Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York


Henry Pruitt

InterviewInterviewee: Henry Pruitt
Interviewer: Mark Naison, Rachel Donaldson
Date: 8/3/05
Summarized by Salmaan Khan

Henry Pruitt grew up in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. His first memory of Crotona Park was from when he was in elementary school in the 1940’s-50’s. In 1943, Henry began going to Camp Minisink, a camp operated by St. Augustine Church, where he learned fishing in a catfish pond. Camp Minisink had around three hundred kids where there was art, music and drama, followed by a fishing class.
When they would go fishing in NYC they would go to the Hudson River, they would fish off the piers in Manhattan. They would catch Tommy Cods with sandworms. Pruitt says after learning, he would always fish by himself. As he grew up, he would find different spots to fish. There were not many older fishermen who showed him what to do, so he essentially taught himself. He would fish on the Bronx River for fresh water fish or at Orchard Beach for flounders and striped bass. However, he says he still does not understand Crotona Park Lake, as there seems to be no inlet or outlet, and he does not know where the water comes from. He would usually see other people out fishing when he went by himself. He recalls people who would be there every day, and eventually there was a sense of camaraderie.
Pruitt describes pollution as not being an issue growing up. However, while it is more of an issue today, he continues to eat the fish he catches. He also speaks of his involvement in the Boy Scouts of St. Augustine. He started out at eight or nine and stayed until he was fifteen or sixteen. Though the Boy Scouts were more sports oriented, he was always more interested in fishing. Eventually, he became a nature counselor at Camp Minisink.
Pruitt went to Dewitt Clinton High School and eventually Hunter College. He had been interested in science all his life, which he felt went hand in hand with his interest in fishing. He studied science at Hunter College and ended up working at Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research as a lab technician. Eventually, he became a teacher there, and moved on to a job as a teacher at a junior high school at 143rd street and Brook Avenue in the Bronx. Pruitt taught in the Bronx for seven years, and eventually went to Harlem Prep for a year where he was offered a job at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Eventually, he had to leave Columbia and went to Borough of Manhattan Community College where he was the chairman of the Department of Development Skills. However, after the college noticed that he had not finished his degree, he was forced to finish it. He cites the influence of several mentors throughout his life as having been a critical factor in his professional success, as he has attained a total of five degrees.

Keywords: Camp Minisink, Undercliff Avenue, Harlem River, Crotona Park Lake, Orchard Beach, West Farms, St. Augustine’s Church, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Hunter College, Dewitt Clinton High School, Bronx Zoo, Saw Mill River, Columbia Teachers College, Borough of Manhattan Community College


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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