Charles Berkman

Memories of growing up in Coney Island during the Great Depression and 55 years practicing law

Charles Berkman, who was 88 when this interview was recorded and turned 90 on July 2, 2018, grew up on West 29th Street in Coney Island during the Great Depression.  The youngest of nine children of a hard-working orphan immigrant from Poland, Berkman recalls peddling fruit, shining shoes, helping concessionaires in the amusement area, and working at his father's junkyard. Attending PS 188, Mark Twain Junior High and Lincoln High School, he went on to attend Brooklyn College, when tuition was free, and Brooklyn Law School. After getting his law degree, he put up a sign "Charles Berkman, Attorney at Law" on the front of his family's home in Coney Island, where friends and neighbors would become his first clients. After 55 years practicing law, he gave the family firm to his daughter Marna, who continues it today. Berkman vividly recalls the hardscrabble times of the 1930s and his journey "From Coney Island to Court Street," as his memoir is titled. 

Charles Berkman passed away on November 18, 2022 at the age of 94.