In these tumultuous times I am conflicted about writing and publishing what some might call trite history regarding growing up sixty years ago. I continue to do so for two reasons: for some relief from the anger and chaos and to continue to preserve what now more than ever seems a better time.
We didn’t always play in the street. 222 and its sister building on 82nd street both had backyards. These were, unfortunately, divided by an iron fence. Access was by elevator to the basement, passing the laundry room and the garbage cans out the big doors turning right and right again to stand at one end of a concrete space that ran the 83rd street length of the building from the store next to the parochial school to the back windows of the H line of apartments.
The rears of several stores were at the Broadway end too. When the elevator men didn’t want us to go down there, we had our way under the gate that guarded the steps that were used when the trash elevator didn’t work. It was a straight run from the bottom of the steps to the end of the backyard.
That trash elevator did stink but it was fun to drive. The simple iron platform with a severe black arch had only the brass control to provide color unless the silver garbage cans were aboard. Of course, the operator which could be one of us and the building staff providing supervision also added color to the bleak moving space. It was really noisy. The steel arch crashed against the street level doors that rose out of the sidewalk with the bell screaming a raucous warning, “sidewalk rising, look out”.
We were known to play stickball back there. Too much traffic or an hour too close to the parochial school dismissal or just for variety, we were down there making noise and having a good time with the “spaldine” flying off the stick and up the side of the building when someone hit a good one.
Our bat was something like this one. I don’t recall it being being tapered. The black tape on the handle end was traditional and made for a secure grip. I’m pretty sure ours was pine.
The iron dividing fence often caused difficulty with its spiked verticals. When we needed to get the spaldine from the other backyard it was time to be careful. Not all of us could make it over this fence, like me. And, there was a small room-sized area above one of the stores that caught an occasional ball and required some tricky climbing for retrieval.
In spite of these complications, we tough guys, afraid of the parochial school kids, went down there to play.
Neither the noise we made nor the sound of the bouncing ball were appreciated by some of our neighbors who forced the doormen to come down and chase us out. Except of course for 7H. She was an older woman, to us, and we were not her favorites. She shouted down, “get out of there”, “you can’t play here” and more. But we were brave seven stories down and kept on playing.
And then there was the flying can of Ajax.
Red, white and blue with metal ends, one with the sprinkling holes, didn’t hit anyone after its seventy foot plunge. Remarkably intact, as well, after sailing out the window which we all knew belonged to her, in 7H, the “foaming cleanser” was carefully carried upstairs to 7 and generously sprinkled on the door and door mat of 7H. Of course, we rang the bell and ran up the stairs to nine where I lived.
We stayed out of the backyard for awhile after that day; clearly a bunch of little boys afraid for their heads and the possible punishments of our parents.
She never told and neither did we.
12 thoughts on “7H”
Love reading this, Ken!
Thanks Gael. I hope all is going well.
You guys must’ve been prohibited from inviting other kids in the neighborhood to participate in these clandestine “behind 222” activities. I don’t remember them at all…only the games we all played on the street, which you described so nostalgically in a previous blog. And I agree totally with your reasons for posting–keep the memories coming!
Thanks for the kind words old friend.
Wow! This is very familiar. Did the same kind of stuff. My building, 219 W 81St street sounds identical to your layout. P.S. 9, Class of 1964, 44′ Class of 1966.
You were pretty much right behind us.
If you haven’t yet done so, please take a look at the other posts on my blog. I think you’ll feel right at home.
Since I was a girl, I don’t remember playing stickball in the streets – but we did play punchball, with the same Spaldeen or Pensy Pinky.
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In Queens, stickball bats in those days were not tapered, and usually not even taped at the handle. They were broom sticks, plain and simple.
Wow! Some critics have actually suggested you’re being, what is it?, selfish? or out of touch by writing because of today’s troubles? Really? Well, interim comment, hopefully more later (didn’t yet fully read/process the part about stick ball): What did immediately grab my attention was your use of the words “elevator men”. Wow! Can you find & post a picture of those old elevators, with those metal gates & the folding seat by the circle-shaped activation thing with the handle? Did your elevator man wear a uniform, like the door man? Wow! Loved those things! Kids today don’t know what they’re missing.
I worked from 1971-75 in the Holy Trinity Rectory and the office overlooked both back yards. I know exactly where and what you wrote about. Thanks for the memories!
I recall ken Marion and I building the kiosk located off Broadway & 83 st. Some where I have a picture of myself at the top of the ladder pouring in sand.
The lady on 7 H lives in our minds and hearts. I believe, if you mention their name she still lives. So here’s to you Ruth Jacobs.
All the best to all
Thanks for reading young fella!