|Sonny Fox at 90 years old|
Fox grew up in a Jewish family on East 9th Street between Foster Avenue and Avenue H. He had his bar mitzvah in the Young Israel of Flatbush, and went to PS 217, where he has not set foot since 1938.
Fox lives in Los Angeles now, but last year he went on a “Farewell Tour” and visited many of his old stomping grounds, including PS 217. He says a lot has changed in the intervening 80 years:
“The most striking difference is that when I went to P.S. 217 the neighborhood was half Irish and half Jewish,” he said. Fox’s old neighborhood, now called Kensington, hosts large populations of immigrants from South Asia and the Former Soviet Union as well as a growing contingent of charedi Jews moving over from nearby Borough Park. At P.S. 217, notices are printed in English, Spanish, Urdu, Bengali, Tajiki and Uzbek; more than 30 languages are spoken in the students’ homes.
“That’s what’s so wonderful about New York. I was a child of immigrants, these are new children of immigrants in the same situation. I think of schools as laundromats taking them through the cycles of education and making them American. It keeps regenerating,” he said.During that visit Fox offered to do a performance to raise money for the school. Calling his show “From Brooklyn to Broadway,” Fox shared many personal stories about his work with some of show-business’s most famous songwriters and others.