UPPER EAST SIDE — The night Yorkville native Thomas Pryor was born in 1954, his father was so excited that he went to the local drinking hole on York and East 85th Street and started dancing on top of the bar.
Loftus Tavern, now Bailey's Corner, is where Pryor spent afternoons as an 8-year-old sipping Coke and talking sports with the other patrons. The pub's owner, Jack Loftus, had attended Pryor's confirmation, baptism and wedding.
Yorkville — bound by East 79th and East 96th streets, from Third Avenue to the East River — was a small community with a melting pot of cultures, a place where kids felt safe enough to run across the street, so long as they stayed away from the avenues, Pryor said.
“It was absolutely a kid’s dream,” he said. “When I was 5, I was allowed to play in the street away from the house as long as I stayed in the block or went around the corner where my grandmother lived.”
Pryor, now a 62-year-old author and photographer, will join a panel of other longtime residents, historians and researchers at The Bohemian National Hall at 321 E. 73rd St. on Saturday to reminisce over the neighborhood's diverse German, Czech, Hungarian and Irish roots — and to remember what it was like growing up on the Upper East Side.
"People tend to think of the Upper East Side as the 'Gold Coast,' of Fifth Avenue, Park and Madison," said Rachel Levy, the executive director of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, which is putting on Saturday's "Yorkville: A Celebration of Home" event with the Historic Districts Council.
"But part of the mission of Friends is to preserve and celebrate the sense of place and history of the entire Upper East side. We're trying to pull out the nostalgic element of the place and get people to really think back to what the neighborhood was like in the context of how it was changed," Levy continued.
Others in the discussion panel will include writer and musician Peter Walsh, lifelong Yorkville resident and member of Sokol Hall Irene Mergl and Edward Kasinec, who was raised in the Czech, Slovak and Russian communities in Yorkville.
The New York Public Library will record the discussion for its on-going Community Oral History Project.
A buffet will follow, including local fare from Schaller & Weber, Glaser's Bake Shop and Grunauer Bistro.
"[The event] will leave you with a smile, with your own memories," Pryor said. "This is the preservation of what was and what still is…I think through my photos and stories, I’m honoring my family, my friends and crazy characters before and during me. I think that it's a lost world of kids playing on the streets, mothers at windows and stoops, and fathers not always being fathers, hanging out at bars," he said.
Tickets to the event are $15 for Friends members and $20 for non-members, visit the Friends website for more information.