(A Look Back)
Chapter 1 The Early Years (1936 - 1951)
born Dec 10, 1936 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.
Unfortunately my parents have died so there is really no resource for
much information during this time save for my own vague memories.
My earliest recollections are that we lived in a large apartment with my
Dad's parents. Perhaps it was the inherent pressures of this
arrangement that caused the rift between my paternal grandmother (dad's
stepmother) and my mother which although they tolerated each other
(meeting only when Grandma Lambert came later on to care for us while my
parents went out) I never remember my mother going to visit her.
That trip was taken by my Dad and I later in this period, producing my
introduction to New York Trolleys or the New York Subway System, usually
depending on weather. I believe I must have been four or five when
my parents and I moved out to an apartment on 90th street further south
in Manhattan (near Central Park). By the time I was six and ready
for first grade we had moved to an apartment a bit further north (105th
St., also near Central Park, (a place my Dad would refer to as our
estate) where we would remain until later when my father was transferred
upstate. I was taken to the local Catholic School to apply for
admission and surprised the Nuns by being already able to read. My
Catholic school education I think lasted about a day and a half.
This was not because of anything other than logistics. The
catholic school some distance away and I was escorted back and forth by
a high school age girl who lived in the next door apartment building.
She attended the public high school directly across the street from the
catholic grade school. The problem was when we came home for
lunch (this was in the dark ages before school lunches) by the time my
little six year old legs got me to our 4th floor apartment for lunch,
she was ready to return to school. It quickly became obvious that
this was not going to work and I was transferred to a nearby public
During this period World War II started and my father took on the duties of a local Air Raid Warden. I remember well his white helmet and whistle as he and his fellow wardens patrolled the streets looking for violations of the blackout rules. (Light showing from behind shades etc.) He also began to work longer hours (overtime) to keep the work flowing that would have been done by those serving in the military. I remember hanging out the window at 9:00PM on many summer nights to catch a glimpse of him coming from the subway. Memories of our building focus on the fact that we had buckets of sand and shovels on landings between the floors. (Looking back they seemed so inconsequential) We also had a large box of crackers and C-rations on he ground floor to sustain us in an emergency. My most vivid recollection of this ..period was of my father being drafted. He actually reported for induction, passed the physical, and was ready to go. I recall his disappointment, when because of the progress of the war, it was decided that married fathers over 35 would not be required to go. Like others of his generation, he felt the duty to participate. However, I was the beneficiary as he was able to spend time playing "stickball" with my friends and I in our "estate" which the city called Central Park and which made me the envy of the neighborhood.
We did not have a TV so I got a chance to what therapists now call bond with my father through TV. There was a neighbor in the building who was a member of a local Legion or VFW Post. Since he had a key to the Pot building, we were able to walk to the Post some blocks away on many Tuesday nights to watch Uncle Miltie (Milton Berle, a TV staple of the time). In addition to the TV I could fool around with the pool table and other fun things. The best thing was that it was inside and warm. In contrast, my other TV bonding involved the Friday night fights from Madison Square Garden. We would again walk a few blocks to a TV repair shop. The shop had a TV on in its' window probably 24/7. We would stand in a small group, often in the bitter cold while the group watched and cheered the participants. We would then walk the few blocks home. On the walk home, my father would stop at the neighborhood Delicatessen (now delis are counters in supermarkets). He would get some munchies and a couple of quarts of beer (marketing of six and twelve packs did not exist). If I had been good, (which meant I had not whined too much about the cold). I would be treated to some root beer. There was no fridge pack or oversized container of soda (pop) in our fridge. My mother rightly considered that the sugary substance was not good for us. My Friday night root beer therefore was considered a particular treat. Those memories and playing "stickball" in Central Park are among my fondest childhood memories.