Who could guess the financial disaster brewing in New York City, 1929, when my father, Mick Connolly gathered a few friends on his tenement roof to capture the joy of a baptismal celebration several floors below. The third of his seven children, Mary Elizabeth, was being feted with a large gathering at East 97th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan after a May ceremony held at St. Francis de Sales Church, which even today still cares for the community at 135 East 96th Street.
The rooftop, as well as providing a pleasant backdrop for snaps to send back home, was an ideal place to escape the grime of crowded city streets. This photo fittingly characterizes the Co. Monaghan group who had come to the United States only three years before. Surely these lads would win a prize if clothes maketh the man? Double-breasted suits, waistcoats, stiff collars and silk ties represent their new-found success in America. My fabulous flapper-aunt, Annie McNally Brennan holds on to her beau, Frank whom she would soon marry and share her life with for 46 years. She carded this photo with her until the day she died on December 27, 1999.
Only the sky is the limit, this roof-top photo seems to say. The closeness and support they would give each other all their lives and the gracious welcome they would bestow on other immigrants from home, is reflected in the group’s posture. The next day they would change back into laborers’ pants and chambray shirts but not before a good time was had by all. And although they could only celebrate on a roof-top, we their descendants, continue to follow their example and never stop reaching for the sky. ♦