On October 1, 1955, The Honeymooners premiered on CBS. The classic 39 episodes of that first and only season would achieve cult status and be rerun for decades. The legendary sitcom starred Bushwick’s favorite son, Jackie Gleason, as bus driver Ralph Kramden. But before he became “The Great One,” Gleason honed his craft in Bushwick’s lodge halls and vaudeville houses.
Gleason’s parents, Mae and Herb Gleason, bounced between Bushwick tenements during the 1920s but Gleason often recalled the years spent in apartment 3-A of 328 Chauncey Street. The dingy flat would serve as the model for the apartment set used in The Honeymooners.
Herb Gleason, an alcoholic, left the family in 1925. Gleason lived with his mother at 328 Chauncey until her death in 1932. “It seems like a long, long time ago,” Gleason reminisced in Jackie Gleason: An Intimate Portrait of the Great One. “It’s twenty-seven years since my mother died and I was alone — an orphan at nineteen. All I had was thirty-six cents, enough to say goodbye to Bushwick and take the subway to Manhattan.”
To mark the 60th anniversary of The Honeymooners‘ debut, we visited some of the Brooklyn sites where Gleason grew up, went to school and learned how to make us laugh. Click through the slideshow, and away we go!
Photos by Frank Mastropolo.