Given the proximity of this posting to election day 2016 you might think it was another post about voting. It’s not. ENJOY!
Handball was another brand of West 83rd Street competition among the boys. On the block we played the kind of handball where you hit the ball down to bounce then hit the wall. The opponent(s) had to hit the ball back the same way before it bounced. We played this both near the Broadway corner on the south side of the street and off the wall of the movie theatre on the north side. I can’t recall why we picked one over the other on any particular day except there was much more room on the north side.
We played with a Spalding rubber ball, pink yes, but not a pinky, that was another brand. The Spalding or “spaldine” as it was commonly called was rough which I guess afforded a better grip. The pinky was much smoother and squishier and frowned upon on my block.
This was a game that could be played by two or three or four or even more players. Of course, we needed the wall of Loew’s 83rd Street for more than three of us. No matter where we played there was always the complication of pedestrians. When someone needed to pass one of us had to catch the ball and be prepared to restart the game. Of course, there were two kinds of pedestrians, those who walked behind us and those who insisted on walking right up the middle of the game.
Handball was serious. Not quite as serious as stoop ball, and certainly not as dangerous as stickball or stoopball, but we did get to go out in the street when the handball loser was identified. You see, we played asses up.
Looked just like it sounds! The loser had to lean against the wall, head down, tush up while the rest of us paraded into the street and stood by the parked cars. It was then our duty to throw the spaldine as hard as we could at the butt of our losing comrade. I recall that it stung but it was the indignity of standing, bent over like that, tush high in the air that was most degrading.
I believe that this is why this stayed a boys’ game. Some of us had begun to notice girls by fifth grade but we knew you couldn’t put one of them in the position of the loser, even though we would have liked a peek.