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GROWING UP IN BROOKLYN

3-kevinleddyI have always referred to my beloved Brooklyn as if it’s magic was a shield from all the bad things in life that confronted us but the inevitable truth is this…that was never the case …the real case was that no matter where you are born and who you are , there is one thing that none of us can escape. That one thing is death.
As a great a place that Brooklyn was and is today , it was never immune to the passing of the people we loved and cherished. Even if they were taken unjustly and before their time. I am compelled to relate this story.
This will not be a feel good story like the ones I have relayed before, So if you are looking for a happy ending and a morale victory in the words you are about to read…then stop right now.This is an account of the murder of my best friend on the streets of my beloved Brooklyn.
I had long ago made myself a promise that if I ever came upon the chance to express my outrage and perception pertaining to the events that took my friend from me , I would not hesitate to tell his story. So if you are willing to continue , then I am honored that you do and it is my wish you understand my need I have to tell you about him when you have finished his story I hope you will understand.
His Mother called him Everett, yet as I remember she was the only person on this planet who called him that, which was his name . His Dad called him” Boobie ” and because he did everyone else who lived on East 55TH Street and anyone who was as fortunate as me to know him referred to him as such. The only exclusion I can think of were the Nuns of Mary Queen of Heaven, because after all they could call you anything they pleased and we would answer to whatever it was they called you. To everyone else on this planet he was …Boobie.
Boobie was only 3 years older than me but that was alot growing up on my block where there were at least 10 kids of the same age ranging from 8 to 18 and the gap seemed huge. However with Boobie age was never a factor to him he merely sought out anyone to have fun with …age , not an issue to him . Because our block was usually divided into age groups it was not the norm to see 16 year olds and 13 year olds hanging together or playing together…it was just the way it was. Boobie however never adhered to those unwritten laws and included anyone who wished to participate in any activities he was involved in. I loved him for that and never forgot how great he made me feel when he invited me to play in his backyard. I tried to emulate him later on in the following years by treating the younger kids on my block the way he treated me . I think Chris Brown and James Brennan and my little brother Brian Leddy might now understand a little more now as to why I always tried to do the same for them.
Boobie was tall for his age maybe 6 ft in his 16th summer and because of his height he was drawn to play basketball. His Dad knew it and built a basketball court in his undersized backyard with it’s Franklin backboard and orange steel rim and white netted hoop secured to the tin garage by 2x4s and molly bolts. The entire playing surface was maybe 15’x20′ but to me it was like playing in Madison Square Garden alongside Walt ,Willis, Dave and Bill. We played endless hours with him in his makeshift court in his backyard and at times I knew he held back just to let us younger kids feel good about ourselves. Boobie was deadly from anywhere on that court and when he missed a shot ..well lets just say it was because he never intended to make it, that’s just the type of guy he was ….cool.
Growing up is sometimes the cruelest thing to happen to young boys , because they are forced to leave the nonchalant carefree days of our youth behind us . You see Boobie got older so much in just one year..the year he turned 18. He left the security of just being a kid and was testing the turbulent waters of manhood. The games in his backyard were now few and far between , his interest were now on the beautiful girls on our block (Betsy McNamara-Musso and Linda Brennan-Burke in particular). His thoughts were that of his future and the college he would attend to receive his further education I knew he was never going to hang around with us young guys s forever but it really hurt to lose him to the dreaded adult stage.
Boobie was being looked at by colleges for his basketball skills and the whole block was abuzz with the offers that were being sent to his home everyday , it was if he was the son of every parent on 55h street because we all joined in the celebration of his success and going to college …well you see that was something most parents on our block could only dream for their children.
Well I guess the oblivious next step getting ready to decide on a college was in front of him and that summer belonged to him. To his credit he never bought into his unrecruited celebrity but merely went about his life as usual. We still played three on three in his backyard and he still intentionally threw up a brick when he thought we needed a boost.
His decision was made in his mind and one night when I believe he sure of his next endeavor he went out with a bunch of neighborhood friends to celebrate his bright impending future at a local bar(Kavanaughs on Ave N and Ralph Ave) and the celebration lasted to the early morning hours . Boobie left the bar with a buddy that early morning and while passing an early morning opening luncheonette, the alarm was ringing because the person opening that morning was new and did not know how to turn off the alarm an off duty special investigator for the District Attorney’s office driving by at that moment stopped and not knowing what was going on and didn’t bother to ask when he saw Boobie and his pal Kevin standing outside the front door of the luncheonette trying to help the guy turn off the alarm . Without so much as a warning shot , and believing he was about to be a hero by thwarting a robbery he emerged from his car firing his revolver and Boobie no longer was alive. That bastard never thought about the kid who could hit a jumper from anywhere on the court…that bastard never thought about the kid who was about to start an amazing life….that bastard never thought about the kid who just kissed Betsy McNamara-Musso goodnight…that bastard never thought about my best friend…… he just fired his gun
This was my very first experience with death and heartbreak, and I can tell you I still feel that pain…even as I am writing these words my eyes are blurred with tears . He was my friend …he was my neighbor…..he was Everett Scott….he was Boobie.
He was everything I loved about Brooklyn …he was my friend…and yet he was the only reason I ever ever hated Brooklyn for what she let happen to him that night..
Brooklyn was to me and will always be a place that will always make me smile……but make no mistake Brooklyn can break your heart….and yet ..isn’t that what life is all about? You take the good with the bad ….and that my friends….Is what Brooklyn is all about…Boobie was Good……his life stolen was Bad….and Brooklyn was

 

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January 12th 1969 was just another Sunday in my beloved Brooklyn. Or so I thought. We all got up at at 7 AM and got dressed for Mass. Mary Queen of Heavens 9 O’Cock mass was the Children’s Mass. So at my house my brothers and sisters all took turns waiting at the bathroom door for our family member to wash up brush their teeth and then come out. Eileen Leddy- Viviano at the time was 11 years old and took the longest because she knew that this guy named Gregg Chercione who had a crush on her would be there so she took extra time to make sure his crush on her would not go unnoticed . With our teeth brushed and relatively clean bodies due to the baths or showers we took the night before , we presented ourselves to Mom for hair grooming and final inspection. Mom combed and or brushed our hair and then meticulously looked over our hands and necks. Necks cleaned and no dirt under our fingernails …we were ready for church and the saving of our souls .
Farther McNamara presided over the 9 O’Clock mass as he was our Parish Pastor and always made it a point to be serving that particular Mass because it was also known as the Children’s Mass.
As always we sung our hymns and prayed for the helpless and the poor, we were reminded to pray for all other denominations and of course the the sick and recently departed and all the souls of the faithfully departed.We would line the alter and receive communion , return to our pews bow our heads while kneeling on the flip down “kneelers” and pray with all our hearts for our loved ones and the less fortunate of the world . Mass was almost over when Fr McNamara asked all of us to join him in a prayer for a young man from Beaver Falls Pennsylvania who just two years after graduating from the University of Alabama and now the quarterback of The New York Jets to achieve success in his game this day …if indeed it was the will of God.
Arriving back home that Sunday morning , Dad would be in the kitchen preparing breakfast (he always did that every Sunday to give my Mom a little break)…so the smell of eggs and bacon filled our home. The best was the special potatoes he made…..thin as a communion wafer was the way he would prepare that potato slice fried in butter. It was his specialty at his Firehouse when he cooked for his fellow FDNY mates and he carried that tradition into our home every Sunday . We all took off our coats as fast as we could and where they landed was of no interest to us as long as we got the first batch of Dads special breakfast potatoes. We knew one thing was for sure ..that if those jackets where they landed did not find themselves on a hanger and in our closet after we finished breakfast…we would have Mom to deal with. Needless to say they never stayed where they landed and all found their proper resting place in our closets !!!
It was not just my house but every house on my block and I am pretty sure every house in Brooklyn was abuzzed with the thought of a team that represented Brooklyn and all of New York State was playing for the Championship of the Football World. The rest of our nation was giving our team a slim to no chance in hell of winning and to be quite honest scoffed at us for believing they actually could. But what did they know…they were not from Brooklyn and couldn’t possibly know the faith we had , no matter what the odds were against us. That young man from Beaver Falls Pennsylvania in good old Brooklyn fashion when asked by a newspaper reporter( there was no ESPN then ) if he thought that his team, a 19 point underdog had ANY chance of beating the mighty Baltimore Colts ….he answered… like any Brooklynite would…..” We will WIN….I guarantee it”
You see in the Brooklyn I grew up in there was always discussions and debates and downright heated arguments on everything from religion to to politics to the proper way to sweep the 12ft sidewalk in front of our houses. However it seemed that almost everyone I knew seemed to be in agreement with this brash bragging kid we knew as Joe Willie Namath who was a Brooklynite for the day, and on that Sunday afternoon in Miami Florida January 12th 1969 he held in his skilled hands the pride of not only his New York Jets, but of the entire state of New York …but especially my beloved Brooklyn . You gotta understand one thing we love an underdog ….we love a fight….and most of all we love to prove anyone wrong who don’t agree with us…it’s just who we are. We are Brooklynites!!!
Mom and Pop stores that lined our Avenues and Streets closed early and the streets that were usually lined with cars on every other given Sunday were eerily void of it’s normal traffic, the streets that were always inhabited by kids playing a variety of sports and games were desolate . Everyone was being held captive in our homes by the chance of seeing history being rewritten
It was Super Bowl III and my beloved Brooklyn had a horse in this race “The New York Jets , so we all found ourselves in our living rooms watching our black and white RCA , Zenith. Philco or Motorola Television console sets to witness this national event!
We all sat mesmerized as we watched that kid from Beaver Falls lead our team to victory and cheered and jumped up and down on the very furniture that on any other day would surely be like signing your own death certificate if Mom saw you! We took the same pride of our team in our hearts, as much as David did when he slew the Philistine Goliath .
Brooklyn rejoiced , we ran into the streets banging pots and pans …fireworks were exploding in the cold January nights sky, something that was normally reserved for the 4th of July . Neighbors ran into the streets and hugged each other and embraced (the same people who argued over how to sweep the sidewalks) to affirm that they too had witnessed this unlikely triumph
We once again had a Champion….not since The Brooklyn Dodgers left us with a gaping wound in our hearts had we collectively rallied together as one in a victory we called our own.
The New York Jets of 1969 went down in history as the first American Football League Team to defeat the mighty and heralded National Football League in spite of the popular opinion of the rest of our United States. To the so called inferiority of that team who held the hearts and hopes of me and my fellow Brooklynites…They shook the world and the very heavens .
In my opinion that kid from Beaver Falls was exactly what Brooklyn was and is all about……You tell us we can’t…we say we will…..You tell us it ain’t possible…We show you how….You say “No Way” and we will shove it down your throats.
You can ask any one from Brooklyn a question about any subject on this planet and you will get a million different answers, But ask any one of them who was the guy who stood up in Brooklyn fashion and told the sports world where to go……..They will unanimously answer …
Joe Willie Namath…………I guarantee it !!!!!
He may have been from Beaver Falls PA But with the “stones ” he showed that day …..he was Brooklyn …all the way!!!!!!

 

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It is a cold night on December 24th 1971 as darkness has just fallen in Brooklyn. We are parked at Utica Ave and Ave N in what was up until three weeks ago a used car lot, but this night it is occupied by Christmas trees looking to be chosen to adorn some families living room. Mom is in the passenger seat of our Plymouth Station Wagon with baby Maryann on her lap( no car seat)after making her selection ,as my brother Michael and sister Eileen and myself are leaning against the fold down door in its rear. We stand there listening to Dad state his case as to why he was willing to pay $6 for a tree that was clearly marked $15. Money was especially tight this year in my house ,so Dad specifically waited til Christmas Eve to buy our tree because he knew that he would be able to haggle for a better price. My Dad handed the man $8 and then another $1 for the guy to wrap it and tie it onto the roof of the station wagon.
Dad is now on his back, down on the living room floor under the tree as Mom says just “a little bit to the right” (her very last comment was “a little bit to the left”) Ten minutes later after at least twenty “little bit here little bit there’s” Dad twists the three silver metal prongs as they piece the the trees stem and hold it into place and sturdy in the red and green metal tree stand. Two dinning room chairs immediately appear on each side of the tree and Michael and Eileen stand on them as they pass the tree light strands ( which took Dad 30 minutes to unravel from the year before and the things he said under his breath as he did it was not real Christmas like) to each other as Mom placed them just so. The bulbs were hung , the bunting (skirt)was placed under the tree and the Nativity scene was placed upon it . Michael places the Angel on top of the tree and Dad plugs in the lights. Now there is just one thing still missing…..the Tinsel! To me this was the best part of decorating our Christmas Tree. We would drape a handful in our left hand and throw the tinsel with our right hands , it seemed like 20 lbs of it would wind up covering our tree (the tinsel was lead based and had a very heavy feeling as you held it). The tree as always was magnificent as Moms eyes would tear up just a little bit as she looked it over
It is now just around 10 pm and there was another special happening that would soon be a part of this night. But before we get to that I ask Mom if it was alright if I could go down the block to my friend Eddie Corlonis house for a little bit because he was trying to explain to me something about him getting “seven fishes” for Christmas. Mom says ‘ OK but you better be back in this house by 11:15″ So being an Irish kid I am thinking he got a Fish Tank for Christmas and I was going to see his “seven fishes” swimming around in it. Boy was I surprised when I walked into his house and saw his whole family sitting around the house eating great plates of food . I looked at the fish tank which was already set up (Eddie really did get a tank for Christmas) and noticed it had only two fish in it. Mrs Corloni made me a plate and handed it to me and said welcome to “The Feast of the Seven Fishes”. Now everybody is eating fish and I see only two in the tank………I am a little nervous and to say the least, a little hesitant to eat whats on the plate! I whispered to Eddie “Are we eating the fish that was in your new fish tank?” Eddie bursts into to hysterical laughter and announces to everyone in the room my question which then they joined in the laughter as well. Mrs Corloni seeing me standing there confused ran over to me and hugged me as to shield me from the laughter as she yelled at everyone to stop laughing or get out of her house. Armando (Eddies Dad ) Sat me down and explained to me about The Feast of the Seven Fishes( I am pretty sure be bit a hole in his upper lip to keep from laughing as he did) as Mrs Corloni stood behind him scanning the room at her guests to make sure not one of them was laughing at me .God help them if they did!
It’s now 11:15 and run down the block back to my house. I can see that all the houses on my block have their Christmas Trees all lit up and decorated in the front window of thier homes,. Outside were strings of big yellow green red ., blue and orange bulbs strung around the windows. Pictures on plastic molds of Santas face along with Candy Canes and Dancing Reindeer were taped to the inside window . The inside doors wrapped in festive colors were all open and front storm doors were fogged from the heat inside the homes giving an almost frost like look to anyone passing by.
I come into my house and Mom says go upstairs and get dressed, and by the way ” There is a box on your bed you might as well open it tonight”
I fly up the stairs touching every third step I swing around the Bannister pole as I reach the top and enter my bedroom . Laid out on my bed was a Navy Doubled breasted sport coat ,a white turtle neck sweater and a tan pair of Bell Bottom slacks. On the floor was a box wrapped in shiny aluminum like paper , I tear it open …just what I wanted……all my friends had them……they were the coolest shoes ever………Chukka Boots.
I feel great because I know I look cool and Lori Cook Satriano will definitely notice me now (I had a crush on her ,she didn’t know) I was heading out to Midnight Mass. Yes I was 11 years old and I was leaving my house at 11:45 by myself (Michael and Eileen went with their own friends and Mom and Dad stayed home to prepare for Christmas morning) I am walking to Church as many of my neighbors doors are opening and they join in the procession at this late night hour. They are wearing new coats and scarfs and hats and feeling wonderful like I am in my Chukka Boots. . I can see the crowd gathered in front of Mary Queen of Heaven Church as I near and see all my friends and every kid from my neighborhood. All of stood in the back of the over packed Church and sung the hymns and celebrated the birth of Jesus. Lori did not see me nor did I see her .
Asd per Moms instructions I went right home after Mass . As I think back to that night ,I feel a sense of warmth . I enjoyed the Christmas Tree purchase and decorating, I learned that Italians make the best seafood on this planet from a loving family who lived down the block, I received a wonderful material gift (Chukka Boots) which proved to me that my Mom loved me ( the best gift ever)because she made sure that she got them for me and I got to join my neighborhood and stand in the back of a church watching some of the toughest guys I have ever known singing hymns about a child who was born in a manger.
Had Jesus been born in Brooklyn there would have been room for him in every home from Red Hook to Canarsie to Mill Basin to Bensonhurst to Midwood to Flatbush to Georgetown to Marine Park to Gravesend to Bergen Beach to Flatlands to Dyker Heights to Park Slope to Bedford Stuyvesant to Crown Heights …. he would not have been born in a Manger he would have been welcomed and loved and given whatever we had to make him comfortable. And if he was lucky enough to have been born in Mrs Corlonis house He would have loved the fish and would have been hugged with loving protecting arms of a woman who looked out for all children, Like all Booklyn Moms
Merry Christmas Brooklyn
I would just like to take a moment to thank each and every one who have read my stories and have written kind words and shared memories in return . It is my wish for you and yours to enjoy this wonderful Christmas Season and bask in the love that your families and friends offer you throughout the year. To all my Jewish friends I wish you all a Happy Chanukah and the same blessings
Sincerely
Kevin J. Leddy and Family

 

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Let me take you back in time for just a short journey. The sun is rising over Brooklyn a new day is about to begin. The ever present aroma of coffee is fills the air up the streets. People are waking from their slumber and the stirrings and every day household sounds fill the homes. I am 10 years old and I find myself walking down my street heading to my daily destination to fulfill my morning chore..The place we all meet every morning. I am joined in my task by many others, who seek the same thing I do. They are from all walks of life , housewives , kids like myself , men going off to work and an occasional “Wise Guy” would also be there for the very same reason. It is something we all can’t possibly live without. It is the lifeblood that connects us to the rest of the world.It would seem to me that we all required the need to be here everyday at just about this time. Yet by the end of every day the purpose and end result of our everyday journey to this place, was the genus of all communication and family conversations. It would also give everyone a reason to talk to each other. It is something that has unfortunately been lost as of recent years and I believe it has weakened the the personal bonds and connections that were shared by friends ,family and even an occasional stranger, and that saddens me deeply.. It only cost a dime but to our way of life it was priceless . It carried a wealth of information that was vital in our everyday lives to all walks of life . There was no escaping the fact that if you did not have one everyday their was a very strong possibility that you would missed out on something that every one else knew, and that would be unheard of , because we Brooklynites have to be aware and know everything , right?
So there I am walking down my block as I say Good Morning to Mrs Kennedy as she is in her “house dress” sweeping the front of her house and stoop just like she did every morning .” Good Morning Mrs Kennedy” I say in a sing song kinda way, she replies ” be careful crossing the Ave Kevin , make sure you look both ways now” , just like she said every morning when we meet. Then as I am passing by the Petrolongo house Mr Petrolongo is taking in the milk from the” milk box” for his morning coffee and says “How ya doin kid?”….”Just fine Mr Petrolongo ” sounding eerily like the Beaver”. He says to me ‘”If you goin around the corner for your Dad Pick one up for me ” He reaches into his pocket and flips me a dime from the top of the stoop and I catch it with two hands. He says ‘The Yanks could use a kid like you with hands like that” I tell him “I want to play for the Dodgers ,he looks hard at me and says “Dem bums went to California and left New York high and dry, stick with the Yanks kid,,,stick with the Yanks”,
Now I am almost there as I see people gathered outside and they are striking up a little conversation. I say excuse me to those out front as I step past and enter the store and there it is ,,,the very reason for my daily quest..
How else would we know that the Yankees swept that twilight doubleheader?, How else would we know what Bohack had on sale today and if the A&P was cheaper? How else would know if Dondi or Brenda Starr or Little Orphan Annie were in deep trouble? How else would we know which horse came in and which just showed, How else could we know what time our favorite cartoon came on the television How else would we know if the Dow Jones took a dive the day before, How else could we know how to not invite someone to our homes without the social etiquettes that Ann Landers make us aware of, How else would we know if someone from outside our neighborhood had past away and where we could go to pay our respects, How else would we know how to plan our fishing trips to Sheepshead Bay until we knew when high and low tide would be. How else would that “Wise Guy” know who hit the number the day before?.
I hear the gravelly voice of Joe the Candy Store owner say ‘Next” …I step forward and place the two dimes my Dad and Mr Petrolongo gave me on the counter and Joe would say…”Just the Newspapers?’ My reply was “Yes Sir and my Dad said to say hello”. Out the door I go I race home with The Daily News under my arm so Dad could read it with his breakfast. I make sure to look both ways just as Mrs Kennedy told me to. Mr Petrolongo is leaning on his “Hurricane” silver linked fence gate with a “P” encircled in the metal topper on his gate I hand him his paper and he says stop by his house later on today his wife Sofia was making Biscotti and I was welcome to as many as I wanted.. I run up my stoop and into the house and straight to the dining room just as Dad is about to sit down with his coffee and breakfast, he gives me a wink and tussles my hair and says” Right on time kiddo ”
Have we all said goodbye to the “Newspaper”? It was something I thought I would never live without and now I rarely pick one up.
What I wouldn’t give to just one more time fight with my brothers and sisters over the Sunday Funnies!

 

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Growing up in Brooklyn we often took things for granted, because we never thought enough about it to think that one day it would be gone.
Throughout my life growing up in my beautiful hometown that I called paradise there was always one thing that all generations and every walk of life that called Brooklyn home had in common. I will not drag it out this time …I will just come right out and say it. It was shared amongst my Mom who used to religiously listen to Bob Grant every morning as she prepared the lunch boxes for my brothers and sisters and myself to keep up with the worlds politics which kept her in touch so that she could discuss the news with my Dad when he returned from work at the FDNY , to Mr Rasmussen ( He was the very first man on my block to leave his front door and head down to the bus stop for the B-41 to take him to the junction and begin his subway excursion to Manhattan) who waited for 1010 News to tell him that the subways were running on time. Then there was Mr Roger Brennan who tuned in to find out if he would be wearing his signature cap(We Irish called it a Tem) if the weather report called for windy or cold temperatures that would call for covering his head. Of course there was always a time during the winter when the snow began to fall and to our delight it began to accumulate so every kid in Brooklyn sat and stared at it in the hope that their schools name would be mentioned withe word “Closed” in the same sentence. Michael Nelson who lived on my block would tune in to find out how his beloved (Even though they left Brooklyn) Los Angeles Dodgers were doing while everyone else on my block was much more interested in the The Amazin Mets or the all powerful and seemingly unbeatable Yankees were doing. There were those who just needed to to be amused by the comedic stylings and antics of a guy named Imus as he pushed the envelope with his outrageous insights and borderline profanity . There some of us who as we rolled our beach towels into the very tightest cylinder we possibly could and packed our Ban De Soleil for that deep Tropical Tan….and hoped to hear that it was going to be a great beach day with tanning index above 80. Then there was The WMCA Good Guys to inform us in each of their shifts as to which songs were the most popular on our listening air waves. There was Cousin Brucie( who was preceeded by a legend we all called “The Wolfman”) entertaining us with his banter and small business hawking. Nobody that I knew would ever …ever miss Casey Kasem’s weekly top ten and heartfelt dedications to starstruck lovers or our boys serving in the military across the seas . Later on Mr Joe Causi on WXLO led us all in the Disco scene and which were the hottest clubs to spend our nights at as we Hustled and danced the the nights away in our favorite Discos. There was Allison Steele (The Nightbird) who was our guide into the world of hard Rock-N-Roll with her sultry voice and mesmerizing tone . Frankie Crocker who was the King of WBLS would signal every person in the realm of his voice at 7pm …Here I Go ….Here I Go…Here I Go….. John Montone with his unique voice on 1010 News was a staple in everyone listening in if indeed you were driving through our beloved Borough and it would always seem the the BQE was jammed , the Gowanus expressway was bumper to bumper and of course…we all knew that the Mill Basin drawbridge was up and the Belt Parkway was backed up till Knapp Street ..right? By the way was there ever a time when someone said ….”Opposite side side of the road parking was NOT in effect?”
Please let me also say one more thing …… If you have never been within earshot of hearing “Saturday Morning With Sinatra” then you have no right to be reading this !!!!!
I know I said I was not going to drag this out….so freakin sue me! I did .
Sorry about that…..The Radio ……Yes The Radio.
I am as guilty as anyone else today in the demise of what was once our lifeblood and sole informational source barring Television because I use my I-Phone and Computer today to relay all the information that I have previously stated . But God how I miss and will always remember hearing the click of that dial as I turned on that Radio and let the magic of all it had to offer fill my ears. Don’t it always seem to go that you don;t know what you’ve got till it’s gone

 

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There was always something special about Saturdays growing up as a kid in Brooklyn . You see during the school year when you came home after school it was generally 3 O’Clock which did not leave a kid with much time to play because dinner always scheduled for somewhere between 5 and 6 O’Clock in mostly everyone’s house. Not to mention that as winter neared it stole the sun from us as early as 5 O’clock making the time for playing even shorter. Inevitably the call from our Moms signaling it was dinner time could be heard like the Ladies choir at church as each Mom would seem to sing the names of her child or in most cases children, with an almost musical like rehearsal.. My Mom had five of us so as she stood on our Stoop with the storm door half open belting out our names at the highest octave she could muster, it was a wonder she had a voice by the end of the week? So Monday through Friday on my block that was the Daily ritual . Don’t get me wrong we were able to squeeze as much fun out of those two and a half hours that were humanly possible yet looking forward to Saturday was always on our minds all week long.
Saturday morning is finally here ,instead of moaning and groaning to your Mom about being tired and that you did not want go to school ,you jump out of bed without having to be woken up . You get dressed in your room and down the stairs we go . I find my self in the kitchen grabbing a bowl from the cabinet and a spoon from the silverware drawer and Frosted Flakes are soon to follow because “Theeeeere Greaaattt” says Tony the Tiger on the front of the box. I walked into the living room ever so slowly balancing that cereal and milk filled bowl as if it were a ticking time bomb one gingerly step at a time so as not to let it spill on Moms floors. I place the mornings culinary delight on “The Coffee Table” , I turn on the television and wait for it to “warm up”, I kneel down in front of the T.V. and begin to eat my bowl of sugary energy, Bugs Bunny and The Road Runner make their appearance so that makes it official …It’s Saturday
Yep it’s Saturday ,into the sink goes the bowl and spoon and with my weekly chores complete(which is a story for another day) I tell my Mom I am going to be leaving now and her response is ” You just make sure you are home for dinner on time Mister”. Yep it’s Saturday and it is all mine, and I know exactly where I am going to spend it . I jump from the top step of my Stoop and hit the ground running. I head down my block and leave her friendly confines as I turn onto Ave L , I can see Raymond Hart and his brother John walking a block ahead of me , I know we are all going to the same place. Other neighborhood kids join into our convoy as we pass by each block it grows larger and larger because they too are going to enjoy the fun that will be at our final destination.
We turn down 58th Street off of Ave L and there it is ….the Las Vegas to every Brooklyn kid whoever scraped a knee on the asphalt .
It ‘s The Park!!!!!!!!! It’s The Park!!!!!!
The minute you enter the wrought iron gates that surrounded her a world of endless activities opened up to you and were yours and in which order you were to perform them was strictly up to you. It was ultimate freedom for a kid and choices were all yours. There was basketball courts with their unforgiving steel rims , there was baseball fields with mostly dirt and very little grass ,but who cared ,we were used to sliding into bases on the street!! There were the Handball courts which seemed to be the teenagers domain and was somewhat off limits to us youngsters. There were Monkey Bars made of steel connected bars that reached a good 15 feet at its top and if you were up there that made you King of the Monkey Bars(if Mothers today saw their children on these ,they would go bananas). There were long thick wooden planks with to metal handholds on each end …The See Saws, do you remember the person who was on the ground would threaten to jump off leaving to fall straight down ? I used to like standing in the middle and balance them with my feet. There were the swings that made us believe we could almost touch the sky as we pumped our legs with all our might to reach the highest ,without it starting to “buck” the chains that secured them. The Sand Box that to me always looked like a prison for little kids. There were the painted Hopscotch boards. There were Kiddie Swings with that medal bar that came down as every Mother would always say ” Now watch your fingers” as she slowly lowered it down to fasten their child into one. If you were thirsty there were the stone water fountains , that were never cold and you would have to almost press your face against the stone to get a drink because the pressure was so low. There was the stone mushroom like Chess Table that seemed to grow right from the concrete ground .
The Park was a magical place that was our refuge from the streets and cars and our block and the watchful eyes of every Mother who spied on us as we played on the block . It gave us security to play the games of our youth and offered no interruptions because it was there for you to make your day everything you asked it to be .
By the way , can you guess who didn’t make it home for dinner on time every Saturday ? I will give you a hint …His Mom calls him Mister.

 

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I am quite sure that I have mentioned the fact that in my neighborhood in Brooklyn there were no families that I would have considered to be by monetary standards rich. I believe that only includes monetary rankings because there were so many other things that made us rich beyond the measures of dollars and cents. I have often wondered why it seemed to me that no ones family was hell bent on trying to become” money rich”. Maybe it was because being happy and content were the true goals and family meant everything and not just dollars.
Moms and Dads worked and brought home the paycheck, bills were paid , food was provided and if there was anything left after that it was spent wisely. We never went hungry in my neighborhood and we always had warm place with a rooftop and if you struggled ..well we all pitched in to help. Whether it be a meal sent over or a bag of groceries that magically appeared on your stoop overnight or that wonderful phrase that I heard often amongst our neighbors…”Here is a little something til you get back on your feet again”
It is not to say that we did not wish for more …because we did , but if we did not get it ,.. it was not the end of the world and we did not stress over it. It was ok that Mr Tolan had a Pontiac and my Dad drove a Dodge . It was ok that most of our Moms bought us A&P sneakers and some kids had Keds. It was ok when you went to your friends house and their Mom used store brand mayonnaise when at home your Mom bought Hellmann’s. It was ok to wear your brothers and sisters hand me downs (try to tell a kid today they had to do that and watch the reaction) It was ok when the Good Humor Man came and you had to choose from the $.10 cent selection when your best friend that day was allowed to pick from the $.25 cent section. It was ok that Moms on my block would trade clothes for us kids as we grew out of ours . Mrs Nelson knew that Christopher’s would fit me so she would bring a bag down to my Mom .
I will not give you that ….”We didn’t have and we did not need it” old line some will say. We wanted to be better off than we were just as much as the next family …yet it was not an obsession and it was never a label to be tagged on you if you did not. To a kid growing up in Brooklyn the things that we needed to have fun and be happy cost us next to nothing . Therefore we never knew if we were well off or dirt poor . The majority of us fell right smack dab in the middle. Money was not what controlled our youth ,not like when you consider the values of today(if your kid does not have the latest I-Phone, they will be ostracized by his peers)
Then something changed when you hit your teens. You see the money coming into your house by the grace of your parents remained the same. However we were no longer just kids and your personal cost of living was rearing it’s ugly head with its rising cost . We on the other hand were beginning to want and need things that cost more than just having to buy a “Spaldeen”
Girls of the teen entering years were discovering themselves as beautiful young Brooklyn Princesses and were bitten by the fashion bug so they needed to buy new clothes constantly. Boys at the same time were noticing these Brooklyn Princesses that suddenly blossomed and were eager to impress them so they too had to step up their game attire
as well. To me personally the prices of good athletic gear(shoulder pads for football, skates for hockey….) was making me yearn for extra money and there was none to be found in my house of 5 kids.
So on the morning of July 15th (my 12th birthday) I like most kids from my neighborhood or my block on their 12th birthday was about to embark on my journey and Rite of Passage into the world of earning a living. Dad and myself jump into his Dodge station wagon and we are off to Lafayette St (downtown Brooklyn) for me to receive my affirmation of manhood……That’s right guys I am getting my …”WORKING PAPERS!!!”
I am peddling as fast as my legs would allow with the documentation from the state of New York stating that this 12 year old young man was fit and able to work gripped tightly in my sweaty hand I drop the kick stand of my Royce Sting Ray Bike and enter a storefront on the corner of East 53rd and Ave N . I push the papers across the desk to Mr Severino . He reads them and says “OK Kid you take E55th from Ave J down to Fillmore Ave You got that? Now here is a carry bag and your first box of rubber bands are free after this you pay a $1 a box …you start tomorrow”
It is official I am a working man …I am an entrepreneur…I am independently wealthy….I am a Long Island Press Paper Delivery Boy!!!!!
I worked that paper route as if it were a billion dollar business. After School I would race home change from my school uniform rush to the Press office fold and rubber band 54 newspapers and strategically place them into my bag just so they made my flinging them onto the stoops as easy as possible. On the weekends it was up at 7am and finish by 9:00 and race to Marine Park for Hurricane Football Practice. Wearing my brand new shoulder pads (that I paid for at Triangle Sporting Goods on Ralph Ave )
Yes I paid for them with my own money from my hard work. I like every kid in Brooklyn knew that if I really wanted something bad enough our parents would surely not deprive us of it , no matter what sacrifice had to be made, because that’s what they did and we knew it was from love.. But God it felt good for the very first time not to have to ask them..
I am sure that each and everyone of you reading this has just thought back to the very first purchase you made with money that you earned. Am I right?
Brooklyn offered an array of jobs for kids back then. You must also remember fast food places such as McDonald’s and Burger King had not come onto the scene just yet. There Lumber Headquarters , there was Gil Hodges Bowling Ally, The Male Shop, Babysitting, Lenny and Johns Pizzerias, Landis , Pastosas Johns Deli and all the other local businesses that would hire young boys and girls because they knew your parents and because they enjoyed having local kids working in their shops.
You see it was almost like Brooklyn was giving herself a chance to take care of her teenagers and giving our parents a well deserved break.
I can honestly say that from that very day in that office on East 53rd Street and Ave N , I have worked everyday of my life since. Over those years I have earned alot of money and cashed many a paycheck. I have also made many major purchases in my that time for exorbitant amounts of money compared to that of the amount I handed a man behind the counter at Triangles Sporting Goods in exchange for Spaulding Gladiator shoulder pads. But you see all those purchases between then and now I have to say are mostly doing the same for my family that my parents did for mine., and I am okay with that ,because that is what we do for our families. But I will never forget just how fantastic it felt having earned the money for those shoulder pads
There is just one more thing I must add to this story. Of course a paper boy relied on tips and sometimes there was a bonus ….Thank you Mrs Berkowitz for the kuegel…I still love it today.
Brooklyn like our families always provided for us ….you just had to be willing to earn it from her.

 

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There is starting to get a little chill in the air on an October day in Brooklyn. I am 10 years old and am heading home from school with my schoolbag in hand that resembles a briefcase with a double hard plastic handles and a flap over leather strap with its metal lock attachment. Inside that schoolbag were textbooks and marble notebooks for each subject from Mathematics to Phonics and Science. My schoolbag was pretty heavy to say the least, so heavy that every block or so on that journey home I had to stop to switch hands holding it. I am almost home as I turn the corner and walk down “my block” , the last leg of my journey. I spot something that immediately brings a smile to my face. There,parked right in front of the Scotts house is a Sears Roebuck appliance truck !! Now to kids today this would mean absolutely nothing but to a kid from Brooklyn in my day it meant a world of adventure was about to begin.
The refrigerator that was to be the Scotts brand new home addition is now going into their front door(screen door had to be removed to fit it through the door) . I pick up my schoolbag with both arms and race down my block to my house to drop off my books , change out of my school uniform into my play clothes and try to be the first kid to make it to the front of the Scotts house. With my school uniform thrown about my bedroom and schoolshoes landing somewhere separately in my wake I bound down the stairs and make a Beeline for the front door only to stop for a quick kiss for my Mom .”Would you like a quick snack? ” Mom asks “No thanks Mom the Scotts got a new refrigerator “. She knows what that means and watches me burst out the front door and all I can hear Mom saying is something about not letting the screen door slam ……as it slams shut…..ooops sorry Mom.
It looked like the the opening bell at a thoroughbred race at Aqueduct Racetrack as every kid on my block was sprinting out their front door like they were galloping out the gate at the track just like me all at about the same time.We all converge on the Scotts house (the finish line so to speak) and there it is the object that will be our magical obsession for this day ……..The Refrigerator Box!!!!!!!!!!
You see to us this was no ordinary box no sir . This box was going to be a Fort to be defended from our imaginary attackers. This box was going to be our study ship sailing on our sea of black tar. This box was going to be our shelter from the made up storms. This box was going to be a sled that magically glides on asphalt. The box was going to be a hiding place.This box was going to be anything we wanted it to be . The possibilities were endless. This box was about to be tested by all the kids on my block and it did not disappoint. Within two hours of playing with “The Refrigerator Box” it would finally start to give into our relentless abuse. It would start to rip, and its shape was no longer that study tall rectangular place of adventure it was now becoming just some old cardboard to be discarded in the trash . But for two and a half hours it kept twenty kids on my block under its spell and and inspired our imaginations to it furthest reaches.
I am a grown man now with three grown kids of my own . I often wish that if a Genie were to emerge from a lamp that I just happened to rub, I would wish to have my kids come back in time with me , so I could share with them the magic of playing in the street with The Refrigerator Box.
I have often since seen PC Richards and still Sears trucks delivering appliances and I never fail to smile to myself and think about playing in one just one more time. You see when we were kids we thought “outside the box” but we also thought inside the box as well.
Did you share this memory as I do?

 

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Growing up in Brooklyn I remember a rather strange fact that by today’s standards is almost unheard of. I guess it was partly because men were still considered to be the “bread winners” and woman often the the caregivers and also managed the household. Maybe it was just that we in Brooklyn as a society had not evolved yet and women were still not considered equal to men. Mind you the traditional family hierarchy was very much controlled by the fathers in the homes for better or worse. I don’t recall many mothers on my block that drove cars!. Now take a moment to let that set in , I don’t know how it was on your block but I can only remember four Moms who drove on mine and we had forty-six families living there . Now think about how Mothers today would be able to survive without being able to drive and perform their errands on a daily basis.
I have a theory as to how our Moms made it all work for them without the use of a car back in those glorious days growing up in Brooklyn.
It is Sunday night in my house and my brothers and sisters and myself have finished the nightly routine of taking our baths or showers. We walk up to Mom as she sits at the dinning room table writing on a piece of paper. She interrupts her writing for each of us as we put our hands out so she can make sure we cleaned our fingernails and inspected our necks especially behind our ears to make sure we washed properly and were ready for school the next morning . Mom had just finished her writing as I, ,the last to pass inspection will be entrusted to put that note in it’s rightful place.So I open the front screen door and step out and there she sits. It was a silver metal 14″x14x14″” styrofoam insulated top lidded box that was a constant and sat outside on every stoop on my block. Into that box went the paper that Mom told me to put in it…it read …….Four bottles of Milk…… One pound of Butter One dozen Eggs. In the morning like magic those items would appear in the Milk Box and breakfast was ensured. The Milkman delivered.
Monday morning a blue rather large truck would come down the block with “General Diaper Service” written on it with a picture of a cute little baby in a diaper wearing a military Generals hat. There were no Pampers or Huggies then, there were cloth diapers that had to be washed and General provided the pick up and delivery service .
Tuesday a green truck with an open back and open side windows would beep his horn as he drove down the block Mothers would appear in front of that truck with their kitchen knives and scissors that needed sharpening from grinding machine installed in Mr Bradleys truck.
Wednesday Mr DeMartino would make his presence known as he shouted “Fresh Vegetables…Get your fresh Vegetables” at the top of his lungs from the horse drawn cart only to be out done by Mr Chiello and his melodic voice sing songing …”Git your Fish Heeere….Git your Fish Heeere…” an hour later as he arrived in his ice covering the back of his station wagon with the catch of the day from the Sheepshead Bay mongers .
Thursday was the day that The Bleach Man would deliver his detergents and wine jug bottles of bleach with their screw off metal caps and looped glass handle at its neck.
Friday was always my favorite because I knew that there was going to be a wonderful snack sitting in a bowl on my coffee table in the living room as I watched “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ” at 8P.M. on
channel 7…yep Friday was the day “Charles Chips” man deliver pretzel rods in the round clear plastic see through container with a metal lid and Potato Chips In it’s distinctive tan and brown metal round container. The Dunkin Donut truck(before there were Dunkin Donut stores) was always a welcome site for us kids on E55th street as we would rush the truck just as we would the Ice Cream Man in the summertime.
Then of course there was Mr Duval who worked at Bond Bread and was famous for walking down the block with two huge bags of day old bread and just leaving them on his neighbors stoops. There was also Mr Brakowski who worked at a Butcher shop and was always taking orders to bring meats home from work as he walked down the block heading for the bus stop . I don’t think any block did not have someone who had an “Uncle ” who provided cigarettes out of the trunk of his car for a discounted price and for some strange reason was always behind a truck when something or “some stuff”fell off it?
Most Mothers didn’t drive back then and for the most part they didn’t have to .Would you like to know why/ Well as long as you asked I will tell you. You see the reason is ..because we lived in a Neighborhood . Let me repeat that …we live in a Neighborhood, where people looked out for and helped each other and yes we lived in a Neighborhood where small independent businessmen felt safe to ply their trade on our streets
My Mom used to say “I am the only person in this house that doesn’t drive ” She said Dad drove the car and me and my brothers and sisters drove her crazy!!!!

 

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Growing up in Brooklyn there were always special events that took place that called for my parents to be taken from our homes. That occasion could have been a Wedding, Funeral,Business meetings or God forbid ..just a night out for them to just enjoy themselves .
On a night that was to be described by any of the stated occasions I previously stated ….. the question that had to be answered could always lead to these five words…” Who will watch the kids?’
You must understand that when such a momentous occasion took place in any Brooklyn home , the optimum choice was always which Grandmother would be called upon to perform the arduous task of watching their very own Grandchildren (Please understand my needed sarcasm …for I am quite sure you have all witnessed the…”Why don’t we ask my Mother” conversation that was sure to be had amongst your parents ) That question alone was in my house a growing a bone of contention and often led to more often than not a heated ….oh well …let’s say discussion ..and leave it at that .
It is my belief and I wonder if it was yours as well that sometimes , just to avoid the hurt feelings and the impossible task of making the “Your Mother ..or my Mother” decision . that was without a doubt going to cause irreparable damage no matter what the outcome , there was an alternative that would solve this very delicate dilemma.
I am in my eighth year living in my childhood and cherished Brooklyn home, which made Big brother Michael , twelve and my big sister Eileen ten and my baby sister Maryann five(Brian was still a thought and a notion in the making). I recall the night that my Dad came home from work at the FDNY after a eight to six tour on a Friday night in his best sheepish tone explaining to my Mom that he had forgotten to tell her that the Fire Department was throwing a… wait for it….”Racket” on this very night.
Well I don’t think I have to explain to you the horror that filled my Moms eyes as she heard the news , knowing that she had spent the day from six A.M. cleaning cooking shopping and tending to our untidy brood we called a family …and now she was called upon to finally have the opportunity to actually go to a place where she could speak , laugh and actually enjoy herself with other adults and especially other women who shared her very same existence? As much as her strength body and mind had reached her exhaustion point, my Mom knew what it meant to my Dad to show off his beautiful bride .. so therefore she summoned her strength from where ….I don’t know and in 90 minutes she performed her magic.
I think I might have left out the fact that Dad announced this wonderful news during the Scrambled Eggs and Toast (Stretch Dinner) dinner , being it was a payday and Mom had to make due with what the fridge had to offer before a payday.
So my Dad casually asks…”Do you want me to call my Mother or do you want to call yours to watch the kids?” Mom looks at him and in her calmest voice thinly veiling her (you have no idea how this works “ kinda way) “Gene ..you can’t call either one of them and because they can’t possibly get here within two hours they both live two bus rides away!!!neither one of my Grandmothers drove….nor did my Mom for that matter)!!
Mom ordered my Dad to go upstairs and shower and shave and to put on his Sportcoat and slacks which were recently purchased from Bonds Clothing Store on Fulton Street for the last wedding they attended almost a year ago…to which he complied and disappeared up the stairs .
Mom knowing that her four children were not going to go unattended and that Dad would not be disappointed to show off his beautiful bride …as usual found the solution.
As Dad was showering and following Moms orders, my Mom walked out the front door and marched up to the stoop of our neighbors the Barkers and climbed their stoop and promptly knocked on their front door . Mrs Barker (Pat is what what my Mom called her…however I am 58 years old and will always refer to her as Mrs Barker then, now and always )answered the door and said ‘ “Hi Peggy whats up?” Mom explained to her the severity of her situation and the stupidity of the man she married. Mrs Barker smiled and consoled my Mom by telling her she was also married to a man with equal lack of common sense so whatever she had to say she was well prepared for . You see when two Brooklyn women get together all problems seem to just vanish.
Mom returned to our house just as Dad was coming down the stairs looking like a brand new man with his hair all Brylcreemed and smelling of Old Spice. She smiled at him because she knew just how handsome he did look when he was all dressed up and told him to sit down on the couch and not to move even a muscle until she came back downstairs…and upstairs she went. Dad sat in his lounge chair just to show us kids that he was in charge and Mom couldn’t tell him where to sit!!!!…..We knew better.
My Mom to me was and still is the most amazing woman I have ever or will ever be blessed enough to be loved by. She started coming down the stairs and after just about just 25 minutes of preparing herself to go out with my Dad prior to that she had been a woman who got four kids off to school , did three loads of laundry, made sandwiches for lunch for us, iron my Dads uniforms cleaned four bedrooms, vacuumed six rooms and three hallways , cooked dinner and found the minute to rush into the living room because Michael called her to show her how funny Herman Munster looked dressed as a baby on Television . She now descended the stairs with her Bouffant hair-do and her Joyce Leslie Cocktail dress and the scent of Jean Nat’e that announced to all of us … she was not Audrey Hepburn…she was not Raquel Welsh ……. but she was one beautiful Lady…… and she was My Mom……. and my Dads eyes showed more pride than any of ours .
As if their timing was predestined Moms high heel hit the bottom step as a knock came to the front door. I opened the door and there was Sissy Barker(Mrs Barkers oldest daughter) our next door neighbor who was 16 years old and ready to take on the task of babysitting the Leddy Clan. You see back when I was growing up in our beloved Brooklyn, there was no need to have a Nanny or have strangers look after the children in our neighborhood ….all we needed were the generosity our neighbors and their willingness to help each other.
Sissy was so groovy….(yes I said Groovy) She sat and styled my sister Eileens hair which Eilleen loved because she only really had two brothers to be around so having Sissy there made her incredibly happy. Sissy made sure to check on little Maryann periodically as per my Moms request As for me and my brother Michael …well lets just say ….I hope Sissy has forgiven us for the little monsters we were to her that night.
When Mom and Dad arrived home that night I guess about two A.M. the house was quiet Sissy was sitting on the couch half asleep after being worn out between Michael and me and Eileens constant and unending questions about why boys are so horrible. Dad walked her next door and thanked Mrs Barker and Sissy went to bed for a well deserved rest.
The only person who was not asleep that night in my house after Dad got back from walking Sissy home was me.Dad closed the front door and didn’t really bother to lock it and Mom had already set up a record (33rpm) and the music was playing….Jimmy Roselli crooned and my Mom and Dad danced in the living room….You see that night an 8 year old boy watched two kids who were deeply in love hold each other and sway on my living room floor ….and neither Grandmother had to take two buses to see it….I just laid down at the top of the stairs and peeked through the bannister. That my friends is a true Brooklyn Love story. There were no red carpets , there were no photographers and no flash bulbs going off ,,,,,,just a man and a woman with four kids (well three) sleeping upstairs as they danced with each other in their living room in Flatbush.

 

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Growing up in Brooklyn there were a few moments when you knew you were no longer “just a kid”. One of them was when you fell in love for the very first time.
Now I have to say when I was a kid the very thought of playing with girls seemed to be a total waste of time. They could not even throw a baseball , they could not catch a football and they didn’t know how to skate and hold a hockey stick! So for those reasons I never really had much interest in girls.. They would sometimes play “Freeze-Tag” or
“I Declare War” and “Ring-O-Livio” on the “Block” but they were too slow and were usually not very good at them. Even sometimes when there was an odd number of us guys to play a ball game we would ask a girl to play just to even out the sides, but you would have to spot the team with her 5 runs. Girls? I don’t know , who needs them?
Then when I was in 5TH grade and in the last month of the semester in Mary Queen of Heaven …it happened.
We were told that we were going to have a new student from another school in our class.. The door to the classroom opened up and in she walked into the classroom ..and straight into my heart.. It seemed like everything was moving in slow motion she took her seat and I could not take my eyes off her. Every one of my friends wanted her to be their girlfriend , but I was , I guess just lucky because she picked me. I can’t remember ever being happier and proud and even “cool” at the same time.
We were “Going Out”….which meant I was allowed to hold her hand when walking down the street, which meant I could get to say in my toughest Brooklyn voice..”Thats My Girlfriend back off pal” but most of all it meant I got to walk her home when the street lights came on and get to kiss her goodnight at her stoop. It was like magic because after that kiss goodnight I would feel as if my feet never touched the ground as I walked home and I would begin to count the hours until I would see her again.
Now there is one very important part of “Going Out” that told the world she was mine. It was the ritual for every Brooklyn teenage boy. to perform in order to make your relationship solid. So I saved my money and I and found myself standing at the glass counter of Malsons Jewelry store in the Kings Plaza saying “Yes I would like it engraved”…………Yep ..you got it ……”
“The official symbol of Brooklyn Love”……The Ankle Chain !!!!!!
Oh by the way one of the other moments when you know you were growing up is unfortunately when your heart gets broken……you see She “Broke Up” with me before I had the chance to give her
“The Ankle Chain”…………… Which I still have to this day!
I am happy to share with you that we are best of friends still to this day and had a wonderful laugh about it when I finally told her after 40 years.
I had purchased at least 10 more of them though out my teenage years but none of them were more special than the one I still have in my jewelry box.
So who remembers giving or getting …The Ankle Chain?

 

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It’s 8:30 A.M. on a sunny Brooklyn morning and it seems very strange to me at 5 years old to have to dress up on a Monday? You see my Mom tells me I am going to meet new friends and I am going to play and learn all kinds of new games and others things. She explains to me that I will be staying there for the whole morning but I would be coming home for lunch. So I begin what will turn out to be my everyday ritual that will be a part of my life for at least the next 13 years……getting ready for SCHOOL….because today I am going to Kindergarten !!!!
My shorts are pressed as is my short sleeve button down shirt and shoes are shined to a high gloss finish… and on they go , which usually is reserved for Church on Sunday yet that will be my attire as I enter this brand new world. Into my hair goes that “greasy kid stuff” Mom combs it with tender loving care to make sure I look my best as will every other Mom of the kids I am soon to meet.
Mom announces we are ready and our journey to Kindergarten begins, we walk the short 4 blocks from 55th St to 51st St stopping at each corner so Mom could hold my hand as we crossed……..I take it upon myself to look both ways in a “I am protecting Mom kinda way”
There she stands….its 3 stories seem huge as my eyes take in the building and it’s entirety……P.S. 203!!!!! We enter the schoolyard and I see more kids than I ever saw in one place before in my life…there were MILLIONS!!!!!…well it seemed that way to this 5 year old. We lined up in front of a woman who held up a sign that read …”Kindergarten A.M. #1″. Her name was Mrs Siegel and the minute I stood in front of her and waved bye to Mom there was no doubt I was not a baby anymore I was a ‘Schoolkid” like all the other kids on my block.
Mrs.Siegel walked us to our classroom and assigned us a place to sit. There were five tables in the classroom each was adorned with a center piece that was either Red,Blue ,Yellow, Green or Purple. I was to be a member of the “Yellow” table. To this very day yellow is my favorite color and I often wonder if there was a connection. Anyway I look around this strange place called the “Classroom” and I see wooden blocks, I see jars of paints and paintbrushes, I see “construction paper” in every color but most of all I see the biggest box of “Crayola” crayons I ever saw in my short life. There is one or two kids that are just not ready for this place and are crying and upset ., Mrs Seigel comforts them as if they were her own children….I know right then I am going to like her ,,she’s nice.
She addresses our class and lets us know we are free to play with whatever we please but we are to share and be nice to one another. She then makes us all stand up at our table place our right hand over our hearts and face the American flag hanging in the middle of the chalkboard directly over it and we pledged our allegiance to that flag in our sing song kinda way and that was to be performed everyday …and it was for everyday of my scholastic career until college
I choose to color which I love to do. So there I was sitting with 4 other kids with our heads and faces as close to the paper as humanly possible coloring a picture of our homes as suggested by Mrs Seigel. She stops by the yellow table and shows us all a little trick….She makes a half circle in the right hand corner of the paper I am drawing on and colors it in yellow and drew 5 or 6 straight little lines coming away from it and there was
…”The Sun” . I thought that was the coolest thing I ever saw.
The only thing I can actually say that I really did not like in Kindergarten was the taste of the the white “Elmers Glue Paste” when I licked the orange applicator which was also the lid!!!!
Tell the truth …You tasted it too…didn’t you? Be honest!!!

 

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