Recently I looked up my old address in Brooklyn on Google, and came across an astonishing fact, my frame three-story apartment building, along with its twin next door, just sold for the total of $12,000! I guess they are going to tear them both down.
It is a shame that I can’t afford to buy them. There are many little worlds and secrets buried in the walls and basements of both buildings. My best friends, Anthony and Michael both live next door, and we played for hours together for years in those hallways and staircases.
There was something magical about the place, the little railed section between both stoops, the little gated front yards, all concreted with metal doors that slanted upward and led to the cellars of the buildings. We climbed those doors and our imaginations flowed and soared, taking us anywhere in the world that we were aware of.
The sidewalks had a great part of the games we played, from early in the mornings until 9:00 at night in the summer time, the lamp post was first base, the hydrant was a test of our leaping skills, the gates yards were forts and cabins and sometimes dungeons. We lived and died as cowboys and soldiers and baseball players.
When we were old enough to play in the streets themselves, the sewer covers became a measure of long distance hitting, powering Spaldeens two or three sewers long with a broom stick handle. Sometimes when a ball busted, we climbed the roofs and found old balls, to sustain us through another game of stickball.
Spaldeens and stoops became a two man court and we battled for points, always trying for the 100 pointers that flew off the edge of a step and were caught on the fly in stoopball.
The chalked sidewalks mapped out skelzie and marbles, and became our canvas for pastel chalk pallets, with elaborate designs and love notices artistically rendered in the concrete.
Trash cans were used to play: “iron tag” and “Red light, green light, 1-2-3 was the call after 6 pm.
Bobby sox, and pointed shoes, duck tails and pony tails, pumps and chinos, and of course, penny loafers were the dress for formal occasions like school dances or soda shops.
A world of its own,
The streets where we played,
The friends on every corner were the best we ever made.
The backyards, and the school yards
And the trees that watched us grow,
The days of love when dinner time was all you had to know.
Whenever I think of yesterday,
I close my eyes and see,
That place Just Over The Brooklyn Bridge
That will always be home to me.
It'll always be home to me.
Just Over The Brooklyn Bridge Lyrics
» Art Garfunkel
It seemed every street had a grocery store, a mom and pop operation, or maybe a fruit stand or meat shop, you could buy freshly baked bread, cakes or cookies, or just smell it all baking and be satisfied.
At the hours of 5 to 7 pm, there was a mass exit of streets of children, as Dads would return home and children scurried upstairs to dinner, our appetites growing more uncontrollable as we climbed the steps.
We skated, no one owned a bike, and we skated fast and with class, figure eights and loops, with ease.
Everyone had a nickname, there was Mookie, and Mousy and Comeonagetout the landlady. You NEVER said aass, you said earse, like a good tough Brooklynite would say, or you got made fun of, beat up or called a sissy.
There were fights and then peace, just like that. You knew the storeowners by first name, and you paid attention to them, because they knew your parents. Dad wore brown wing-tipped shoes and a grey felt hat with a black band around the crown. Mom had her hats and scarves, or babuskas as we called them.
Sunday mornings meant church. You went, not necessarily prayed, checked out the prettystrawberry blond girl with the curls across the aisle as they separated boys from girls. On your way home, for two and a half blocks, you smelled the “gravy” being made at almost every stoop and apartment.
The older guys would pitch pennies and try to look cool for everybody else, and they were all that was the “Bad element.”
You admired the cops, firemen, and soldiers who saw action in Korea, you felt sick at heart when a friend lost a parent, and thought how scary it was.
School was a time of not only learning, but discipline and learning obedience, and dress codes and behavioral patterns that had to be observed. The first graders were so afraid of “Old Miss Langin” that the principle, Brother Justinian had to post “WARNING-FLASH FLOOD AREA” signs on the classroom wall. (Not really, but almost) Plastic was king and new, coming in all kinds of ugly colors, with predictions that we would eventually eliminate wood.
And how I miss the Saturday afternoon movies. We marched down to the Colonial theatre on Broadway, between Rockaway Avenue and Chauncy Streets, and for a quarter: you got a newsreel, a cartoon and sometimes a double feature. Candy was a dime!
We didn’t have a lot of money, our parents didn’t take us on vacations much, there was very little in the way of toys, but we had each other, a glove or mitt, a ball maybe a bat or a broom stick, and although we wished for much, we knew to ask for very little.
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