John Dikun, 81, worked on the El, hung at Vazacs


John Dikun, a retired Transit Authority employee and lifelong East Village resident who over the past five decades had become a beloved figure to old-timers and newcomers in the neighborhood, died March 30 at the age of 81.

He died at home suddenly after apparently suffering a heart attack, said his niece, Anna Frankowitz, with whom he lived.

In an interview that appeared in The Villager in December 2004 on his 80th birthday at Vazacs bar on Avenue B at E. Seventh St., he spoke about life in the changing neighborhood.

The son of Czech immigrants, he was born in Yorkville and moved with his family to Avenue C when he was 11.

“After the Beatniks came here they made it ‘East Village,’ ” he told The Villager. “Before it was ‘East Side.’ ”

He went to elementary school on E. Sixth St. and junior high school at P.S. 64 on E. Ninth St., later the CHARAS/El Bohio cultural and community center, where a 19-story university dormitory is now planned while the community has been fighting to landmark the existing building.

Dikun dropped out of Printing Trades High School and tried to join the Army at the beginning of World War II. Although he was rejected as 4F because of a heart condition, he tried again three years later and served a two-year enlistment with the occupation forces in Japan.

Back home he got a job as conductor on the old Third Ave. El.

“When I started in the subway, it was five cents. Six days a week, but then my union, Mike Quill, he got the five-day week,” he told The Villager.

In the 1960s, the neighborhood got rough. A riot on E. Sixth St. drew police who fired shots in the air. So Dikun moved but not far — from Avenue C to Avenue A — with his sister, brother-in-law and two nieces.

His brother-in-law died last year and his sister suffered a stroke and moved to a nursing home. But John Dikun continued his habit of spending a few hours at Vazacs bar on Saturdays and Sundays, drinking three beers and four whiskeys before walking home, with a bar employee for company, a block away. He was a regular at the bar for 62 years.

He was not one to regret the influx of bars and young people in the neighborhood.

“The young people made the business,” he told The Villager. “Before it was so dead, so quiet. [Now] so many restaurants, it’s Times Sq.” He didn’t complain about noise at the bar either. “As long as it’s noisy you can’t fall asleep,” he said. “It’s a great place,” he said, “great people. So many friends.”

In addition to his niece, his sister, Bertha Frankowitz, survives. Peter Jarema Funeral Home, 129 E. Seventh St., was in charge of arrangements. The funeral was scheduled for Thurs. April 6 at St. Stanislaus Church on E. Seventh St. between Avenue A and First Ave.

Clockwise from above left, John Dikun at Vazacs bar in 2004. At Vazacs on Monday night, bartender Jeanie set up Dikun’s boilermaker — a glass of Canadian Club whiskey, a bottle of Budweiser and a glass for the beer — as memorial candles burned behind them. Dikun when he was in World War II.