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March 15, 2008 / Park Slope / Perspective / PS … I Love You

Sex: It was always thus

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The New York Times reported it. “His wife stood by him,” the newspaper said. This despite the fact that he had been seen by several witnesses, actually caught red-handed, with the woman. Some of his cronies thought he should stay on the job, others thought there was no way he could hold on to the respect of his followers. And then, finally, he made the only choice he could under the circumstances — he resigned.

No, I’m not talking about our future former governor. In fact the man in question isn’t, or wasn’t, I should say, a politician at all. He was a minister who worked right here in Park Slope, or, as they called it back then “on the Park Slope,” in 1911.

But the parallels between his story and the current scandale are remarkable. The Rev. Dr. E.B. Shaw, the minister of the Memorial Baptist Church on Eighth Avenue and 16th Street, was seen with the woman in Prospect Park — twice.

He claimed that he was merely giving the girl “pastoral advice,” and that he was giving said advice in the park, rather than in the parish house, because Mrs. Shaw was away on vacation and he didn’t want to compromise the young girl’s reputation. Yeah, right.

The next day, a second article appeared in the Times. In this article, the young woman in question, a Miss Clara King, told reporters, “Mr. Shaw never at any time caressed or kissed me or held my hand, or made any effort to do any of those things.” The only thing they talked about, according to her, “was astronomy.”

This despite the fact that three witnesses who followed them into the park saw her head, easily identifiable by the very large white hat she wore, resting on his shoulder.

Both she, Mrs. Shaw, and the Rev. himself claimed that the hierarchy in the church was corrupt and back-biting, and that the story was circulated on purpose in order to create a scandal.

Sounds a bit like that old line, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” — not to mention any names or anything.

When I look through the archives of the Times between the years of 1851 and 1915 and search for “Park Slope” items, the first articles I come across are about how 1,000 Slope residents are suing the city for the cost of their plumbing problems, a spate of arsonists are setting fires all over the neighborhood, there is an increasing demand for houses and apartments in the Slope, and someone is going around robbing doctors offices.

I can’t decide — is it comforting, or disturbing, that many things don’t seem to change? For those who claim that Park Slope has lost its panache and become a snobby mommy’s haven, a sidewalk stroller park, it’s kind of comforting to be able to show that, in some ways, Park Slope isn’t so very different now than it was then. But then again, one hopes that some things do change. Hypocrisy, though apparently a part of human nature from then until now, just isn’t pretty.

Wendy Ponte is a freelance writer in Park Slope.

The Kitchen Sink

State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Park Slope) won the Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood of NYC, which cited her support for medically accurate sex education as early as kindergarten. Safe sex and Velmanette Mongomery: Perfect together! …

Our softball pal Martha Buckwalter is recruiting for the 28-year-old Prospect Park Women’s Softball League, with tryouts set for this weekend — March 15 and 16 — on the blacktop field behind IS 51 on Fifth Avenue, at 8:30 am. If it rains, go next weekend. …

They are the champions! As we predicted, the St. Saviour’s girls basketball team won it all last week, 62–20, over Bishop Loughlin. Rosemary Burke had 28 points! …

Our workout pals, Ben Kessel and Chris Maiurro from the Park Slope Fitness Collective, are running in the Edinburgh Marathon later this month to raise money for HOPE, a Brooklyn-based charity. …

Peacenik pal Nora Gordon is at it again, organizing a protest to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War (whatever happened to “Mission accomplished”?) on March 19, 5:30 pm, at Grand Army Plaza.

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