By Buffy Calvert
It might not have seemed auspicious to Morris and Ida Galowitz that their third child and first boy was born on Black Tuesday, October 23, 1929, the night of the Stock Market Crash that ushered in the Great Depression. But it was certainly lucky for Andes.
Young Alan grew up in Brooklyn. “What neighborhood?” you will ask if you’ve ever lived in Brooklyn, “What block? What corner candy store did you go to? ” In fact, the family moved every year because landlords were so desperate for tenants they offered the first three months rent-free. Still, the Galowitz children had a happy childhood. His father prospered in the garment trade as a manufacturer of junior sportswear. Alan received his first camera at age 12. From then on he took pictures of everything and everybody, developed his own film, and printed the photographs. After graduation from James Madison High School, he entered Adelphi College with an eye toward becoming a physicist. His father persuaded him that the garment business was a better way to make money, so he transferred to Fashion Institute of Technology in Dress Design.
On the first morning of millinery class, trying to design a hat for his sister, he discovered that his head block was too small. “Let’s exchange head blocks,” he suggested to the cute girl with the curly hennaed hair sitting at the next desk. She, having found that her block was too big for her own doll-like head, gladly exchanged. They each found the other attractive, but he thought, erroneously, that Phyllis Bresser lived in the Bronx, an onerous subway commute from Brooklyn, so he dated her best friend. In any case he changed majors to Production Management at year’s end.
After F.I.T., Alan joined the Air Force where he served as a photographer during the Korean War. Once discharged, he worked in the garment district at 1400 Broadway. So, by some miraculous coincidence, did the lovely Phyllis. One day they caught sight of each other through a closing elevator door. “Meet me on the 10th floor, “ he shouted. He asked her to go to the beach that Saturday and for date after date after that, leading to a December 1954 wedding. The couple was blessed with four daughters, Lori, Jeannie, Amy, and Cara.
Alan became Production Manager for his father’s firm. Later he started his own company: “Snapdragon,” junior swimwear. He traveled extensively as factories relocated overseas. The family moved to the Philippines for a year when Lori and Jeannie were in college, renting out their house and taking all their treasures, including precious photo albums and the art they had collected each anniversary, to make the house in the Philippines homelike. It was hard to leave family and friends and while they enjoyed their year abroad they were happy to pack up again, ship their goods home, and return to New Jersey. Imagine their dismay to hear that the whole shipment had burned in a warehouse fire.
Providentially they had insurance. Now that nearly all clothing was being made overseas, Alan decided to close his business and, with Phyllis as partner, invest in a photography store: “Galowitz Photographics” at 13th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. Later they expanded and moved East to 13th between University and Broadway. He became an expert in the restoration of old photos and an authority on the development of the craft, giving illustrated lectures throughout the city. Phyllis worked in the store fulltime and all the daughters helped. The shop became so famous in the field that Martha Stewart interviewed Alan and filmed one of her TV shows on the premises.
Six years ago Alan and Phyllis closed the business and moved to Andes to be near their daughter Amy and her family in their retirement. Alan, an avid student of history, delved into Andes’ past, especially the work of 19th century photographers, David Bruce and Charles Carman. He joined the Andes Society for History and Culture Board and curated the David Bruce exhibit, after developing the Society’s collection of Bruce’s original glass plates. He produced a fine catalog for this very popular show.
He started the Camera Club, which meets monthly at the library. He is a reporter, photographer, and layout maven for the Andes Gazette. Last winter, he entertained the Roundtable with a multi-media presentation of the history of photography (including the Martha Stewart film) and will give the program again this fall for the Forum Society.
Starting September 1st, we are to be treated to another ASHC show at the Hunting Tavern featuring an early Andes photographer curated by Alan Galowitz. We will view Charles Carman’s work from 1870-1910 through antique stereoscopes accompanied by an extensive catalog detailing the buildings pictured, their current appearance, and a map for a self-guided tour.
How fortunate we are that Alan Galowitz, who entered the world on a dark night in Brooklyn, has brought so much Andes history to light. His warm, gentle, self-deprecating demeanor cloaks a deep knowledge and mastery of his craft, which he generously shares with his adopted community. A gracious gift indeed.