Growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
My Friends and the Games We Played
|Back row: Rosalie Greco, Ralphie
Normandy, Rocky Tricarico.
Front: Nino "Dynamite" Curccio, and Ronnie Tricarico. Rocky worked at Uncle Tom's Candy Store on the corner of Conselyea and Lorimer Streets and made the world's best egg creams. Click here for his recipe!
|Priscilla Normandy, Anita Spinelli
and her cousin,
Confirmation Day - May, 1945
|Johnny Martin, my wonderful first boyfriend who lived on Devoe Street, next to the library. Where are you, Johnny? I wish I could talk to you once more and hear all about how your life turned out.||Rosalie Greco, Priscilla Normandy & Dolores Graziano (my friend from 3rd grade at PS 132 and all through high school). We still keep in touch. (APS, Dee!)|
One of our favorite games was drawn with chalk inside of one square of sidewalk. It was called Skelly, but some kids called it Skellzies. For playing pieces we used bottle caps weighted with orange peels so you could control them better as you flicked them to slide across the ground to land on the next numbered square. You started by trying to get your bottlecap in the "one" box. After you made "onesies" you could go again and shoot for "twosies," and so on, until you missed. You could tell when we were playing Skelly. Everybody had scraped knuckles!
I just read that Kevin McManus has patented a Skelly board game! See the picture below. We didn't call the center box "No Man's Land" though. It was "Poison" to us and we drew skulls in the center to prove it!
These further instructions came from New York City Street Games by Ray Vignola, Dennis Vignola, and Tim Haggerty:
Hitting another player's cap allows you to place your own cap in the box you were shooting for (except when shooting for "ninesies"). If you land in Poison (marked by skulls), you lose three turns, unless someone hits you out, or you land on one of the four diagonal lines.
"After ninesies, players shoot the numbers in descending order. Once across the start line, players become Poison. Each tries to hit the others, knocking them out of the game. For them, landing in Poison now has no effect. The last player left is the winner.
We played outside all the time. There was no TV, video games, or computers to keep us indoors and no air-conditioning yet. In fact, we got our first refrigerator when we lived there. Before that, the ice man would come right into our kitchen carrying a big block of ice in huge tongs. He would put it right in our ice box. I hated to empty the pan at the bottom. I was always afraid I'd spill the water on Mom's kitchen floor (that you could eat off, of course !)
As kids, we had the most fun at night from right after supper until way past dark. It never occurred to us to be afraid. There was no crime that I ever heard of, but on the other hand, I wasn't allowed off Conselyea Street. I wasn't even allowed to go to the other end of our long block, the Union Avenue end, unless I was going to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.
My girlfriends and I loved playing bouncing ball stories where we had to think fast. In one of them, each time we'd say a word that began with "A" we had to cross a leg over the pink rubber ball as we bounced it. If we didn't miss a beat saying the "A" words, we could go on and name things that started with "B" and so on. I can still hear the sing-song refrain of:The girls skipped rope, including Double Dutch, while we recited rhyming stories that made no sense, like:"A" my name is Anna
and my boyfriend's name is Al
We come from Alabama
and we sell ApplesOur roller skates had four metal wheels and needed a skate key that made the skate clamp tightly to our own shoes. We skated for hours up and down the street until it felt like the skates were part of our feet. When you took them off, it felt like you were still skating.Baby in the high chair
Who put her in
Ma, Pa, oo la la
Wrap her up in tissue paper
Send her down the elevator
Ma, pa, oo la la
one, two three, four, five, six, seven
Some of the other games we played outside were hide-and-seek and ringolevio, a more sophisticated version of it. I couldn't remember the rules for ringolevio, but a nice guy named Joel from Haring Street in Sheepshead Bay sent me an email explaining how they played it in his neighborhood in the sixties and seventies. Joel said he once broke his nose playing ringolevio while trying to free some prisoners! This is no game for wimps.We played potsie (potsey), a Brooklyn version of hopscotch. Fortunately Patricia D. Dietz, formerly from Greenpoint, sent me the rules of the game."You choose up two teams of approximately five or more players, establish a jail (the mailbox or lamp post or something). You make up rules prior to starting like, 'no use of someone's house to hide.'
Then one team hides and the other seeks prisoners. When you catch someone, you must say 3 times while holding them: 'Ringolevio 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.'
If the person gets away before you complete that saying, he or she get to re-hide or you chase him/her. If you complete the phrase that person becomes your prisoner and goes to jail. Once all are captured, your team wins or gets its turn to hide.
However, the team who is hiding can free prisoners by charging the jail and getting through someone as the guard, tag his or her players and go free, and the chase begins!"We played kick the can a lot, too, but the rules escape me. There weren't many cars on Conselyea Street until after WW II so we played safely in the street. We played stickball in the street using broom handles for bats and manhole covers for second base. Sometimes the ball went in the sewer and we let the boys try to get it out. They usually did."I remember potsey as a sidewalk chalk game similar to hopscotch. We drew 6 big squares with HOME at top and bottom. Squares 1, 2, 3, then 4, 5, 6, going down.
"We used a bobby pin and threw it on square 1.
Then we stood on one leg and jumped over square 1 and landed on 2 and jumped to 3.
"HOME was the only place you could put your foot down. Then down 4, 5, 6, to HOME. You could not step on a line. If you put your foot down you had to start all over at 1.
"If you made it to 1, you picked up your bobby pin and when it was your turn you threw it on 2, got on 1 leg, jumped onto 1, skipped 2, and so forth. First one to make it through 6, won.
"These are the basics I remember, but there might be more."
However, hitting the ball onto the roof of Grandma Normandia's two-story house meant you lost your ball forever and that was that. Grandma had a big tin can where she kept the balls she made her son, my Uncle Henry, retrieve from the slanted roof, not an easy task. Whenever I needed a ball, I knew where to go. My grandma was so good to me in every way.
I loved playing marbles along the gutter. "Hit and span" was two! That meant if you hit your opponent's marble and could then put your thumb on it and stretch your hand so your pinky touched your marble, you won two marbles! My husband, Gordon, kept all his pretty marbles from his childhood. They are in a cigar box in our storage room. Sometimes I look at them and remember the old days. I wish I had kept some of mine.
Did you also have boat races in the gutter after a quick spring rain storm? We used ice cream bar sticks for boats. We had Good Humor (the first ice cream on a stick) and Bungalow Bar trucks that came to Conselyea Street to sell us ice cream. Remember the blue and white Bungalow Bar truck that looked like a little house (a bungalow) with a shingle roof? My all-time favorite was their coconut-covered ice cream bar. I tried to make it last a long time, but at the same time I was anxious to see if the empty stick said "Bungalow Bar" on it. That meant you got a free ice cream! Or was that the Good Humor bar where you could win a free ice cream. I wish someone would remind me!
How about the excitement when someone was brave enough to open the cast iron fire hydrants we called "johnnie pumps" on a sweltering summer day? There was always the fear that when the fire department or the cops came to turn it off somebody might get in trouble. It didn't stop us from running under the water to cool off though.
The only other place to cool off was the pool at McCarren Park. There was this little ritual when you checked in. Boys went to the right side, girls to the left. They gave you a little metal basket to put your clothes in when you changed into your bathing suit. Then you returned your basket to the counter and you got this elastic band to wear around your ankle. It had a metal tag with your basket number on it. I as always afraid I'd lose it and they wouldn't give me back my clothes. I never did, of course. Before you went into the pool I seem to remember there was purple-colored water you walked through that was supposed to prevent athlete's foot!
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That Old Gang of Mine
I've got a longin' way down in my heart
for that old gang that has drifted apart
They were the best pals that I ever had
I never thought that I'd want them
Last night I strolled to that old neighborhood
There on that corner I silently stood
I felt so blue as the crowds hurried by
Nobody knew how I wanted to cry
Gee, but I'd give the world to see
That old gang of mine
I can't forget that old quartet
That sang "Sweet Adeline"
Goodbye forever, old fellows and gals
Goodbye forever, old sweethearts
God bless them
Gee, but I'd give the world to see
That old gang of mine
Music by Ray Henderson.
Words by Billy Rose and Mort Dixon, 1923
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