Oral histories are intimate conversations between and among people who have generously agreed to share these recordings with BHS’s archives and researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. BHS abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.
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[Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer’s First name Last name], [Month DD, YYYY], [Title of Collection], [Call #]; Brooklyn Historical Society.
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Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan
November 14, 2006
Call number: 2008.031.3.002
0:14 - Heights Casino: Sports played, coaches, friends, play surfaces, changes in adulthood, his term as director
9:19 - Doubles squash & tribute; Casino's influence on squash, kids joining, membership; how Montague St. ended before BQE, Penny Bridge
18:08 - Post-war home with grandmother on Prospect Pk.; radio dramas; hospitalized next to war pilot; home in Hts. & view of skyline after BQE, subway rattling; gentrification, kid gangs, & organized crime; Squibb building & concern over Jehovah's witnesses
27:58 - High-rise apartments & old hotels in Hts.; amenities at St. George Hotel; redevelopment; modernized cultural institutions; family philanthropy; school & life detachment from Brooklyn
36:55 - Rejoining Brooklyn; career switch from advertising to small Brooklyn bank; little pretense & social interaction at BHS event & Brooklyn at large; Board Chair at Brooklyn Community Service; selfish people who shame Brooklyn
45:49 - Philanthropic values in U.S.; trustee & student at Pratt in retirement; 9/11 memories; landscape painting, fine arts in CT; career of hard work & long hours at bank
54:08 - His community interaction in Brooklyn institutions via bank; Contrasting philanthropic goals in boroughs; Business: challenge in Williamsburg, success in Boro Park; value of helping at street level
62:31 - Attracted to local, small business; philosophy on change; learning disabilities & athletics conditioned him to strive; Exeter experience & choosing Harvard
69:46 - Harvard admissions interview; language & science studies at Exeter; internalizing Brooklyn ethos of neighborhood interaction leading to self-education
Oral History Interview with Charles Hamm
Charles J. Hamm was born in Brooklyn in 1937. His childhood home was on Pierrpont Street in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. He attended Brooklyn Friends School, Packer Collegiate Institute, Berkeley Carroll School, and Polytechnic Preparatory School; all in the borough. He went on to Phillips Exeter Academy and after serving in the Army, he attended Harvard, then received a graduate degree in business at New York University. During his advertising career, Hamm worked for McCann Erickson Worldwide as Executive Vice President and Vice Chairman of their United States division. In 1975, he became Trustee of Independence Community Bank Corporation, then President in 1985. For much of his time with the bank, he and his wife, Irene, lived in Brooklyn Heights. After retiring in the early 2000s, they resided in Mystic, Connecticut and kept an apartment in the Bronxville neighborhood of Manhattan. His board memberships have included Pratt Institute, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
In this second of two interviews, Charles J. Hamm elaborates on his enjoyment of athletics as a youth at the Heights Casino sports club in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. This leads him to recall the surroundings of the club's Montague Street address before the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway disrupted the street. Hamm remembers a short term stay as a boy at his grandmother's home on Prospect Park West and then a permanent home in Brooklyn Heights near the Promenade. He evaluates the post-World War II gentrification that engendered youth gangs and high-rise apartments in the Heights. He assesses his time away from Brooklyn while at school and then coming back to it during his banking career. This leads into his exploration of why he values community service and philanthropy. In closing, Hamm analyzes how his learning disabilities and athleticism fed his drive to succeed and take risks; leading to life-changing times at Exeter, the Army, and Harvard. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.
The Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Civic leaders series features a dynamic range of narrators. Many are well-known public figures and others are well-known in their communities. This ongoing series focuses on Brooklyn history and the experiences of these narrators often reference their outsized contribution to how New York City citizens live, work, and conduct business in the five boroughs. The oldest narrator in this series was born in 1921.
CitationHamm, Charles, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan, November 14, 2006, Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Civic leaders, 2008.031.3.002; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service.
- Hamm, Charles
- Heights Casino (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
- Higgins, Alexandra Fransioli
- Independence Community Bank (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
- Pratt Institute
- United States. Army
- Boarding schools
- Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (New York, N.Y.)
- Business enterprises
- Charity organization
- Community development
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidVoices of Brooklyn oral histories: Civic leaders