When I was in school, history was one of my two least favorite subjects. I’ve come to the conclusion that my lack of interest in history was due, in no small part, to the textbooks of the time and my teachers and professors.
The required reading, for the most part, lacked context, color, and a sense of narrative. The texts would have greatly benefited from an author who understood storytelling and the red pencil of a concision editor. My history teachers, without exception, seemed to lack imagination. They tended to present 50-minute-long monologues focused on a dry chronology of names, dates, and locations. I suspect those professors had been delivering the same material, year after year, to class after class of students. (Many of my history teachers also coached school sports—their attention was clearly more focused on the basketball court than on the evolution of the Supreme Court.)
As I grew up, American history—by way of storytellers like David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ron Chernow, John A. Farrell, and their peers—became my go-to subject for casual reading. New York City history is a favorite. These authors do what my teachers couldn’t do. They can tell an engaging story.
Five or six years ago my friend and coworker, Julie Stromberg—knowing that I’m a fan of all things NYC—introduced me to the Bowery Boys podcast about the history of NYC and I’ve been a listener ever since.
The Bowery Boys are Greg Young and Tom Meyers and they’ve been recording the Bowery Boys Podcast since 2007.
They say, “We started the podcast on a whim as a fun project during the summer of 2007. We both had some amateur radio experience in our past (Greg in college in Missouri and Tom in high school in Ohio), and we’d talked for years about producing some sort of fun New York-related radio show. When Greg purchased a new laptop in 2007, it included “Garage Band” (an audio editing program that makes podcast production possible), we decided to give it a whirl and recorded our first show with a cheap karaoke microphone that Tom pulled out of the closet.
“Eleven years later we’re having more fun than ever recording monthly episodes that help tell the fascinating story of New York.”
In 2012 the Bowery Boys were interviewed by Wanderlust Productions. It’s a nice introduction to Greg and Tom.
I’ve just listened to their 271st podcast. It’s titled, Counter Culture: A History of Automats, Luncheonettes, and Diners in New York City. I can’t think of a better introduction to their work. Give a listen. If you have an interest in food, and the big city, I’m pretty sure that you’ll applaud this episode and totally fall for these guys and their podcasts. Just click the image or link below and enjoy.
Visit the Bowery Boys website. Their podcasts are available on iTunes and all sorts of other platforms—and they are absolutely free. Enjoy. Cheers.
Oh, and my other least-favorite subject when I was in school? Calculus. Show me some engaging reading on that subject.