Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where We Gonna Eat???

A love of food comes with growing up Italian. As a kid I remember we didn't go out much. A visit to Sportman's Cafe on Fulton Street (a local pizza joint , or the Chinese restaurant on Pitkin Avenue was a big deal for us. I do remember my mother taking me to the Horn & Hardart "Automat" downtown Brooklyn. For those of you too young to remember this fabulous place, it was a cafeteria-style restaurant, but the fascination was getting your food from behind little glass windows after dropping the required number of nickels in the slot. I think the first time I saw the inside of a real restaurant was after somebody's funeral.

As I got older, we went out more. One of our favorite places was Salerno's, not in Brooklyn, but in Jamaica, Queens. This was a "prix fixe" ("fixed price" for non-French speakers) place decorated in the Italian style that gave you enough food over so many courses that you literally staggered out the door. They had a wandering accordionist that played Italian songs as you dined. My mother loved this place, and for that reason alone, it holds a special place in my heart.

Right around the corner from Salerno's was Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor (there was a Jahn's on Avenue U in Brooklyn too). Their specialty was whipping up big ice cream concoctions with names like Screwball's Delight, Pink Elephant, and of course, the outrageous Kitchen Sink...their ads said it was free if you could finish it. They gave you a free Sundae on your birthday too. Jahn's was a must stop after attending a double feature next door at the RKO Kieth's theater.

There were so many restaurants in Brooklyn, but I'll mention just one more...Lundy's. Located in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, Lundy's in its heyday was reported to be the largest restaurant in the United States, seating around 2500 people. After many successful years, the restaurant closed in 1977; a brief reprise came in 1997, not under Lundy family management, but the place just wasn't the same.
As my grandmother used to say, and I've taken her advice with great gusto: "Mangia".


Children's Craniofacial Association

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spaldeen Dreams

If you're under 50, the title of this blog won't mean much to you. Let me enlighten you grasshopper.

Made from the rejected inner core of a tennis ball in 1949, the original pink-colored Spalding High-Bounce ball gave inner city kids a way to play street games like hit-the-penny, box ball, stoop-ball, punch-ball and most famously, stickball. Designed after baseball, stickball substituted Spalding High-Bounce balls for baseballs, broomsticks for bats and manholes and fire hydrants for bases. The ball was originally called "Spaldeen" by New Yorkers with neighborhood accents who pronounced Spalding as (spal-deen).

As a kid in Brooklyn, the Spaldeen was a big part of my childhood. My friends and I spent endless hours on Somers Street and Rockaway Avenue playing with this little pink ball while dreaming of becoming the next Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams. Any kid who could hit a spaldeen "two sewers" was among the first picked when we chose up sides.
We played in the middle of the street and had to stop often to let the traffic pass. We used sewer covers for home plate and second base, and either chalked first and third bases in the asphalt, or used car fenders if the owners weren't around.

I guess those "Spaldeen Dreams" never came true for most of us, but along the way we were creating wonderful memories of growing up in Brooklyn during the 1950's. It was a special place full of energy and hope. One in seven Americans can trace their roots back to Brooklyn. And if you asked them, I’d bet not many would choose to trade their childhood on the streets of Brooklyn for any other place in the world.

This blog is my way of recalling those memories, and also for anyone who grew up in that place and time to share what they remember. As my generation moves up the seniority ladder, I think it's important to let others know about the things that helped shape us. I want my kids to know a little about what life was like then...what I was like.

Just click on any date at the upper right to see other posts about growing up in 1950's Brooklyn. I hope you'll add "Spaldeen Dreams" to your "Favorites" and stop by once in a while to check for new posts, or to enter a "Comment" on any existing post.

I find that although I get more forgetful with every passing year, I can remember things that happened fifty years ago with surpprising clarity. Friends I played with, family holiday gatherings, neighborhood stores, teachers, doctors, neighbors, all are part of a wonderful mosaic that was my childhood in Brooklyn, New York. Looking back, I can finally appreciate how much of my education took place on those streets. And now, as the Lone Ranger used to say, "Let us return to those thrilling days of yesteryear".

The Brooklyn Boys ride again.


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