Fred Cooper could never stand still when he spoke to you. With short black hair parted to the side, a polo shirt and gray polyester pants, Freddie had a voice that was oddly high pitched for a six foot sixteen year old. With his two pudgy hands tucked in his pants pockets, he would gently rock from side to side as he discussed last night’s Ranger game. Freddie always smiled when he spoke too.
Freddie also carried a black briefcase when he went to school, just swinging it by his side as he walked down our block. Freddie had a walk similar to a duck too; his two gigantic brown shoes practically took up the entire sidewalk as he strolled by. Yes, Freddie was sure a “fish out of water” when he walked down East 4th. But then again Freddie was a “Techie” or Brooklyn Tech Student, so that alone may have explained a lot back in 1975.
And we were the East 4th street boys, long hair, engineer boots and bell-bottoms. Just thinking we were “oh so cool”, and then there was Fred Cooper, a kid who looked more like our Grandfathers than us.
But Freddie was a good friend of Robert Brennan our “go to guy”. So no matter what Freddie looked like or sounded like, he was “in” when it came to our block. And besides, Freddie was a real nice kid who wouldn’t hurt a fly, and probably helped hundreds of Kensington Grandmothers cross the street on Church Avenue. A real sweet kid that Freddie Cooper.
Now, back in 1975 Bartell Pritchard Square was simply known to us as the “Circle” up by the Sanders Movie Theater. Forget Connecticut Muffin, The Pavilion, or any of the other Park Slope places up there now. No, the “Circle” was not a place where you would want to be walking around at nighttime, especially alone.
But knowing Freddie Cooper, I don’t think he thought about it twice, because the “Kind” rarely recognize the “Evil” that the city of Brooklyn breeds.
Freddie would have given his money to any one too. He was probably one of those people you see on the train that always sticks their hands in their pockets as soon as the panhandler walks on. So I know there was no reason why they should have hurt Freddie that night, no, none at all.
And I’m sure the “wolf pack” of kids that attacked Freddie never knew that he may have helped one of their Grandmothers cross Prospect Park West at one time. No, they just saw an innocent victim, a “Gentle Lamb” grazing in their “Lions Den” that night back in 1975.
The knife that stuck out of Freddie’s back just glistened in the Windsor Terrace moonlight. The lights of Bartell Prichard Square reflecting off the long silver blade that was buried deep inside his still warm body. The back of Freddie Cooper’s Blue Brooklyn Tech jacket turned to a horrible dark red. The blood of his body just dripped onto the dirty sidewalk by his side. Fred Cooper breathed his last breath as a sixteen year old that night, and died right there on the dirty sidewalk of Bartell Prichard Square.
A sad and lonely death for a son of Kensington, Brooklyn, A senseless killing of one of the sweetest kids you ever met. I guess Freddie was just in the “wrong place at the wrong time” that’s all. Yeah, how many times have you heard that?
So the next time your up by the Pavilion or having a “Latte” at Connecticut Muffin, say a prayer for Fred Cooper. Because he died on the cold concrete sidewalk of Bartell Pritchard Square so many years ago, in a time before Windsor Terrace was cute and Park Slope was pretty. Somewhere in the Brooklyn of my youth, so many years ago.