Childhood friends and the 1950’s,as a boy.
GROWING UP IN”DA” BRONX
1951, my parents moved into Parkside Projects in “Da” Bronx , N.Y.C. This housing community was a brand spanking new sprawling complex, consisting of approximately twenty buildings. The folks who inhabitated these new dwellings were mostly WW2 veterans and their families. The ethnicity make up was in the vicinity of 95% Irish, Italian, Jewish and also German heritage. Our family moved into a fourteen story building, this being my Dad, Mom, older sister Holly, four years old, myself two years old, and Lennore , the youngest at one year of age. We lived on the ninth floor overlooking other smaller buildings where people lived and worked. Three short years later in 1954, my Dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in his sleep of a heart attack. He was just forty one years old. No pension, no social security, welfare assistance was never an option for Mom. She quickly gathered herself. She worked two jobs and learned secretarial skills by night attending school. In those days, neighbors would watch over one another and treated children as one of their own. Just one large extended family you might say. Today, they may call this child abandonment, but times were different back in the fifties. We were all cut from the same cloth. The Housing Authority was as polite and sensitive to Mom’s plight as one would drink acid for water. They demanded that we vacate our two bedroom apt., and stated that we would be “permitted” to move to the Edenwald Projects, which even then was akin to a state penitentiary. My Mom may have been born at night, but it surely wasn’t THAT NIGHT! She was a tough Bronx lady, and she informed the H.A. that they could put the demand where the sun doesn’t shine!!! A compromise was reached and we moved from the ninth floor, down to a one bedroom apt. on the seventh floor. I learned early in life do not mess with my Mom, because that 5’0, 90 pound lady could turn into a fire breathing, sledge hammering superwoman in a nano second, and anyone who dared hurt her kids would pay for it dearly. We gradually settled in and went about growing up and experiencing life with all of its ebbs and flows. I had many friends as I grew up in 660 Arnow Ave. and many memories that I cherish to this very day. My best friend was Donald Mastracchio. Donald also lived in “my” building on the fourth floor. He lived with his Dad, Don, his Mom, Gene, and his younger brother Frankie. They sorta adopted me as one of their own and would always include me on trips and outings. I came to love them as if they were my own family. Other friends included Reese and Bruce Trubow, Gregory Tozzi who was the group comedian, Eddie Tobias who never wore sneakers as a kid, David Koslovski, the card player, the Charap brothers, Paul and Richard, and last but not least, the oldest nastiest, the toughest in our group, the bully, Teddy Tischler. This group of kids grew up together, knew each others families, slept over at one another’s house, ate and went to Church or Synagogue together. Life was swell in our little world, and our world consisted of about a three block radius at that time. Anything further seemed like taking a space shuttle. We would gather together and play. Play anything and everything. The basketball courts were just across the street, it had four separate courts, and we practically lived there. As I stated before, Eddie Tobias only wore shoes and was forever landing on another one of the guys foot causing all kind of howling and screaming. I think every one of us experienced some sort of foot disfigurement because of Eddie’s shoes. To this day I would doubt if Eddie owns a pair of sneakers, he probably owns a string of shoe stores! Donald was a pretty good athlete as a youngster, and would play anything suggested by any one of us. Another thing he loved was my Moms potato pancakes and goulash. When Mom was cooking that meal we knew Donald would soon ring the bell. I also loved his Moms meatball and spaghetti dinners, and would make myself available just as Donald did. We were pals. During the summer months we would be up and ready to play as soon as the sun would rise. One or two of would start to gather the rest and “call for” the guys by ringing or knocking on the door of each one’s apt. The Charap brothers, Paul and Richie had a few peculiar oddities that the rest of us always semi-enjoyed. We always needed enough men to field a team and this required all of us to be available. Upon ringing the bell, Millie who was their mother, would open the door and greet us in her apron and bra! No disrespect, but Marilyn Monroe she was not. We would be allowed into the apt. to get the boys. A point of interest was pictures posted on the walls. I mean all of us had in our homes some kind of art or picture of something, but the Charaps took it to another level. They would cut out the Sunday color section of the Daily News and tape it on the wall, on the wall for cryin out loud! Posted directly near the front door was the picture of 1959’s Miss Rheingold beer, taped with both scotch and electrical tape mind you. We’ll be down after My Little Margie and I Love Lucy would be the same reply Monday thru Friday. The brothers talked about Margie and Lucy as if they were next door neighbors! Trying to get Paul and Richie to play was a task in itself, but we needed to have enough guys to field a team for the day. Gregory Tozzi was our neighborhood jokester and always had something ready to say. One time he teased Paul and Richie about they’re middle names, which happened to be Preston and Murray. A TV. show in the 1950’s was on Saturday’s and it was Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and his dog, King. When they finally came down, Gregory would announce to one and all loudly, “here comes Sgt. Preston and his dog MUARRY!” All of us would get a chuckle every time it happened, all of us except the brothers that is. On rainy days David Koslovski (don’t call me Kos) would break out a few decks of cards and begin to teach the rest of us new card games. Dave always had a toothpick in his mouth like his Dad, Harry, we wondered if he slept with the darn thing. Dave knew all of the card games imaginable, at ten years old he could have been dealing blackjack in Vegas! Reese and his younger Bruce were always ready to play and had great parents, Warren and Doris. On occasion the boys would argue, but not anything like any other brothers would. Tough Teddy Tischler. Yep, that’s what we called him ( behind his back of course.) He was the oldest of us, the one who cussed, and the loudest, biggest, meanest kid in our building. None of us particularly liked Teddy or liked playing with him. We thought he was a bully. As an athlete he was average to below average, not to brag, but I could run rings around him in any sport. To be fair, tough Teddy wasn’t always mean and when he acted nice, it was a good time for the rest of us as well. I recall, one time a group of us were heading over to P.S.96 for a softball game when tough Teddy stated in his best Al Capone voice “ Lez go blay!” Koslovski falls down laughing, tears flowing, and holding his side and mimicking tough Teddy. Lez go blay, Lez go blay. We have all since grown up and gone our separate ways. One time we even had a neighborhood reunion and many of us gathered for the first time in many years. We reminisced and spoke of the times we shared in our youth about growing up in” Da Bronx.” We were fortunate to have had each other as friends as well as each other’s family. It was a time of innocence, a time of bonding, a time that I will never forget, growing up in “Da BRONX!”
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