The reviews are rolling in…

… a rich personal reminiscence of growing up in the predominantly Jewish southeast Bronx from 1916 to 1926.  – The New York Times

To read this book is to immerse yourself in a bygone era, in the wake of the First World War, where there were no computers, smart phones or Internet. Instead, there was an iceman, a milkman, an “I cash clothes man” and an organ grinder with a small, red-capped monkey on a long chain. There were trolley cars for public transportation, but still some horses, pulling all kinds of carts–including a flatbed with a merry-go-round. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Back then the streets and stoops of low-rise tenements and apartments and homes were teeming with people: the Jews, including the Orthodox, the Italians, and others who shared a neighborhood in relative peace and harmony—no gang wars in that community at least. – The Miami Herald

There was stickball and stoopball and marbles, and everyone’s mother leaning out the window screaming for their sons and daughters to come in for dinner. – The Boston Globe

For those of a certain age, this book will bring back vivid memories. The book is especially worth reading for the descriptions of life on the street and for its detailed profiles of several specific families. For some of us, this memoir also offers a nostalgic return to the all-important candy store, where you could linger with your nose pressed up against the glass case, clutching a few pennies, and taking your time with that all important decision of whether to buy the rolls of sugar dots on paper, the liquid in wax, or the minuscule ice cream cones made of colored marshmallow. Another era indeed! – The Sacramento Bee

On Amazon and Kindle

Nat Lobell’s memoir of a childhood in the Bronx from 1916 to 1926, Of Things That Used To Be, is available on Amazon.  Once on Amazon, search for “Nathan D. Lobell” or “Of Things That Used To Be.”  (If searching for the title, use quotes.)  It is in paperback and on Kindle.

I will be approaching the Tenement Museum and the Bronx Historical Society to see if they might carry the book in their bookstores and/or promote it.  If you have thoughts of other organizations I might approach, contact John Lobell at

Welcome to this website for Nathan Lobell. My name is John Lobell and I am Nat’s son. You can find out more about me at

Nat was a remarkable person, as you can see from his brief biography in the Bio section of this website. One of his interests was writing, and this site is primarily about a book he wrote describing growing up in the Bronx. You can order the book from Amazon.

He also painted, and I will eventually put some of his paintings on this website.

Of Things that Used to Be describes the rich and colorful lives of the Jews in the Southeast Bronx between 1916 and 1926 where Nathan Lobell grew up.

Here you will discover how to score a point at stoopball, how to cheat the gas company, and how to tamper with a butcher’s scale. You will learn how kosher meat is slaughtered, how gas is made from coal, and how to prepare darrflayshe—starting with a trip to Bronx Park to gather wood and ending with a gourmet dish on a carved-out oak plank. You will find out how the buying of soup-greens could be a searing experience.

The violence is here—between father and son, husband and wife. The ambitions for the children are described—for the son to be a doctor and for the daughter to marry one.

The “woikizz” or vurrkers” (depending on what part of central Europe you came from) are overheard in the passionate arguments about the unions and their politics. The shopkeepers, their women, the peddlers, the back-yard musicians—the whole cast of characters that made up the pageant of the street is paraded in these pages.

In the streets, on the roofs, in the flats—people are everywhere—the kids and their parents struggling to find a way up and out.

Nathan Lobell (August 28, 1911 – August 11, 1995)

Nat’s way up and out of the South Bronx was through law as his profession and through writing, painting, sculpture, and music as his passions.

After graduating from City College and then Columbia Law School, he went to Washington to join with other New Dealers, eventually at the Security and Exchange Commission, ultimately rising to become top staff officer. He resigned to work on Wall Street and to own a small business.

After retirement, Nathan spent many happy years in the woods of Wilton, Connecticut writing, painting, sculpting, making and playing violas, and gardening.