004.

Note Statement

change to complete_collection_level


Brooklyn Historical Society


Box: ARC.048 1 of 1 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201