Retired District 281 twin teachers release memoir

Retired District 281 school teachers Joe (left) and John Gindele have published a memoir detailing life growing up in New York City. The book was published July 2012. (Photo by Anna Woodwick - Sun Newspapers)
Identical twins Joe (left) and John Gindele have published a memoir detailing life growing up in New York City. The book was published July 2012. (Photo by Anna Woodwick – Sun Newspapers)

Joe Gindele was known in his family for writing an annual Christmas letter. The year he decided not to, relatives took notice.

From there, he started writing a series of memories from childhood and passed them out to family members. That’s when his identical twin John Gindele thought there may be a larger audience that would be interested in their stories.

Six years later, Crystal residents and retired District 281 teachers Joe and John, have turned their memories into a 328-page memoir.

“Yorkville Twins,” concentrates on the first 18 years of the brothers’ lives when they lived in Yorkville, an ethnic neighborhood in Manhattan, N.Y.

“It’s a love story for our family and the neighborhood,” Joe said. “We wanted to leave a legacy for our nieces and nephews and their children. To let them know what their family went through.”

For the past 68 years, John would write notes on life experiences on whatever he could get his hands on. The envelopes, napkins and plates were thrown into a box. After he made the decision to write a memoir, he took the notes and outlined the book.

“Joe wasn’t that interested at first,” John said. “It took maybe a year until he looked at it and would say ‘maybe we could tweak this a little.’ Little by little he got involved. We revised about 81 times.”

“I saw how excited John was and I was trying to help him do some of the editing and I said ‘here’s a story we should put into words,’” Joe added.

Joe and John moved to Minnesota when they were 18 to attend the University of Minnesota for their undergraduate degrees. Since moving to the Midwest, the twins have taught at Robbinsdale and Cooper high schools, Plymouth Junior High, Sandburg Middle School and Sonnesyn Elementary, among others. They have a combined 64 years teaching experience.

Through “Yorkville Twins,” Joe and John were able to explain to their readers their lives growing up in a seven-member household in a five-bedroom apartment on the Upper Eastside before they traveled west.

“It’s rediscovering childhood memories and immigration,” Joe said on the memoir.

The Gindele’s were born to a Czechoslovakian mother and German father. John said they grew up in a dangerous neighborhood and when his students would ask if he had ever seen “West Side Story,” he said he lived it.

“We grew up in a tough neighborhood,” Joe said. “We worked. We were hustlers.”

Throughout their memoir, Joe and John touch on numerous jobs they – and their family members – have held. One of their favorite memories they recalled was in junior high.

Their mother cleaned houses and the young Gindele twins would often help her clean over their lunch period. Joe had been vacuuming one day and knocked over a vase. To his surprise, dirt fell out.

Being young, Joe didn’t know that it was ashes from the homeowner’s late husband. After proceeding to continue vacuuming, he told his mother. Once he learned it was an urn, it was their little secret.

“How do you explain to the woman that your husband’s in the Hoover, but you don’t know which part of your husband?” Joe said. “She never found out.”

John said throughout the memoir, they interjected humor whenever they could.

“We embellished the stories and added additional stories with writing in such a way it would have people smile,” Joe added. “It will bring them back to their childhood.”

“Yorkville Twins” was published this past July and has already sold a few hundred copies. It is available at Barnes and Noble, and will soon appear on

Two months after publication, John and Joe sold copies of their book at Twins Festival in Ohio. There, the book was adopted by Mercy College in New York and is now required reading for students in three History of New York classes.

“It verifies all of the hard work we put into it,” John said. “We are delighted that they felt it was good enough to be in a college.”

With the first 18 years now in print, Joe and John have begun to write a series of monographs that they feature on their website.

They hope to continue to market “Yorkville Twins,” a memoir they are certain their parents would be proud of.

“This keeps their memory alive,” Joe said.

“This book appeals to a wide audience. Everyone has memories,” John said. “It’s about memories, twins and immigrants.”