The things we did to amuse ourselves seemed to come in seasons. Fall might see us playing with yo-yos and doing tricks like rock the cradle or walk the dog; or maybe trading ten-cent comics like Superman, Lash Larue, or Little Lulu; Winter meant sledding down the hill in the vacant lot, or building snow forts and having snowball wars; Spring would bring on baseball of course, but less well-known pastimes like making scooters out of wooden crates and old roller skates, or fashioning carpet guns powered by rubber bands that fired deadly squares of cut-up linoleum; Summer was the best season of all because it opened up so many possibilities for strong young bodies with boundless energy!
There was swimming at the beach (View Coney Island - Land of Enchantment) or Cypress Pool ( View Rites of Passage); going to the playground (View Band Aid Park); family picnics (View That Great Picnic Favorite: Barbecued Lasagna); Day Camp at P.S. 73 (View Summer in the City); and so many other games devised by clever street kids without much money. At night the "ride trucks" would come around...these were kiddy rides like the Whip, the Moonship and a tiny Ferris Wheel. For a nickel you got a cheap thrill delivered right to your door. We played Hide and Seek, Ring-a-leevio, Kick the Can, or Johnny-on-the-Pony for hours out under the streetlights.
On hot days when we couldn't get to the beach, there was always the Johnny Pump (fire-hydrant to non-Brooklynites). One of the kids would borrow his father's wrench and in seconds we were all in the street yelling and screaming in our bathing suits. Soon someone would find a tin can, remove the lids on both ends, and use the metal cylinder as a water cannon, directing the stream of water gushing out of the hydrant. As cars passed by we would move to the sidewalk. Some drivers passed through slowly motioning us to direct the water stream over their cars for a free wash. Neighborhood drivers knew enough to close their windows all the way for this procedure; outsiders who didn't know better paid the price.
We were on the street all day from 8am to dinner time, sometimes not even going home for lunch. If we got hungry we would go into Bilello's Bakery on Rockaway Avenue to buy a loaf of hot Italian bread for 10 cents, or if we were flush with cash, the deli would sell you a baloney hero for a quarter. For quick snacks there was the old man selling Mom's Knishes, the pretzel cart, or the chestnut cart. Dessert was ices at Roma Pastry on Fulton Street, a fudgesicle or Mello-Roll, shaved ices flavored with syrups, or if you were desperately broke, the guy delivering ice to the people with no refrigerators would take his ice pick and chop a hunk of ice off the big block for you to suck on.
To beat the heat, we'd sit through a double feature at the air-conditioned Colonial Theater on Broadway ( View Saturday at the Movies). It was typical of theaters of the day with a big screen, plush seats, red carpets down the aisles, a balcony where many a first kiss was stolen, and women ushers called "Matrons" whose main qualification for the job was that they be at least 75 years old. We were relegated to the children's section of the theater since we were under 16 years old. We got our revenge by yelling out things during the show, especially during the romance scenes that just begged for a mocking commentary. When television came on strong in the early sixties, movie theaters struggled. They gave out cheap china on "dish night", and even raffled off prizes; (remember when Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton won a TV in a movie raffle and had to share it?)
As the end of August neared, it seemed to me that my white shirt and blue tie school uniform hanging ominously in the closet was calling out to me. The days were getting shorter and the nights cooler...how long before the men in black robes would once again be standing before me trying to teach me how a "gerund" was used in a sentence, or where Dutch New Guinea was located. Those summers are so far back in time, and yet, (if I can forget for a moment about the aches when I get up in the morning, and the fact that I have once again misplaced by car keys,) I can become that ten-year old boy again in my mind's eye. Thin as a rail, eating like there was no tomorrow, running everywhere I went, and NEVER turning away from a pal's taunting "I dare you".
Today, for me, hot fun in the summertime is finding a coupon for the "buy one, get one free" early bird dinner. Now where did I put my white belt and shoes?!
CLICK ON DATES AT TOP RIGHT TO SEE OTHER “SPALDEEN DREAMS” POSTS. ALSO, READ MY OTHER BLOG:BRAINDROPS.