“IT NEVER RAINED     IN THE BRONX”True, humorous stories   From a real life      Meshugana   Steven Chanzes
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”                   Copyright ©2012 by Steven Chanzes  All rights reserved. Except as permitt...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”LIFE IS A COLLECTION          OF     MEMORIES.WITHOUT MEMORIES THERE IS NO LIFE.THESE ARE MY...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”                                DEDICATIONUsually an event takes place that causes someone t...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Phyllis. My sister who left us at the tender age of 60. Philly, you were and arean inspirati...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”It’s a good thing that my Mom was an exceptional cook), Annie Firkser andLouie the Cop (Neig...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”                               CONTENTSForeword                                          8Pr...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Ouch!!! I Think a Bug Bit Me                    218An After Dinner Heart Attack             ...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”                                  FOREWORDIts Sunday, July 19, 1987. I was born forty-three ...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”when we pile into the family van Devil must be physically assisted by yours trulydue to her ...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”she made that decision too late. Approximately four months after my Mom wasdiagnosed with lu...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”believed. So my Father keeps driving and the Volkswagen keeps tailgating. MyDad sped up, slo...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”In effect until it stops raining, its as if Devil and I are confined to a prison cellbecause...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”                                     PREFACE"It Never Rained In The Bronx" is a compilation ...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”up by the fact that we actually lived in and around a sports pavilion. On any givenday you c...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”thousands of people living in close harmony with each other, caring for each other,sharing h...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”                            THE NEIGHBORHOODI grew up in a section of the Bronx called Pelha...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Most of these New Americans had family and/or friends living in the States. Uponlanding at E...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”mammoth snakes in the reptile house. Walking through the winding walkways inthe Zoo which we...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”other apartment buildings via a common lobby, access across the roof or alabyrinth of underg...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”minute walk to your dwelling has just turned into what appears to be a qualifyingheat for an...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”give two or three short honks. This is repeated about three times. If you fail toachieve a f...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”office do to uncomplicate matters? NOTHING. Instead they chose to add morefuel to the fire b...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”a Jewish Prayer Book the reader of these newspapers would start at the back of thepaper. Why...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”the scoop. All types of nuts and candies were displayed in big fishbowls. Withbarely a dolla...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”getting a glimpse of the hottest sex star since the advent of the silver screen. Aswas repor...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”your egg cream will be authentic in every sense of the word. On the other hand ifyou cannot ...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Some candy stores were directly responsible for making capitalists ofneighborhood children o...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”ate there or brought the food up to the apartment at least every other week. Whenyou entered...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”this in itself has not deterred Harry from keeping up with the times.We also had four delica...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”This was the honor system or should I say a system without honor. The thirty tosixty minutes...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”was off to the Deli for Granma. While my sisters liked Chinese food and Deli,their first pre...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”box was considered a strike. A ground ball past the pitcher was a single; if caughtby the pi...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Wees job that much easier because the harder I threw the ball then the farther ittraveled of...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”the crowd that the basket was made by Pee Wee Cohen. You would have thoughtthat Columbus Hig...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”hed be able to tell you how many home runs he had hit in the schoolyard that year.The real B...
“IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”played Jiggy a game of Ping Pong it was almost as if you were just playing Jiggyshead, becau...
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It Never Rained in The Bronx

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True humorous stories of the author, his friends and family while growing up in The Bronx, New York, and continuing with his move to Florida where he now resides.

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It Never Rained in The Bronx

  1. 1. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”True, humorous stories From a real life Meshugana Steven Chanzes
  2. 2. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX” Copyright ©2012 by Steven Chanzes All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, ortransmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher or author. Printed in the United States of America The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows: Chanzes, Steven “It Never Rained In The Bronx” Copyright Pending Page 1 of 301
  3. 3. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”LIFE IS A COLLECTION OF MEMORIES.WITHOUT MEMORIES THERE IS NO LIFE.THESE ARE MY MEMORIES OF GROWING UP IN THE BRONX AND LATER SPENDING MY ADULTHOOD IN FLORIDA WHERE I STILL LIVE. Page 2 of 301
  4. 4. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX” DEDICATIONUsually an event takes place that causes someone to write a book. I rememberexactly where I was and what inspired me to put pen to paper. We had justmoved to Marco Island, Florida from the Fort Lauderdale area. One of thefirst things I did was join the Y.M.C.A. I used to play tennis there everyTuesday and Thursday morning. I made many friends and acquaintances,one of which was Bob Grivicich, a gentleman who became a very good friendof mine. One day, in between games, we got into a discussion and I asked Bobhow old he was. He replied “72, but Steve it’s just a number’” I thoughtabout what Bob just told me and in all seriousness I said to him, “tell me Bob,how many people do you know with the number 100?” He picked up histennis racket and proceeded to chase me all over the court. I couldn’t believehe was 72. If I make it to 72 I only hope that I have one half of Bob’s stamina.That’s when I gave thought to writing a book because experiencing the pain ofseeing loved ones depart this earth way too early made me decide to put mymemories into the form of a book, because once my turn comes to depart thenit won’t be possible to do it and I have so many memories and stories to tellthat I hope you enjoy them. Anyways, Bob left us when he was 88, but he hada good run at life. Thank you Bob for giving me the idea for a book.So besides dedicating this book to my good friend Bob Grivicich I alsodedicate it to the following people.Mrs. C., my wife Joy who is my best friend and the best darn doctor that I’veever seen and I’ve seen many. Honey, I love you with all my heart and soul.Thanks for putting up with all my Michigas (See a Jew for a translation)My three sons, Lorne, Derek and J-Man (Jarrett). I haven’t had therelationship that I would have preferred with Lorne and Derek but Jarretthas more than compensated for it. I love you all.My Mom and Dad. They gave me every chance in life to become a Menschand to succeed through their love, educational opportunities and advice. Imiss you and love you both very much.Granma. She was more than a Granma. She was my second Mom. In hereyes I could do no wrong. In my eyes she was the perfect individual. I loveyou Granma. As I said when you left us, “Your shoes will never be filled.” Page 3 of 301
  5. 5. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Phyllis. My sister who left us at the tender age of 60. Philly, you were and arean inspiration to me with your love of family and righteous way of life. I loveyou and miss you very much.Uncle Aaron or as I sometimes called him, Tonto. We worked together for awhile and he used to bust my chops on a daily basis, but I looked forward to it.He was a surrogate father to me as well as my very best friend. His love andconcern for family is something that sticks out in my mind. I miss you UncleAaron and love you deeply.Uncle Jack. I cherished the times we spent together. You treated me as if Iwas your very own son. I love you and miss you.Aunt Jeanie. You took me into your home, no questions asked and gave mean overabundance of love for which I will be eternally grateful.Listed above were some of the very important influences and loves of my life.But there were more, many, many more.Adele and Howie (Cousins – When my sister Philly was in the last stages ofher illness I remember Cousin Adele saying to me, “Stevie, the circle is gettingsmaller.” Boy, was she right.), Sam, Irene and Ira Kleinrock (Neighbors, veryLoud Neighbors), Sam, Ella, Sherry and Jeffrey Grosky (Neighbors), RonnieKrauss (Friend, killed in VietNam), Patty, Glenn, Jackie and Scott (Cousins),Paul, Amy, Griffin, Jake and Luke (Cousins), Tsippi (Cousin – also nicknamedSnippy because she was clipping her Parakeets toe and accidentally cut it off),Aunt Tillie and Uncle George, Aunt Veyla and Uncle Charlie, Joel Klarreich(Friend – Became an Attorney), Mike Lewis (Friend – Became a FinancialAnalyst), Alvy Bregman (Friend – Became a Doctor), Irwin Halfond (Friend –Became a History Professor), Mike Jaffe (Friend – Became a Psychologist),Arthur Katzenberg (Friend – Became a, well, still a Friend), Aunt Rosie andUncle Manny, Aunt Ruchel and Uncle Jake, Ronnie Garber (Step-Brother),John Catona (Friend – he is as close to me as anyone), Carmine (Boss atMutual Trust Life – He didn’t have time to sell insurance because he wasalways in his office at night with a new woman), John and Pat Candela(Friends), Bobby Pata and Leslie Morrow (Friends), Paul Geller (Friend – MyGranma called him a Trumbanik (Troublemaker – Little did Granma realizethat I was just as big a Trumbanik), Linda Schwabish (First Girlfriend – wewere going to get married but my Mom didn’t think it was such a good idea. Page 4 of 301
  6. 6. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”It’s a good thing that my Mom was an exceptional cook), Annie Firkser andLouie the Cop (Neighbors – They lived next door to us and whenever Louiesaw me he made sure to tell me a joke), Mr. Dill (8th Grade Science Teacher),Mr. Pablo Rosario (High School Spanish Teacher), Mrs. Patrick (3rd GradeTeacher), Jiggy (Friend – all 4’5” of him), Mark Feldman (Employee), PaulPodhurst (Employee), Jim Bell (Employee), Jeff Backoff (Friend), Joe Stein(Father In-Law), Gladys Stein (Joe’s Wife), Tom Lippett (Brother In-Law),Larry Nelson (Boss at Industrial Lighting), Steve and Sheri Crown (Friends),Jesse Fox (Friend), Randy Johnson (Boss at Progressive Lighting), Al Greiner(Boss at Lighting Company), Leon Saja (Business Associate), Marty andArlene Mayor (Friends – well, they used to be. Arlene passed away and therest is a long, long story), Connie and Myles Loud (Friends – another longstory but at least they’re both alive), Joe and Rhoda Radoslovich (Friends),George Adler (The General-Cousin), Aunt Ettie and Uncle Yiddel, AuntLorraine (The one person to go to for advice and Love), Marv Kurz(Bandleader at my Bar Mitzvah), Stacey, Andrew, Jamie and Ethan (Nephewsand Nieces), Greg, Marcy, Will and Jack (Nephews and Nieces), Roger Benson(Brother In-Law), Aunt Ethel and Uncle Morris, Stuart, Ronnie, Diane andStan (Cousins) Ronnie Kay (Friend and Attorney – well, not an attorneyanymore, but he was the best), Patty Caia (Friend – If I’m going to war then Iwant Patty in the trenches with me), Dr. Russo (My Nephrologist), Dr. Paone(My General Practitioner), Dr. Frank (My Cardiologist), Dr. Vera (MyNephrologist), Dr. Gadala (Nephrologist), (All of these Doctors are chargedwith keeping me alive and so far they are doing a pretty good job which iskind of amazing because one of them never even reported to his classes.), Elvis(It’s over 50 years and I’m still his #1 fan.), Mel and Doris Goldberg(Cousins), Fay and Dick Duchin (My adoptive parents), Eddie and BobbyDuchin (Friends), Chanz, Charlie, Koko, Muffin, Henry, Binx, Zoey, Sammieand Maxie (Our Beloved Pets) and many, many more too numerous tomention; not pets but people.Thank you all for all the times spent together, sometimes laughing, sometimescrying but most importantly spending it together with each other. Page 5 of 301
  7. 7. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX” CONTENTSForeword 8Preface 13The Neighborhood 162075 Wallace Avenue 42I Remember 49Sex - Part 1 55Sex – Part 2 63Sex – Part 3 66Sex – Part 4 68P.S. 105 76P.S. 83 78Christopher Columbus High School 87New York University 92The VietNam War 104Relatives 112Dad 119Granma 125Mom 132Philly 136Tonto 139The Lion Sleeps Tonight 140Unforgettable Characters 141Employment 153Goodbye New York, Hello Florida 163The Journey 166The Taylor‟s 167Transition 173Swollen Cheeks 175General Finance…Part 2 177My Most Unforgettable Dating Experience 179General Finance…Part 3 183Blazing Saddles 191My Wife, “J. Stein”, The Beginning 194Choosing a Career 199The Comet Kohotek 202Johnnie Cochran…Move Over 204Dumper Two 209The Shrink Who Needed a Shrink 214 Page 6 of 301
  8. 8. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Ouch!!! I Think a Bug Bit Me 218An After Dinner Heart Attack 221Don‟t You Ever Call Me Again 226I‟ll Have a Pastrami Sandwich 228Not For Doo-Doo 229The Art of Recruiting Salespeople 231Undercover Football 234I‟ll Trade You Two Blues For One Red 236Are You Sure You Want To See Dr. Rodriquez? 238Win a Free Job 239The 44th Brigade 244H.E.L.P. or Should I Say HELP 248Very Funny…Very Funny 251He‟s Not My Uncle Sam 254Aloha…Oy Vey 258I Can Help You Sir 261May I Have Your Signature Mr. Catona 264Don‟t Answer the Door 266Pets 268Help…They‟re Trying to Kill Me 272The Bitch Won‟t Sleep Walk No More 274It‟s 7 O‟Clock…Go to Your Room 276The Hell‟s Angel‟s Motorcycle Gang 278The Hawk 279What Do I Look Like, a Valet? 283Is There Any Name I Can Use? 285U.S. Bureau of Records, Inc. 287James “Burnell” Bell 289What If I Didn‟t Have Any Money? 291You‟re Under Arrest 293What Are You Doing With Your Hands? 294I Know a Good Deal When I See One 296Pass Me Some Water 298You Must Be Presentable 299Bend Over Please 300 Page 7 of 301
  9. 9. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX” FOREWORDIts Sunday, July 19, 1987. I was born forty-three years ago on this very day. Whatnormally would be a very happy time in ones life has been tinged with sadness.My basic family roots that have shared my pleasures as well as sorrows havealways been my GRANMA, my MOM and my DAD. In the space of six shortyears they have all left me. It doesnt seem fair. It never does. But death is a partof life. You cant have one without the other. What matters most are the memoriesyou have, and in that sense death never fully arrives. We all have memories of ourloved ones as well as of our experiences in life. This is what sustains us. This iswhat helps me keep my sanity intact.And so now Im sitting on my patio in Florida overlooking our pool which in turnoverlooks a lake stocked with bass, snakes and sometimes an alligator or two. Ourproperty is enclosed by a fence which keeps the alligators out. For some reasonthe snakes dont come onto our property. (Maybe they dont like kosher food.)Thank God. And of course the bass know their rightful place. My oldest boyLorne is defending his country in the service of the army. Hes stationed inGermany. My other two boys, Derek, age 13 and Jarrett, 7, are away for the veryfirst time at a summer sleep away camp in the Pocono‟s. I thought that it would beimpossible for me to ever miss their sibling rivalry. You know what I mean. Theyelling, screaming, slamming of doors and eating us out of house and home. But Imiss them. I really do. I cant wait for them to return home. Yes, I cant wait forthe yelling, the screaming and so on and so forth. But too much of a good thing isnot healthy, so of course next summer wont come quick enough for me.My wife is visiting her Dad who was hospitalized with a stroke some twelve weeksago. He spent 10 weeks in the hospital and finally he was transferred to arehabilitative home. His right side is paralyzed but that hasnt prevented his eightyyear old left hand from pinching many a nurses‟ rump. His first ten weeks in thehospital cost $77,000. I guess you cant put a price on a good time, especiallywhen Medicare is paying for it.And so Im home, almost all alone. My one companion lying down by my rightside is my German shepherd, Devil. Devil is ten years old and while at times sheshows her age, shes still a puppy. Shes very active, frisky, friendly and extremelywise because above all else Devil is fully aware that we humans believe her to be(in human terms) not ten but seventy years old. Therefore Devil has in ten shortyears become the oldest living being in our house. For this she receives manyconsiderations and privileges afforded to the matriarch of any family. For instance Page 8 of 301
  10. 10. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”when we pile into the family van Devil must be physically assisted by yours trulydue to her arthritic legs which were diagnosed by my wife Joy who has never beeninside a Veterinary school, much less possess a degree. (But after all, what doesour Veterinarian know.) And when I help Devil into the van she looks at me with agrin on her snout that most assuredly befits her name. And now when Devil eats Ihave to stay with her until she finishes every last drop, as if someone else wouldeat that CHAZARAI. (Chazarai is Yiddish for drek, which similarly is Yiddish forshit.) And so here are Devil and I on the patio amidst a thunderous rain storm, andIm thinking..........My Granma on my Moms side was in retrospect no different than my Mom. In allactuality I was blessed with two Mothers. My Granma was the only grandparent Ireally ever knew as both my grandfathers died prior to my birth and my Father‟smother died when I was just four years old and I barely have any recollections ofher. Granma was never sick a day in her life and up until the time she passed awayfrom cancer at age 81 in 1981 she had only previously been hospitalized once forremoval of a tear duct in her right eye. Consequently my Granma had no controlover the fluid buildup in her eye and always walked around the house with tissuesrolled up and tucked into the sleeve of her blouse. In this manner she was alwaysprepared to dab at her eye when it teared up. In addition, most of the time thetissues would fall from Granmas sleeve, so if you wanted to know which roomGranma was in, all you had to do was follow the trail of tissues. Approximatelytwo years after Granma died I was in New York and went to visit her grave. Bothof my sisters and their families were there too, as we had previously madearrangements to meet. It was a cold and overcast day and the wind was blowingrather briskly. I remember walking down the path to Granmas resting place withone hand holding my YARMULKE (skullcap) in place on my head for fear of thewind blowing it off. As I approached the grave site I looked down and there on theground right next to the foot stone was a tissue. I looked around in the generalvicinity and couldnt find any other tissues. I guess that none of the other residentsin the cemetery had ever had a tear duct removed.Granma was the first to leave me. Even though she was 81 years old when shepassed away, it was very difficult to accept her death because she had never beensick a day in her life and she was the picture of vitality. On the other hand myMom was a very young 61 when she died. Her death was harder to accept, for tworeasons. First there was her youth and secondly my Mom contributed greatly toher own demise because of her smoking habit. Now that I think back, I dontremember my Mother without a cigarette in her hand. Yet when she found out thatshe had contracted lung cancer she immediately stopped smoking. Unfortunately Page 9 of 301
  11. 11. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”she made that decision too late. Approximately four months after my Mom wasdiagnosed with lung cancer, she died. I was and still am very angry at her for whatshe did to herself, but if any good came out of it; it did cause me to stop that awfulhabit. But my Mom paid the ultimate price for it.My Dad was a very gruff individual. He came to this country from his birthplaceof Odessa, Russia in 1923 when he was either 14 or 15, depending upon whichpiece of identification you chose to believe. I really dont know if my Father wasactually sure of his date of birth, after all he was very young when it occurred. Inany event my Dad worked very hard all his life just so that his family would haveno material wants, and we didnt, except for the companionship of our Dad. Dadhad his own butcher store, Supreme Meat Market in Harlem, New York. Harlem isa rather large community of mostly black families and a rather large percentage ofthose families are to this day struggling for their very survival. On more than oneoccasion a black man with no money, but lots of pride would come into my Dadsstore and literally sing and dance for his supper. And my Dad would always besure to give that person some food to get him by that day.I mentioned before that my Dad was a rather gruff individual. I never saw or heardof him getting into any fights at all, but then again I never heard of anyone whowanted to fight him either. But he had a knack for agitating you to the point thatyou wanted to get into a scuffle. Thankfully that didnt happen in the followingstory. One day my Father was getting into his car to go to work. Now I grew upon Wallace Avenue in the Bronx. Seven story apartment buildings housing sixtyfamilies were lined up one after the other. Within a three block radius we had agreater population than in the same size area in virtually any other part of theUnited States. And because of the congestion of people there really wasnt enoughspace to accommodate all the cars. Cars were always double parked on the street.That was the rule, not the exception. There was never a study but I would thinkthat the lack of parking spaces had some impact on the migration to the suburbs.What a blessing that must have been. To have your own private parking space onyour own property. No more riding around half the night looking for a parkingspace only to find one a mile from your house. And if thats not bad enough, yougot up the next morning only to forget where you parked your car the night before.So anyway, getting back to the story, my Dad got into his car and started it up. Hebacked up a bit and then pulled out into the street. About a half mile down the roadhe looked into his rear view mirror and saw a Volkswagen tailgating him. Insofaras driving was concerned there were only two things that my Father detested. Onewas cars that tailgated him and the second thing was cars that were on the road,because no one knew how to drive except my Dad. At least that is what he Page 10 of 301
  12. 12. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”believed. So my Father keeps driving and the Volkswagen keeps tailgating. MyDad sped up, slowed down and sped up again. It didnt matter. The Volkswagenwas in pursuit. Finally my Father had enough and stopped his car, got out andapproached the Volkswagen fully prepared to engage in at least a verbal battle. Butthat didnt occur because much to my Fathers amazement there was no one in theVolks. You see when my Dad backed up in his parking space he latched onto thefront bumper of the Volkswagen which was parked directly behind him and pulledit into the street. So there was my Dad standing in the middle of the road lookingat this Volkswagen that was attached to his car. Dad looked around and spottedthis guy who was standing off to the side and asked him for assistance. The two ofthem managed to free my Fathers car from the Volks. Without saying anotherword my Father got into his car and drove off into the west, leaving this fellow andthe Volkswagen behind in the middle of the street, making it impossible for anyother cars to pass.The last time I told that story was barely two weeks ago on July 6, 1987 when Ieulogized my Dad at his funeral. He died at the age of 77 or 78, depending uponwhich set of identification papers you chose to believe.And so within a span of six years, the three people that had the biggest impact onmy life have left me. When I eulogized my Dad I said that I wasnt going to saygoodbye to him because as long as I have this ability to remember, then theres noneed to bid farewell. Thankfully I have lots of memories. Memories of myGranma, my Mom, my Dad. Memories of family life in the 50s and 60s.Memories of holiday festivities, family get togethers, friends, the fun times, thesorrows, riding the elevated trains, Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds, EbbetsField, the Mick, the Say Hey Kid and the Duke and the arguments that ensued as towho was better. Summers in the mountains, winter snows in the city. Dating girlsand hoping you could get a kiss on the first date, even if its just on the cheek.Playing stickball in the schoolyard as well as basketball, softball, two hand touchfootball. Getting dressed for the holidays and then waiting for the holidays to endso you could change into your jeans and sneakers and go back into the schoolyard.Memories of the 5 cent pickle in the barrel at Moishes supermarket, the 2 centplain, the 6 cent Coke, the cherry lime rickey or the malteds with the pretzel sticks.Knishes, hot dogs, pizza, Chinese food, Italian food, steak houses. Literallydozens of the finest eating establishments and all within walking distance of whereyou lived. Thousands of people walking in the streets safely without fear, day andnight. Vegetable and fruit stands, Chinese laundries, doctors of all kinds, clothingstores for men, women and children. Movie houses, teen clubs. This was theBronx, a world of its own. Page 11 of 301
  13. 13. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”In effect until it stops raining, its as if Devil and I are confined to a prison cellbecause we cant go anywhere and no one is going to trek through the storm to seeus. And so now my mind slowly drifts back to Pelham Parkway and specifically2075 Wallace Avenue where I grew up. We had over 60 families in our buildingwith a common hallway leading to another 60 families and an underground passageleading to the next building which housed an additional 120 families. Friends?More than you could imagine or even want. And on inclement days like this wewould gather in someones apartment or even in the hallway, and entertainourselves for hours. Yep,......................It Never Rained In "The Bronx." Page 12 of 301
  14. 14. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX” PREFACE"It Never Rained In The Bronx" is a compilation of stories, all real, none imagined.This book is partially a remembrance as well as a dedication to a very special placethat seemed to exist so many years ago. It was compressed into a relatively shortland mass that housed upwards of a million residents. Today people spendhundreds of thousands of dollars to live in condominiums in each and every part ofthe United States as well as abroad. In actuality the very first condominiums wereprobably constructed in the late 1800s. They werent called condominiums backthen. These new wave immigrants were plain, hardworking people who didntcategorize large edifices with such fancy names. So instead of labeling thesestructures as condominiums, they were simply called apartments, or should I sayapartment buildings. Now many of today‟s condo residents live right near thebeach which makes it very convenient for them to sun bathe or take a refreshingdip in the water. We basically had the same benefits and for a lot less money. Inthe summer time when the temperatures swelled into the nineties we wentdownstairs into the street and with our trusty wrench we loosened the nearestfireplug (there were at least two or three on each block) and within seconds, thecoolest, cleanest and most refreshing water came spouting out for all of us to frolicin. And we didnt have to worry about getting sand in our bathing suits either.While the opening in the fireplug was large enough for vast amounts of water tocome gushing out to cool us down it still wasnt quite so big that we had to worryabout Jaws and his friends. And I might add something else....nobody everdrowned. As far as sun bathing was concerned, we took a blanket and rode ourelevator to the top floor and then walked up one more flight to the roof of ourbuilding. There was plenty of room, it was never congested and you didnt have toworry about someone walking by and kicking sand in your face.The roofs served a dual purpose. We also used them for target practice. We wouldgo up to the roof with balloons. Then we would fill the balloons up with water andseal them up. At that point we would wait for someone to walk by on the streetbelow. As soon as we saw our intended victim we would toss the balloons fromour seventh floor perch down to the street hoping to hit our target. We nevermissed and a residual effect was that all of the water splattering on the streets keptthem very clean. Even at a young age we were all very ecologically sensitive.Now I know what youre thinking. Some of today‟s condo residents have chosen tolive on golf courses as opposed to the beach. As you know golf wasnt in vogueway back then. But what we lacked by not living on a golf course was surely made Page 13 of 301
  15. 15. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”up by the fact that we actually lived in and around a sports pavilion. On any givenday you could look out your condo, excuse me, I mean apartment window and youwould see hordes of people playing any number of games such as stickball, stoopball, Johnny on the Pony, Ring-a-Levio, Iron Tag, touch football, potsie, etc. Sowe didnt have golf. Anyway, thats just one sport. We had a regular Olympicsgoing on each and every day and you didnt have to train for four years before youcould participate.Back then we didnt need cars to go shopping because anything and everything thatwe could possibly want was right in our very own backyard. Within a four or fiveblock radius there were three or four Chinese restaurants, two pizzerias, Italianrestaurants, four delicatessens, candy stores that had a fantastic assortment offountain drinks, with all sorts of ice cream concoctions, and of course rows uponrows of candies. We had Chinese laundries, grocery stores, vegetable stands,supermarkets, all types of clothing stores, schools from grade school through highschool and all of this within walking distance of our apartments. You didnt need acar to get around back then. Just a pair of hush puppies and maybe a shoppingcart. Movie theaters and bowling alleys were just as convenient and the cost of ourcondo back then was approximately $85.00 per month….. And that included themaintenance.This magical place in time was called "The Bronx." Each square block hadapproximately six apartment buildings with 60 families per building. Eachbuilding would bristle with the sounds of excitement that only children can make.There was even a labyrinth of underground tunnels that connected buildings so thatin the event of bad weather we children werent a problem to our parents. Wecould always find a friend in our building or in an adjoining building that we couldplay with. We would get together either in someones apartment or we wouldsimply play in the hallways.On any given day there would be four or five guys standing on the street cornersinging Doo Wop only to be interrupted by the sound of a bell which signified thatthe Good Humor Man was approaching on his bicycle driven cart to sell his icecream pops.If you lived in The Bronx during the 1950s or 1960s then you lived through an erawhich can best be described as our "Camelot." This entire book is about people, allreal, none imagined. This book, in part, is about the interaction of people pre-Viet-Nam, before demonstrations, when people danced to music that had no hint ofsexual or deviant behavior in its words. Its a story of exciting times. Hundreds of Page 14 of 301
  16. 16. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”thousands of people living in close harmony with each other, caring for each other,sharing happy moments together and being at each other‟s side when comfort wasneeded. This then was as close to pre-innocence as one could get. This book isprimarily about the remembrances that I have of my family and friends as well asyours truly. But who knows, maybe some of these very same stories are also aboutyou or your loved ones and friends, or at least bare some similarity. If thats thecase, then you, like me, run the risk of being committed. Page 15 of 301
  17. 17. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX” THE NEIGHBORHOODI grew up in a section of the Bronx called Pelham Parkway. It was a very healthyenvironment to grow up in because of the many distinct and divergent types offolks that lived there. Pelham Parkway, circa the 1950s was a dichotomy of manydifferent peoples. There were old Jewish people, middle aged Jewish people andyoung Jewish people. A little of everything. The elders were the new waveimmigrants that arrived in the early 1900s from places such as Russia, Rumania,Hungary and other European countries. Their decision to come to America wasdue to any one of a number of reasons. Some came to avoid religious persecution.Some came to avoid conscription in their countries army and some made thepilgrimage to seek a better life in a land whose streets were paved with gold. Theescape to America was not easy. It was very costly to make the trek by boat to theNew World, and because of this many families were split up, never to see eachother again. If a family could not cross the Atlantic together due to finances, thenthe parents would usually send their children first, hoping to rejoin them at somelater date. These new Americans landed at Ellis Island, a processing point for theimmigrants which is located off the tip of Manhattan, in New York City. MyFather was thirteen years old when he came to America with his older sister Veyla(Vay yah). They landed at Ellis Island in 1923. My Father and his sister, like somany immigrants spoke little or no English. This presented a problem to theimmigration officials. The new arrivals spoke no English and the immigrationofficials spoke mostly English. Cecil B. DeMille couldnt have planned a betterplot himself. All that these immigrants had on them which would attest to theiridentity was paperwork from their mother country that listed their name and otherpertinent information, all spelled out in their native tongue, which in my Fatherscase was Russian. Many of the immigrants who came to this country were given anew last name because the officials had a difficult time understanding them. Insome instances you were given a name that closely resembled the hieroglyphics onyour paperwork. I suspect that is how a nice Jewish boy like me acquired thesurname of Chanzes. Some of my relatives spell their name Chanzit. No one tothis day seems to know what the proper name really was. Maybe it wasChanzekovich. Sounds Russian. Apparently some people who made the trek toAmerica‟s shores only knew their father‟s profession and that is why some peopleare named Schneider, which in the Yiddish language means tailor or some peoplehave the surname Blacksmith which once again indicates the profession that theirfather was in. Im quite confident that there were many other immigrants whocame to the New World only to leave behind in the old country their parents,relatives, friends and most assuredly their last names. Page 16 of 301
  18. 18. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Most of these New Americans had family and/or friends living in the States. Uponlanding at Ellis Island they were processed by the immigration officials and theythen took their belongings, which was usually the clothes on their backs andmoved on to their new living quarters with relatives who had proceeded them toAmerica.By the time the 1950s came around these immigrants had formed the largestmiddle class in the history of the United States. While few were college graduated,most were hard working, productive members of society with very strong familyties and equally strong cultural values. These immigrants were heavily involved inthe garment center, in retail services, in the various trades and professions such asplumbers, electricians, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. They were industriousemployees who came to this country with little understanding of our language andin time many rose through the ranks to eventually own businesses of their own.Interestingly enough, while the average husband put in an eight to twelve hourwork day, the wives tended to the care of their children. During the 1950s mostwomen were housewives. Their role was to raise the children. They made surethat they got off to school on time after having consumed a nourishing breakfast.Then they would clean the apartment, do the shopping, and make sure to be backon time when the children came home from school for their lunch break. Thenthey would darn the socks, do the laundry and ironing, greet the children whenthey came home from school at the end of the day and of course make sure that ahot dinner was ready at supper time. Work? They didnt have time to breathe.I grew up on Pelham Parkway which is situated in the northeastern part of theBronx. Its western border is the world famous Bronx Zoo. Everybody fell in lovewith this place because it had something to offer all who visited it. On any givenday there would be thousands of people visiting the Zoo which is laid out overendless acres. While the Bronx Zoo at the time was located within a heavily zonedJewish population, the visitors to the Zoo were from all ethnic and socio-economicareas of life. Such was the magnitude of the Zoo that it drew people to its gatesfrom all over the world. When someone was coming to New York for a visit,invariably, time permitting, a trip to the Bronx. Zoo was a must.You could spend a day at the Bronx Zoo and still not see all of its inhabitants; suchwas the enormity of the place. You would see people strolling through the Zoo armin arm. Mothers and fathers pushing the little ones in a baby carriage. The soundof childrens laughter. The look of happiness on the faces of people watching thevarious animals at play. The unforgettable odor of the elephants. Watching thechimpanzees cavorting in their cages, the lions and tigers on patrol in theirs, the Page 17 of 301
  19. 19. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”mammoth snakes in the reptile house. Walking through the winding walkways inthe Zoo which were surrounded by big, beautiful trees, barren of leaves in thewinter but displaying their beauty in the summer and shedding their majestic colorsin autumn. Feeding the animals, the open air caravan car which transportedhundreds of people from one point in the park to another, and of course the BronxRiver which at its greatest point was no more than 100 feet wide, bending its verysoul throughout the Zoo.The Bronx River was stocked with various types of fish but its most famousoccupant was the Carp. Now for those of you that dont know, a Carp is a JewishCatfish. In other words its a scavenger fish. It feeds itself on the remnants of thesea, or in this case the river. But something within the system of the Carpprocesses the garbage that they eat into one of the best tasting fishes foundanywhere. My Granma used to make a dish called Knubbel Carp. Now thepronunciation of Knubbel Carp is not to be confused with the pronunciation ofKnute Rockne, the famous coach of the fighting Irish of Notre Dame. In Knute,the K is silent, so therefore the word is pronounced Nute. Unlike our Irish friends,Jews dont like to waste letters. If we took the time to put the letter in the word,then you should take the time to say it. So the word is ki-nub-el, knubbel. Nowknubbel is a Jewish word which means garlic. So Knubbel Carp is Garlic Carp orCarp very, very heavily seasoned with garlic. Granma would marinate the Carpovernight in garlic along with other types of seasonings. She would also cut theCarp into three quarter inch strips so that it would resemble a sparerib without thebone. The next morning Granma would bake the Carp and refrigerate it after itwas done. That evening, this jewel of a dish was served to us straight from therefrigerator. Granma didnt warm it up. She served it cold and we would consumeit ever so slowly. We devoured this delicacy cautiously for a couple of reasons.First theres a large amount of little bones throughout a Carp which cannot befilleted prior to baking and secondly the taste of this fish was second to none. Sowhats the rush? Granma left us in 1981 and while she left behind her recipe forKnubbel Carp, the one ingredient that she couldnt leave with us was her absolutelove in cooking for her family and friends. And so all I have now are the memoriesof that delectable dish. Other people have tried to duplicate it, but none havesucceeded. Thank God for memories. No. Thank God for Granma.Anyway, thats enough about the Bronx River.Pelham Parkway consisted primarily of apartment buildings. These buildings wereeither six or seven stories high with approximately nine families to a floor whichtranslates to roughly sixty families per building. Most buildings were connected to Page 18 of 301
  20. 20. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”other apartment buildings via a common lobby, access across the roof or alabyrinth of underground tunnels which housed the boiler room which providedheat to us during the cold winters. So while there were approximately sixtyfamilies per building, in all actuality we could have access to as many as twohundred and forty families without venturing a foot into the streets. On each blockthere were approximately twelve apartment buildings. Therefore there were sevenhundred and twenty families on each block and with an average of 3.2 people ineach family, then each block housed over 2300 people. And this statistic stretchedfor blocks on end. It wasnt too difficult to find a friend back then because after allthere were 2300 people living on your block and if no one appealed to you then allyou had to do was walk across the street and there were another 2300 people.While friends were easy to find because so many people lived in such aconcentrated area, one could imagine that you could have pulled your hair outtrying to find a parking space for your car. Seven hundred twenty families livingon one square block. Because of the transportation system which was ingenious toNew York, a car was not a necessity, so some people didnt own one, but then againsome families had more than one car. It would be safe to say that those sevenhundred twenty families owned a few hundred cars and one square block couldonly accommodate about one hundred twenty five automobiles. There were hardlyany parking garages, certainly not enough to satisfy the demand, but then again noteveryone wanted to pay to park their cars anyway so therefore additional garageswould not necessarily have been the answer to this problem. The answer wasrather simple. You either double parked your car or you drove around your areauntil you found a parking space, and more often than not the parking space thatyou eventually found could or would be as much as five blocks from where youlived.The average New York block or street is rectangular in shape. A walk around theentire block takes about fifteen minutes, only ten minutes if youre taking home aquart of Carvel ice cream. If you couldnt find a parking space close to yourapartment building, then it wouldnt be uncommon if it took you ten to twentyminutes to walk to your building from where you parked your car. Ten or twentyminutes and sometimes it was raining cats and dogs and you had no umbrella. Ormaybe a twenty minute walk on a blustery, windy day with a thermometer readingof 14 degrees, and this was before the "wind chill factor", which probably broughtit down to minus 14 degrees. Or take that same cold day and add two or three footembankments of snow that you had to plow through, except your plow was yourfeet. And of course when you have snow on the ground and you add a touch ofrain, then the snow turns into ice. And now what would normally be a brief ten Page 19 of 301
  21. 21. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”minute walk to your dwelling has just turned into what appears to be a qualifyingheat for an Olympic event. Imagine walking on ice through the city streets.Walking or shall I say sliding. Trying to keep your feet under you as you walkuphill only to find yourself sliding backwards and awkwardly grasping forwhatever is near you to prevent your fall from grace. You grab the bricks on thebuildings or the ledges that surround the apartment buildings. Car door handlesprevented many a fall as you reached out for them and held them ever so tight asyour feet did a pre-Michael Jackson moonwalk on the icy streets. If you werewalking with a friend and you felt yourself going into a free fall, then it was onlynatural to grab onto the arm of your companion and together you both made yourdescent to earth.People that have garages for their cars have a tendency to take the simple pleasuresof life for granted. Such as knowing where your car is when you leave for work inthe morning. If I had a dollar for each time someone in my neighborhood forgotwhere they parked their car the night before then I would have been a millionairebefore I got out of my teens. So many times I remember my Father leaving forwork in the morning only to come back up to the apartment in an hour to enlist myhelp to find his car. Like Sergeant Friday from Dragnet I would give my dad thethird degree. "Dad, what kind of car are we looking for? What color is it? Areyou sure that you brought it home with you last night?"As I stated before, people also double parked their cars when no spots wereavailable near their apartment building. This created a problem not only for theperson who they parked next to but quite often for all the occupants of thebuilding. Envision one entire street that could accommodate approximately thirtyparked cars on each side. Thats parking for sixty. Now with cars being doubleparked, sixty could easily turn into one hundred. The next morning you leave yourapartment to go to work. If your car is double parked then theres no problem. Youjust get into your car and drive away. Suppose though that the person who wantsto use his car is legally parked but theres a car double parked next to him. Theperson that is legally parked now has a problem. He has no idea whatsoever whoowns the illegally double parked car. It could be someone in his building orsomeone in any number of buildings within a five block area. The double parkedcar is locked, so he cant enter it and unleash the brake and move it. There is a carin front of him and there is a car in back of him. In other words this guy has gotTZURIS (troubles). GROISA TZURIS (Big troubles). What do you do? Firstyou turn a bright shade of red. Secondly you start reviewing your vocabulary ofcurse words. The third thing you do is open your car door and blast your horn.Theres hardly a sound more disturbing to the human ear than a car horn. First you Page 20 of 301
  22. 22. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”give two or three short honks. This is repeated about three times. If you fail toachieve a favorable response to your three short honks, you then move to battleplan B, which is a series of short honks repeated over and over. By now you arestarting to get the attention of people in your building. Not so much the peoplewho are preparing to go to work, because they couldnt care less. Although whenthey see you on the street they offer their sympathies, but as they walk away fromyou theyve got a grin from ear to ear. Suddenly you can hear windows opening upand people are sticking their heads out and yelling at you to be quiet. They dontcare that you cant get out of your parking space. They dont care that you aregoing to be late for work. No, all they care about is that the noise from your carhorn is deafening to their ears. All they care about is that you are waking them upfrom a sound sleep. The windows from the apartments are open and scores ofpeople are hurtling down insults upon you. This is where you draw the line. Youdo what any good field commander would do when the odds are seeminglyinsurmountable. It is your decision to use psychological warfare so that all of thesepeople will be on your side and help you find the real enemy, the person that isdouble parked by your car. You now call upon all of your wits to deliver theultimate battle plan. This is war and you have decided to end it in a quick andefficient manner with as few casualties as is possible. With complete confidenceyou now firmly place your hand on the horn of your automobile and................PRESS DOWN. Your hand stays firmly entrenched on the horn. You gaze up atthe people who are looking at you through their apartment windows. Its the samelook that a General emits to his troops just before the big battle. Its a look ofconfidence. Those troops that see this look know very well that the final outcomeof this battle rests squarely on their shoulders. And now all of these people thatwere mad at the person who was disturbing their sleep with this constant honkingof the car horn have just switched their allegiance. You can see these peoplelooking at each other through open apartment windows asking everyone who canhear them who they thought the double parked car belongs to. By now one of thepeople who were looking out the window has disappeared into their apartment.Perhaps they recognized the double parked car. Perhaps they are calling the doubleparkee. Usually, within two minutes, your mission will have been completed.Someone will have come down, apologetically I might add, and drive away in thedouble parked car, leaving you with only your thoughts on a day that has notstarted out very well. How often did an event like this occur? Just about everyday.By now Im sure that you realize that parking spaces were a premium in the Bronx.In excess of seven hundred families lived on each block with a parking capacity ofless than one hundred fifty. So what did the geniuses that we elected to public Page 21 of 301
  23. 23. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”office do to uncomplicate matters? NOTHING. Instead they chose to add morefuel to the fire by coming up with the noblest of ideas to clean up our belovedBronx, and in the process, unbeknownst to them, they took a problem and turned itinto a full blown CALAMITY. It was a calamity of monumental proportions. Thiscalamity was called, Alternate Side of the Street Parking. Wednesdays, Saturdaysand Sundays were free days. In other words you could park anywhere you wantedto on those days. Those free days were very important. It helped you recover fromMondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays which were not free days. They werehorrific days. On Mondays and Thursdays you couldnt park on one side of thestreet between 8 A.M. and 11 A.M. On Tuesdays and Fridays you couldnt park onthe other side of the street during those same hours. The purpose of this was sothat on those days these huge machines could lumber down our streets sprayingwater and cleaning it of debris. Besides further complicating an already verycomplicated parking problem, this was also an unwarranted expense. Why? Theneighborhood was like Ivory soap. It was 99.98 % Jewish. Did you ever see aJewish person eat? Not even a crumb is left on the plate. A dog doesnt even wantour steak bones when were finished with them. So it was totally unnecessary tosend these machines into our fair community to clean the streets. They were neverdirty and there certainly was never any garbage on our streets. And as far as thesemachines watering our streets, all I can say is this………. Plants you water.Most people eat to live. Jewish people live to eat. We had as many eatingestablishments in our neighborhood as can be found in neighborhoods five timesour size. Within a five block area we had the following: No less than six candystores, two pizza parlors, two Chinese restaurants, one Greek restaurant, one Italianrestaurant, one carvel, one steak house, four delicatessens and one kosherrestaurant.The candy store on Pelham Parkway served many functions. Besides having amore than ample display of every candy bar known to mankind, it also was theplace to go to buy a newspaper. We didnt have newspaper machines back then butwe did have a wide variety of papers to choose from. There was the Daily Mirrorand the Daily News. These papers were very similar. As a matter of fact the majordifference was their name. The Mirror and the News each had a morning and anevening edition. They were about the size of the National Enquirer, except theaverage paper had 128 pages. And for those voracious readers we also had anafternoon paper which was called the New York Post. The Post was the same sizeas the Mirror and the Daily News. These three papers, although they were writtenin English, closely resembled Jewish Prayer Books, at least for most males. Thiswasnt because of their contents but rather the way they were read, because just like Page 22 of 301
  24. 24. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”a Jewish Prayer Book the reader of these newspapers would start at the back of thepaper. Why? Because that is where the most reverent and holiest of informationwas placed. And that information was all of the sports scores from the day beforeas well as up dated sports stories. For a male growing up in the Bronx and notknowing which teams won and which player scored the most points and who wasin first, second and third place was tantamount to treason. Coming down into theschoolyard on Saturday or Sunday morning unprepared to discuss the sportingevents of the day before was, well it was like taking a stroll in the street withnothing on but your family jewels. IT JUST WASNT DONE!After the sports section the want ads were listed followed by the movie guide. Wehad two movie theaters within five blocks of each other in our neighborhood.There was the R.K.O. and the Globe. Movies werent rated back in the fifties.Children didnt have to have parents with them in order to gain admission to thetheaters. There was violence portrayed in the movies, but rather a subduedviolence. There were no unearthly sights of bloodshed, nor was theredismemberment of limbs. Horror movies of the fifties used more ingenuity toachieve their results than films of today. A blood curdling scream from the femmefatale put a scare into any movie patron. Who could forget the chills that ran downour spine when Vincent Price, star of the 3-D chiller House of Wax had hishandsome face literally peel apart in front of our very eyes to reveal the gruesomelooking monstrous ogre that was hidden beneath his mask? Sex in the movies wasalso portrayed in a distinctive and equally different manner in the fifties. The firesthat lit our imagination were kindled so as to give our minds a chance to wander.More often than not the image of what a naked person might look like was farmore exciting than the actual nakedness that is displayed in today‟s movies.Movies that had a comedic tone to them were also very different from those oftoday. The directors understood that they could achieve the desired effect withoutresorting to vulgarity, whereby in today‟s environment, vulgarity represents thehumor.Years ago parents had an entirely more prominent role in the rearing of theirchildren. Today the television networks, the movie producers as well as thetabloids have taken it upon themselves to help educate our children to theirstandards and one of the by-products of this has been a tremendous moral decay inour country.Back in the fifties a day at the movies was almost just that, a day at the movies.Mom would usually pack a lunch for me. Right next to the R.K.O. theatre therewas a confectionery store called Jesses. Jesse used to sell peanuts and candy by Page 23 of 301
  25. 25. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”the scoop. All types of nuts and candies were displayed in big fishbowls. Withbarely a dollar bill you could purchase enough candy and nuts to feed your face forthe entire day.Once inside the theater we settled down for "a day at the movies." The fare wasroutinely the same. A few cartoon shorts that included Bugs Bunny, Tweetie Bird,Heckle and Jeckle and Popeye and friends. This was usually followed by acomedy short of the Three Stooges or the Dead End Kids. Then of course therewere previews of coming attractions followed by two full length feature films. Atthis point we had spent about four hours at the theater. Unlike today‟s moviegoers, we werent required to leave after the showings. If we wanted, at noadditional charge we could sit in our seats and see the films over and over, againand again. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning............... and afternoon.Getting back to the newspapers, all three tabloids that I mentioned previously hadplenty of advertising space used by all the major department stores such asAlexander‟s, Macys, Gimbals, Willoughby Electronics and Kor-Vettes to name afew. After this section you were near the front of the paper which had local as wellas state and worldwide news, with the exception of the New York Post. The Posthad one other interesting article that appeared in the paper every day between themain stories and the advertisements. There wasnt one self-respecting guy in theneighborhood that would skip this section. Sometimes we would read this orshould I say look at this before the much heralded sports section. Im referring toEarl Wilson‟s column. Earl Wilson was a very famous New York columnist whowrote a daily article for the Post. His column was very stylish and it set him apartfrom all other columnists. His articles each day dealt with famous personalitiesfrom all walks of the entertainment field that were seen in New York the day orevening before. There were stories about movie stars, television personalities andsports greats who were seen in various restaurants and night spots. Some of thestories reported fights that these personalities were involved in such as theinfamous barroom brawl at the legendary Copacabana that involved New YorkYankee legends Mickey Mantle, Hank Bauer and Billy Martin. As great aballplayer as Billy Martin was, due to the fight at the Copacabana, coupled with hisinfluence over his teammates, he lost his position as second baseman for the Yanks.Soon after he was traded or fired from the Yankees, a trend that continued right upuntil his untimely death.One year Bridgette Bardot was visiting New York. She was staying at the WaldorfAstoria and was not granting any interviews. Earl Wilson was determined to seeLa Bardot. I dont think that he cared as much about the interview as he did in Page 24 of 301
  26. 26. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”getting a glimpse of the hottest sex star since the advent of the silver screen. Aswas reported in Earls column, he walked into the Waldorf and donned a maid‟suniform, complete with a kerchief around his head. To fully appreciate thisanecdote you must visualize what Earl Wilson looked like. Earl was well under sixfeet and quite portly with black rimmed glasses. He bore a slight resemblance toOfficer Gunther Tuddy from the hit television series, "Car 54, Where Are You."Picture in your mind Gunther Tuddy with a kerchief around his head in an attemptto impersonate a maid. One wonders what Bardot thought. Earl didnt care andneither did his readers.The main attraction to his column was that in the center of his article each andevery day was a picture of a female, some more well-known than others, but allsharing something in common. They were all abundantly endowed and were eitherwearing tight sweaters or were showing an ample amount of cleavage. The Postwas an afternoon paper and I might add an afternoon treat. And just like radiocommentator Paul Harvey, Earl Wilson also had his signature sign off at theconclusion of his column, which was, "thats Earl Brother."The candy store was also a social gathering place for teenagers and adults alike. Itwasnt uncommon to walk into a candy store at any time of the day, as they wereusually open from six in the morning until eleven or twelve at night, and findpeople congregating in the booths or at the counters engaged in conversation orreading a paper while at the same time enjoying a snack, having a sandwich orsipping on one of New Yorks more popular fountain favorites. The drink that wasprobably the most popular in New York was the egg cream. There were a coupleof secrets inherent to the making of a good egg cream. An egg cream consisted ofchocolate syrup, milk and seltzer (club soda). Many an egg cream was spoiled fora number of reasons. First of all the ingredients had to be put in the glass in a setorder with the chocolate syrup first, followed by the milk and lastly the seltzer. Doit any other way and you louse up the drink. It just wont taste the same. The otherkey was in how you poured the seltzer into the glass and last but far from least,great care had to be given as to the type of chocolate syrup that you used as onlyone brand was permissible.Now heres how to make a New York Egg Cream, and if youve never tasted itbefore then be prepared to experience "a drinking sensation," guaranteed to haveyou begging for more. Take an eight ounce drinking glass and add about one inchof Foxs U-Bet chocolate syrup. Now add about one inch of milk. If yourefortunate enough to be able to get an old fashioned bottle of seltzer, the one thatcomes in a glass bottle with a silver headpiece, then by all means do so because Page 25 of 301
  27. 27. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”your egg cream will be authentic in every sense of the word. On the other hand ifyou cannot get the old fashioned seltzer bottle then use the common variety clubsoda found in super markets. Make sure that the seltzer is refrigerated and verycold prior to use. When you drink seltzer that is good and cold youll GREPS(Belch). Dont be ashamed. Let it out. In Europe it was customary to greps after agood meal. It was considered a compliment. My Mom and Granma gotcomplimented every day of their lives. When we had a family get together itsounded as if there was a symphony orchestra in our dining room. Now, withregards to the egg cream, take a teaspoon and place it in the glass towards thebottom. Pour the seltzer directly onto the spoon. This procedure provides theproper amount of head for your drink. Continue pouring, leaving about two inchesof space at the top of the glass. Now stir your drink. If youve done this properlythen the two inch space will fill up with a frothy white foam. Bet you cant drinkjust one.Now if you ask someone what a chocolate soda is, theyll tell you that its madewith chocolate syrup, seltzer and ice cream. In the Bronx a chocolate soda was anegg cream without the milk. Its made the same way except you dont use milk. Ifwe added ice cream then we called it an ice cream soda. If we asked for a black nwhite, then we wanted an ice cream soda with chocolate syrup and vanilla icecream.Another very popular drink was the malted. This was a thick drink that wasusually made with vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream. A big tin canisterwas used and into this canister was placed ice cream as well as the syrup of yourchoice along with a small amount of malt and a lot of milk. Then the canister wasplaced in a mixer for about a minute. When done the canister filled up two and ahalf eight ounce glasses of one of the best drinks that youll ever have the pleasureof tasting. The price? Just twenty-five cents. Actually it was twenty-seven centsbecause a malted tasted better with a pretzel. We used to get these pretzels thatlooked like bread sticks and we would dunk then in the malted and bite off a piece.Finally, one of the most splendid thirst quenchers on a hot day was a cherry-limerickey. This drink was served in a tall, slender, frosted glass and was composed ofan equal amount of cherry and lime syrup and to that seltzer was added. Stir andthrow in a piece of lime and youve got one super tasting drink.As you have probably guessed by now, the candy store was not conducive toweight control. Page 26 of 301
  28. 28. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Some candy stores were directly responsible for making capitalists ofneighborhood children or at least those children that had a yen for the freeenterprise system. Most candy stores had sliding glass windows in their storefront. The window was in place approximately four feet up from the ground andextended to the ceiling. The purpose was to accommodate customers who were ina rush and either wanted a newspaper which was stacked up outside the candystore or some gum or candy which was on the counter top. At that point thecustomer did not have to go into the store but rather go to the sliding glass windowand put their money in a little PISHKA (dish) which was readily available on thecounter top. At any given point in time there could be a couple of dollars inchange in the PISHKA. Now two dollars might not sound like a lot of money inthis day and age but back in the fifties you got three plays on the jukebox for aquarter. A frankfurter with mustard and sauerkraut was just twenty cents; withpotato salad it cost an extra nickel. A two cents plain was just that and a large cokewas just ten cents. A loaf of white bread was twenty-five cents and you could getan Italian hero UNGERSHTOOPED (loaded) with meats for less than half abuck. You could take the train to Yankee Stadium, see a ball game, have a hot dogand soda and still come home with change. You could go into the supermarket andget the biggest, juiciest sour pickle that you ever saw for just a nickel. You couldbuy a Spalding ball for a quarter and a stick ball bat for twenty-six cents. With twodollars you could eat and entertain yourself for days. But now with two dollarsyoure lucky enough to be able to buy toilet tissue to cleanse your TUCHAS (rearend). Thats what two dollars is good for now. But back then two dollars put youon Broadway. And there it was, sitting in that little pishka. The owner of thecandy store as well as his employees didnt have time to clean out the pishka everytime a customer dropped a nickel, dime or quarter in it. They were too busyserving customers inside the candy store so the employees never knew how muchor how little money was in it. The approach was simple. Walk up to the windowand take a newspaper from the rack. Through the open window alert the owner ofthe store or one of his employees that you were putting a nickel in the pishka forthe paper. They would acknowledge you and then as you placed your nickel in thepishka you scooped up the remaining change that was there, leaving in its placeyour nickel. To the best of my knowledge no one ever got caught.The one Chinese Restaurant in the neighborhood that we frequented was calledDirty Harrys, and that was before Clint Eastwood popularized that name. Actuallythe real name of the restaurant escapes me. I dont think I ever knew it and I musthave eaten in there over a thousand times. Someone, I think it was my Father, gavethe restaurant a nickname in honor of the owner Harry and in honor of.....gee, whydid we eat there so much? Anyway, the food was absolutely fantastic. We either Page 27 of 301
  29. 29. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”ate there or brought the food up to the apartment at least every other week. Whenyou entered the restaurant Harry or his wife would greet you. The front of therestaurant was approximately twenty feet deep with tables on either side. Thewaiter walking down the aisle could serve the tables on each side as there was nomore than a three foot separation. Beyond the aisle there was a circular area thathad an additional five or six tables. The entire restaurant had no more than twentytables and they were almost always full. Harry knew me very well as my familywere steady and loyal customers. He had a very keen sense of humor. I dontknow if that is indicative of Chinese people but it certainly was of Harry. One timeI was in the restaurant with some of my friends having lunch. Now as you mayknow Chinese food causes one to drink water excessively. The restaurant wasfairly crowded and I decided to have some fun with our waiter. After he would fillup my glass with water I would wait for him to walk away from my table and thenI would hurriedly drink it up. As I said before the restaurant was small in size andexcept for when the waiter was in the kitchen, he was always in my sight. As hewas serving another table I would yell out, "Waiter." Hed look up at me and Iwould hold up my glass indicating that I needed more water. After repeating thisabout a half dozen times the waiter became very agitated. He must have told Harrywhat I was doing because all of a sudden there was Harry standing right next to mytable with a large pitcher of water. He poured a glass of water for me and stoodthere with a devilish grin on his face and in his unmistakable oriental dialect hesaid to me, "So, you like to dlink watah Mr. Chanzes? Go ahead, keep dlinking." Igot the message.About a year ago my wife and I made the trip to New York and visited my oldneighborhood. I hadnt been back there for quite some time. Sure enough, DirtyHarrys was still there. We went in for lunch. Harrys wife hadnt aged a day. Irecognized one of the old waiters. He was still old. And then I saw Dirty Harry.He looked the same except that he had streaks of gray throughout his hair. Hedidnt recognize me and for some reason I was glad. If he had Im sure he wouldhave asked me about my family and because my Mom, Dad and Granma had allpassed away, it would have been difficult for me to keep my composure. As it wasI sat down with my wife and my eyes welled up. That was because I was thinkingof all the memorable times I had at Dirty Harrys with my friends and my family.I might add that Dirty Harry has progressed with the times. He now has a smokingand a non-smoking section. When you walk into his restaurant you can sit in thesmoking section on the left or in the non-smoking section on the right. Althoughboth sections are separated by a common aisle of no more than three feet in widthand although smoke from the smoking section fills up the non-smoking section, Page 28 of 301
  30. 30. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”this in itself has not deterred Harry from keeping up with the times.We also had four delicatessens in the neighborhood and all of them were locatedwithin three blocks of each other. There was Zion‟s, Sonnys, The Palace andLevines. Zions was on the corner of Holland and Lydig Avenue. Sonnys Deliwas on Lydig, just three quarters of a block down from Zions. Directly across thestreet from Sonnys was The Palace. Continuing down Lydig Avenue just oneblock brought you to White Plains Road. Make a quick right onto White PlainsRoad and a few stores down was Levines. Four Delis within three blocks of eachother and you had to fight for a table.My Granma liked to go to the Palace. My Father swore by Sonnys. My sisterspreferred Zions. My mom had no preference and I loved them all because therewas no difference between any of them. They were all equally delicious. Anytimemy Dad would send me down to get some Deli he would give me specificinstructions. "Professor." My Father always called me Professor. Maybe it wasbecause of my grades, or lack of them. Anyway when he sent me down for Delifor the family he would say, "Professor, make sure you go to Sonnys. Dont go toZions (which was about a block closer) and make sure you only let Phil (one ofSonnys workers) wait on you and make sure to tell him that you want lean cornedbeef and lean pastrami, okay?" So I would SCHLEP (go) down to Sonnys. Nowon any given Sunday in my neighborhood all of the delicatessens were crowded.As a matter of fact the Chinese restaurants and the pizza parlors were equallycrowded. Jews dont eat to live, rather we live to eat. All we need is an excuse andwithin seconds our knives and forks are going ninety miles per hour. OurNACHAS (pleasures), as well as our sorrows are placated by food.....and lots of it.So I would walk into Sonnys ready to heed my Fathers advice. Usually there weresix to ten people in front of you waiting to place a takeout order. Sonny had threepeople behind the counter including himself waiting on customers as well as fillingthe waiter‟s orders for his restaurant trade. There was Sonny, Phil and Curly.Curly was a portly man in his forties with a horseshoe shaped hairdo. His hairlinewas no higher than his ear and curved around the back of his head to his other ear.The top of his head was probably used as a landing field for flies because it wasvoid of all remnants of growth except for a few strands of hair that seeminglyjoined in unison three inches above his dome and curled to a peak. So there I wasin the Deli waiting my turn which could take thirty minutes to an hour. Have youever been in a Jewish Deli waiting to place your order with six to ten ALTACOCKAS (old Jewish men) in front of you? Sonny didnt give out numbers likethey did in bakeries to determine who was next in line waiting to be served. Page 29 of 301
  31. 31. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”This was the honor system or should I say a system without honor. The thirty tosixty minutes that you spent waiting to be served was pure torture. For a numberof reasons. If you werent hungry going down to the Deli, I can assure you that assoon as you approached the store your mouth would start to salivate. The aromasof a Jewish Deli could make a convert out of an atheist. And when you open thedoor to the Deli and walk in, the heavenly smells of the corned beef, the pastrami,the franks on the grill, the knishes (remember, Jews pronounce the k, ki-nish-es),the salamis hanging from the ceilings greet you as if you were royalty. And justabout then the TUMULT (aggravation) starts. "Whos next?" "I am," said oneA.K... (abbreviation for Alta Cocka) "No, I am," said another A.K. "I was herefirst"... "No, I was"... "I had to go to the bathroom"... "Too bad"... "I was talkingto a friend who is seated in the restaurant"... "You lost your turn"... "Sonny, howsthe corned beef today?" "Are you sure its good?"..."Is it lean?"..."You think Ishould try the pastrami instead?"..."Maybe you better give me a taste"... And afterall of this the big spender would order an eighth of a pound and pity the workerwho goes a slice over. "I told you I just wanted an eighth of a pound. How muchextra will that be?"... When my turn finally came around, I didnt care who waitedon me, I didnt bother the counterman by asking for lean meat, I didnt care howmuch over he was on the scale. I just wanted to get out of the Deli with my sanityas well as my appetite intact.The restaurants in my community absolutely adored my family on most Sundays.Why, you ask? Because if we werent off visiting family and if my Dad wasnttaking us out to eat, then we would order in food. And because I was the oldestchild in the family, that in itself would cause me to be elected "delivery boy for theday." On the surface this honor doesnt seem so bad because if there was inclementweather such as snowstorms, rain, sleet, hail, etc., the "Delivery Boy ElectionCommittee," which consisted of my Mom, Dad, Granma and two sisters, wouldrefrain from voting me into office and my Mom and Granma would cooksomething up for us. But on those days whereby the dubious title was bestowed onme, I want you to know that it required a keen sense of skill, preparation andtimeliness to fulfill what was expected of such an exalted position, and thatexpectation was that I would return to the apartment with piping hot food. Notfood that had to be reheated, because reheated food never quite tastes the same asfresh food, but food that was hot and ready to eat. Sounds easy, because as I havepreviously stated we had no less than a dozen restaurants within a short walkingdistance. We had Chinese restaurants, delicatessens, pizza parlors, to name a few.And it would have been easy if only I could have gone to either a Chineserestaurant, a delicatessen or a pizza parlor. But unfortunately life was not sosimple. My Granma was kosher and that eliminated Chinese food and pizza. So it Page 30 of 301
  32. 32. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”was off to the Deli for Granma. While my sisters liked Chinese food and Deli,their first preference was pizza, and my parents were partial to Chinese food. So ina manner of speaking I became the first "Galloping Gourmet." It was my job topick up delicatessen for Granma, pizza for my sisters and Chinese food for Mom,Dad and me. And furthermore it was expected of me to deliver the food pipinghot. My Mom would call Dirty Harry to place the order for Chinese food. Itusually took about forty-five minutes for it to be prepared. As soon as my Momplaced the order for the Chinese food I would don my track shoes and head for thepizza parlor to place that order. It usually took about twenty minutes for the pizzato be baked. While the pizza was baking Id go across the street to the Deli and getGranma her food. With Granma‟s food in hand I would go back across the street topick up the pizza. Now with a hot corned beef sandwich and an equally hot pizza Iwould go across the street to Dirty Harry to get the Chinese food. When I got outof Dirty Harrys I may not have looked very organized, what with my arms filledwith Chinese food, delicatessen and pizza, but one thing was for sure. I smelledFANTASTIC!!!Of course every neighborhood had its own version of the infamous MadisonSquare garden. Our Garden was called Public School 105 or P.S. 105. Adjacent tothe school was the schoolyard which was completely enclosed by either a chainlink fence, or a combination fence and cement wall ranging in height from ten feetto well over forty feet. The dimensions of the schoolyard were approximately twohundred fifty feet by four hundred fifty feet. The schoolyard served manypurposes, not the least of which was where aspiring future Hall of Famerspracticed their craft. P.S. 105 had four basketball courts where we played halfcourt as well as full court games. It wasnt unusual to come down to theschoolyard on a Saturday or Sunday and find all four basketball courts in use andat the same time there would be two softball games in progress or a touch footballgame pitting twenty-two guys in action as well as five to seven stickball gamesgoing on. The cast of players for all of these games were usually the same. It wasguys known only by either a nickname or just their last name. The only people thataddressed us by our first names were our parents, relatives and sometimes ourteachers. We had guys like Pee Wee Cohen. Pee Wee might have been short instature but he was a dynamo when it came to athletic competition. His diminutivesize became one of his greatest assets in athletic competition. His greatest assetthough was his desire to excel. Two examples come to mind. Stickball was a verypopular game at P.S. 105. When we played stickball it was usually one on onecompetition. With a piece of chalk we would draw a box on the concrete wall inthe schoolyard. From a distance of about forty feet we would pitch to the batter.Any ball not swung at and either landing in the box or hitting the lines around the Page 31 of 301
  33. 33. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”box was considered a strike. A ground ball past the pitcher was a single; if caughtby the pitcher it was an out. A ball hit by a batter that bounced for the first timepast the pitching line was a double. A ball traveling far enough to hit the fence atthe opposite end of the field was considered a triple and if it went over the fencewhich was about two hundred and fifty feet away, then it was a home run. Thefield of play was very narrow as it was approximately fifteen feet on either side ofthe pitcher. We used to use a ball that the Spalding Company made... It was calledappropriately enough, .... a Spalding. Now if you had a half way decent throwingarm you could make this ball hum. Guys could throw this ball so fast that it wouldcause batters to be very nervous standing at the plate. A black and blue mark wasoften the result of being hit by the ball. Thats how fast and hard it could bethrown.I could always throw the ball fast. My problem at times was my control. On thisparticular day Pee Wee and I were playing stickball and I was throwing the ballfaster than usual with pin point control. Now I dont mean to imply that I wasplacing the ball in the exact spot that I wanted to but if you could consistentlythrow the ball into the chalked box then that was for me at least, evidence of pinpoint control. After two innings I was actually a run up on Pee Wee and delusionsof grandeur were dancing through my head. Thats not to say that Pee Wee wasntinvincible, but I wasnt in his league when it came to stickball and social status inthe Bronx in the 1950s and early 60s was to a large degree attributable to howmany points you scored in a basketball game or who you beat in stickball. So Ihad a lot riding on the outcome of this game. It had gone beyond being a game. Itwas for status, it was for acceptance. It was mano a mano. This was what lifewas all about for a fourteen year old kid growing up in the Bronx. There wasnothing more important in life at that time than establishing your athleticcredentials. Victory in athletics meant that in team games you were chosen first.Victory in athletics gave you a new found acceptance, so much so that the toughguys in the neighborhood would not pick on you because the "unwritten law" ofneighborhood sports is that you dont hit the jocks. You can bother the jocks, youcan intimidate the jocks, but you dont hit a jock because that jock might hit a homerun that will cause your team to win. Unfortunately not every tough guy playedball, so, so much for that theory. Anyway, so there I was with all of this pressureon my mind, projecting my new found acclaim some seven innings into the futureand what does Pee Wee do? Pee Wee did what I had not seen anyone before orsince do. He was having a difficult time hitting my fastball so he stood at the plateand started bunting. He bunted the ball over my head, he bunted it to my right, hebunted the ball to my left and each time he bunted the ball I became morefrustrated and as a result I threw the ball that much harder which in turn made Pee Page 32 of 301
  34. 34. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”Wees job that much easier because the harder I threw the ball then the farther ittraveled off of his bat. When I slowed my pitches down so as to prevent Pee Weefrom bunting the ball past me, he would then take a normal swing and whack theball all over the place. I dont remember the final score of the game but I vaguelyremember who won. It was the short guy. Anyway Ive tried to get a rematch withPee Wee but I think hes ducking me.The other story that sticks out in my mind about Pee Wee was when he made theChristopher Columbus High School basketball team. During the school year, at theinsistence of some of the members of the team, Coach Roy Rubin was persuaded togive Pee Wee a special tryout for the team which was created when one of theother members either hurt himself or got ill and was going to be out for the rest ofthe year. Pee Wee got the tryout and made the team, although not as a starter.Back then there was a tournament held every year at the original Madison SquareGarden in New York City for the top high school basketball teams. Thecompetition was referred to as the P.S.A.L. tournament. Students of the variouscompeting schools would fill the seats at the Garden and we were treated to asmany as three games on any given day. I forgot the team we were playing that dayand quite honestly I dont even remember if we won, but I do remember Pee Weebeing put into the game late in the contest. There was hardly any time left on theclock and you could see that the guys from the Columbus High team werefeverishly trying to set Pee Wee up so that he could score a basket. The ball camedown the court and with little time left on the clock the ball was passed into PeeWees hands. The court was crowded with guys almost twice the size of Pee Wee.Pee Wee reacted instinctively as any good ball player will and he realized that itwould be difficult to successfully drive to the basket for a score and it would beequally difficult to shoot the ball from his present position on the court because hewas being guarded so closely. With quick reflexes and speed to match, Pee Weedribbled the ball to the corner base line of the court, a distance of some thirty-fivefeet. The person guarding Pee Wee backed off a little due to the distance betweenPee Wee and the basket. That bit of hesitation on the part of the defender gave PeeWee the opening that he needed to take a shot at the basket. Up went Pee Wee. Hereleased the ball and as it made its arc towards the basket you could sense thateveryone in the Garden was rooting for him. The ball arrived at the basket and inschool yard parlance it was a "swish shot." The ball went through the basketwithout hitting the rim as it swished the nets. The crowd, friend and foe alikeerupted with joy. A good basketball crowd applauds not only the finesse of theirplayers but the opposing players as well. Pee Wee started jumping in the air,raising his right arm high up and with one fell swoop bringing it down to signifyhis accomplishment. The Garden announcer, the late John Condon, announced to Page 33 of 301
  35. 35. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”the crowd that the basket was made by Pee Wee Cohen. You would have thoughtthat Columbus High had just won the championship game but instead it was one ofmany memorable events for a memorable guy.There were many other guys who had nicknames. There was Tubs. And he was.But you couldnt tell him that unless of course you were tired of living. Tubs was areal MESHUGANA (crazy person). He was a teenage Jewish Godfather. Thatslike Godfather spelled D-O-N C-O-R-L-E-O-N-E. If you had a problem withsome kid in the neighborhood, then you went to see Tubs. On the other hand ifTubs had a problem with some kid in the neighborhood, then that kid consideredleaving home...and quickly. Its not that Tubs went around killing people. Insteadhe would usually give you a good shot in the KISHKAS (kidneys) to get yourattention. One time Tubs got a little carried away. Someone was bothering one ofhis friends and Tubs paid this kid a visit. Not exactly a friendly one. Tubs tookthis kid on a trip. Not in a car. But in an elevator. To the seventh floor. You seethe elevators in apartment buildings would not go to the roof. They only went tothe top floor, usually the seventh. From the seventh floor Tubs walked this kid upone flight to the roof. At this point the story gets a little fuzzy. I dont know ifTubs hit this kid or if he just talked to him when he got him to the roof. I do knowone thing though. Tubs held on to this kid and he wouldnt let go. Tubs held ontohim by his ankles. Tubs grip on this kids ankles was so tight that the kids anklesswelled up. And its a good thing that Tubs had the presence of mind to hold thiskid tightly by his ankles. Because if he didnt then this kid would have fell off theroof to the ground below which was seven stories down as Tubs was holding himover the edge. After that episode everyone did their best not to upset Tubs.Especially the kid with the swollen ankles.Another character from the neighborhood who frequented the schoolyard was aguy that everyone called "The Babe", as in Babe Ruth. The Babe loved to playstickball with kids four or five years younger than him as his chances of winningimproved dramatically. Now the Babe, like his namesake, was stout and alsobatted from the left side. The Babe was also given a tryout by the New YorkYankees, and that is how he got his nickname, but unlike his predecessor, theBabes home run feats were limited to the confines of the schoolyard of P.S. 105.On any given weekend you could go to the schoolyard and see the Babe. He wasabout 5 10" tall, portly and he appeared to have had a grin impregnated on hisface. I dont think that I ever saw the Babe without a smile. I also dont believethat I ever saw the Babe without a Spaulding in one hand and a stickball bat in theother. There was one other thing that the Babe always had with him and that washis own personal statistics with regards to his stickball prowess. On any given day Page 34 of 301
  36. 36. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”hed be able to tell you how many home runs he had hit in the schoolyard that year.The real Babe would have been impressed. Humm. Maybe now I understand whyour Babe always played kids four or five years his junior.A few years ago I went to pay a condolence call at my friend Harveys housebecause his mother had just passed away. Harvey was living in Fort Lauderdale.When I walked into his home, Harvey introduced me to everyone there. Duringthe course of the introductions Harvey introduced me to his brother in-law Shelley.I looked at Shelley and said, " Your name isnt Shelley, its the Babe." This was1978. I hadnt seen the Babe in at least fourteen years. He looked the same. It wasif the aging process had passed him by. I desperately wanted to ask him how manyhome runs he had hit in 1956, 57 and 58 in the schoolyard of P.S. 105 but commonsense told me not to. I mean, think about it. Did Roger Maris ever forget howmany home runs he hit in 1961? I asked the Babe for his phone number and toldhim I would call him and we could play a game of stickball in our version of anOld Timers Game. He asked me how old I was. I told him that I was only abouttwo or three years younger than him. He said, "nah, forget it."Then there was a man we all called Pops. Pops was in his sixties and you couldalways find him on the basketball court with all of the teenagers. Now Popscouldnt move like us kids, but he had his own distinct and effective style. Popswould only play half court games with us. We would have six guys playing, threeagainst three. Pops would usually guard the kid who had the poorest outside shot.Why? Because Pops would usually take a defensive position underneath thebasket and allow you to shoot to your heart‟s content from the outside. Theres noworse shame in basketball than having your opponent give you a free shot at thehoop, only to have you miss. Pops style on offense was equally adept. He wouldstand in one spot about fifteen feet away from the basket and wait for you to passhim the ball. Then he would throw a two hand set shot up at the basket and moreoften than not the ball would go through the hoop.There was a kid who lived two blocks away from me in my Granmas buildingwhose name was Warren Dolinsky, yet for some unknown reason the name heanswered to was "Jiggy." Life had dealt Jiggy a cruel blow. Jiggy had some sortof bone disorder which was evident by the protruding lumps on both of his wrists.In addition Jiggy maxed out in height at slightly over four feet. His diminutivesize kept him from competing in most sports, except for Ping Pong. In the game ofPing Pong this little guy was a giant. A funny giant, but nevertheless a giant.Jiggy could barely see over the Ping Pong table but there was hardly a ball hedidnt or couldnt return. He could volley and slam with great ability. When you Page 35 of 301
  37. 37. “IT NEVER RAINED IN THE BRONX”played Jiggy a game of Ping Pong it was almost as if you were just playing Jiggyshead, because that was all you could usually see at the other end of the table, justJiggys head. You would hit the ball to Jiggy and then all of a sudden a crippledhand holding onto a Ping Pong racket would come up from underneath the tableand return the ball to your side. Usually successfully. I was and still am anexcellent Ping Pong player and I played Jiggy on a number of occasions and aftermost games Jiggy walked away from the Ping Pong table taller than I.Of course some guys had last names that were funnier than any nickname couldpossibly be. Like Lipschitz (pronounced Lip Shits). And other guys hadnicknames that made no sense at all, like Zorch. It was rare for girls to havenicknames, but some of them did. My Aunt Tilly nicknamed my sister Phyllis,"Murphy." I have no idea why. Neither does Murphy, I mean Phyllis.Kids werent the only ones to have nicknames. Some adults had nicknames fortheir friends and the nicknames either described the line of work that the peoplewere in or it alluded to a particular characteristic of that individual. For instancemy Dad belonged to a club just across the street from our apartment building thatwas frequented by the neighborhood men who enjoyed playing cards. There waswagering on the games, but I couldnt tell you how much because kids werentallowed in there and my Dad would never discuss it with us. He would talk aboutthe people that went to the club. There was Maxie Bagels or as he was morecommonly called, Bagels. Now Bagels wasnt his real last name. It just describedthe line of work that he was in. The most notorious of my Fathers‟ entire cardplaying companions was Jake the FARTZER (one who passes gas). Now as myFather would tell us, the Fartzer had a special talent. Jake could cut the cheese; laya bomb or just plain fart on cue. The Fartzer would be called upon to demonstratehis special abilities when my Dad or his cronies were involved in a card game andsomeone would sit down at the table and just KIBITZ (clown around). Moneywas at stake in these games and there was no room for Kibitzers. So when aKibitzer appeared at one of the card tables, and if Jake was in the club, the highsign would go out to him and the Fartzer would take up his position at that tableand do his thing. In no time flat the Kibitzer would leave and the game wouldcontinue uninterrupted. I would ask my Dad how he and the other guys couldstand the odor and my Dad would indicate to me that it was a small price to pay inorder to continue the card game.Our neighborhood also consisted of four Synagogues which are Jewish Houses ofWorship. Now in the Jewish religion, the Sabbath, which starts at sundown onFriday and continues until sundown on Saturday, is considered to be the holiest of Page 36 of 301

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