Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Peeping Toms

Sooner or later, every neighborhood has its Peeping Tom. Idlewild had its Peeping Tom in the late 1950s. Sometimes, Peeping Toms never get caught: this one did.

Whenever one of the neighbors on 157th Street spotted the Peeping Tom, it seemed to take forever for the police to show up. When they did, the perp would be long gone. Finally, all the neighbors on the street got together and came up with a plan: Since my father was a cop, they would call him first the next time the Peeping Tom was spotted.

A few nights later, the phone rang. It was one of the neighbors: the Peeping Tom was hiding in the bushes, looking in the window of the house right across the street from us! It was the perfect opportunity for my father to nail the creep; however, my father wasn't home. He was at his favorite hangout, the local beer garden on the corner of Rockaway Blvd. and 158th Street. My mother called him up at the bar, passed on the message, and told my brother and I to stay away from the window. Fat chance!

We saw the Peeping Tom crouching in the bushes. A few minutes later, we saw our father staggering around the corner on his way to apprehend the Peeping Tom. My father was lucky: the Peeping Tom surrendered without a fight.

Thirty years later, when my wife, kids and I were renting a house in the Tampa Bay area, I found myself in a worse predicament than my father was!

At one o-clock in the morning, my teenage daughter woke us up, screaming, "There's a man outside my window!"

I jumped up out of bed, ran out the door, and tried to catch the Peeping Tom. I ran around the entire house, but didn't see him. It was then that I noticed my own predicament: all I had on was an undershirt!

The heck with the Peeping Tom! I was lucky to get back into my house, red-faced, bare-assed and all, without getting arrested for indecent exposure!

Stage Fright

One of my earliest and most vivid memories was when I pretended to be Gabby Hayes.

When the western I was watching on the tv was over, I ran around the house looking for a stagecoach, so I could get away from the bad guys just like Gabby did in the movie.

I found the stagecoach upstairs, in the walk-in closet of my parents' bedroom; only I had to climb up to the top shelf to get there. Get there, I did; but I knocked a few boxes to the floor while climbing up.

Hiding in the far corner of the top shelf, I found my father's gun. I picked it up, and held it with both hands, while dangling my feet over the edge of the shelf.

The bad guys didn't have a chance now!

Just then, my mother stepped into the walk-in closet.

I pointed the gun at her and said, "I shoot you."

I never saw that gun again the entire time my father was on the New York City Police Force.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

My Old House: It Is Still Standing

With over half of the houses in the neighborhood gone, I am surprised that my old house is still standing. Google Satellite shows the house too far up the street; but 144-57 157th Street is located where the blue placemark is, two houses north of 145th Rd, near the middle of the street.

I don't know when exactly we moved into our house. My sister, Patty, was born in 1943, my brother, Joe, was born in 1945, and I was born in 1947. I know I was born in Brooklyn before we moved to Queens. My younger brother, Billy, was born in Queens in 1954. I have quite a few memories of my childhood before Billy was born, so I believe we moved into our house around 1950.

The house itself was two stories, with either two or three bedrooms upstairs, and an unfinished basement downstairs. Sometime in the 1950s, my parents hired our next door neighbor, Mr. Negron, a carpenter, to convert the basement into a recreation room/bedroom for Joey and me. Mr. Negron also built a huge shed in our backyard at the end of the property line. It was at least twenty feet long, twenty feet wide, and ten feet high, and had a door and a window. After looking at the satellite photo from Google, I can't tell if the shed is still there, but the house sure is. It was a house full of memories, some of which I will share in this blog.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Old Neighborhood

This blog is mostly about myself and my family; but will also be about my childhood friends,and the old neighborhood where we grew up. I haven't been back to the old neighborhood in forty years! My, how it has changed.

The old neighborhood extended between Rockaway Blvd and Idlewild Airport, from 155th St. to 159th St. On each street lived at least one of my childhood friends: Carol Broadbent lived on 155th St. Joe Shearer and Dorothy Polovoy lived on 156th St. Timmy Phelan, Frankie Dallas, Jimmy and Ann McHale, Freddy Hueur, Stephen and Kenny Anson, Kevin and Leo Smith, and Tony Induisi lived on 157th Street. Helen and Stephanie McCaffrey, Linda Salvato, Tommy Conlin, Dennis Werner, Arlene Shimko, Rose Scomello, and Bruce Katt lived on 158th St. Eddie Wade, Frankie Alberghini and Susan Tullo lived on 159th St. I should mention Michael Dyer, Linda's boyfriend, as well. Although he lived on the other side of Rockaway Blvd., Ekim spent most of his time in our old neighborhood. As for me, I lived on 157th St..

The old neighborhood used to be nothing but houses on the streets and local businesses on each side of Rockaway Blvd. Today, half of the houses are gone, replaced by freight warehouses. Likewise, the Sunoco gas station at the corner of Rockaway Blvd and 157th St. is gone, as is the Carvel stand on the corner of Rockaway Blvd. and 158th. St.. On the other side of Rockaway Blvd, from left to right, stood Joe's Barber Shop, an A&P Supermarket, Idlewild Rest Bar & Grill, a delicatessen, a dry cleaning business, a cafe, and Sam Flug's candy store. I believe most of these businesses are no longer there.

Perhaps the biggest change is that the old ball field at 159th St. and Rockaway Blvd. is gone. I remember that the Idlewild Rest sponsored two youth baseball teams and a men's softball team. The youth teams were called the Idlewild Bombers and the Idlewild Jets. The sotfball team was called the Idlewild Bombers. Today, a five-story building is located where baseballs used to fly high into the sky, blasted from the mighty bats of Bombers and Jets.  It is now the location of the regional headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration