Monday, December 14, 2015

Old Slides #1 - The Tricycle

Over the holidays our daughter was on a trip to Israel, and our son-in-law came to stay with us for a night. While he was here he took all 300 of my Dad’s old Kodachrome slides from the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s and scanned them into our computer; something I have wanted to do for several years but never gotten around to. He did it in just under 3 hours!

So now I have a boatload of photos which I had been looking at by squinting while holding them in front of a lamp for about 30 years. Occasionally I would have one made up at the camera store, but for the most part these photos were lost to me. Along with those photos, many memories were also a bit sketchy, and so they are a real “treasure” to mine for pieces of my past.

Here I am riding my first tricycle on Kings Highway and Bedford Avenue in 1957. We lived on the corner in apartment 4-A of 3619 Bedford Avenue, which is one of those pre-war buildings with huge rooms separated by long hallways. It was a rear apartment, facing the alleyway between our building and the Kingsway Hospital next door. I’m not sure what it was called back then. I do remember being awakened at night by the scary sound of the ambulance sirens as they brought in patients. These were frightening sounds to me mainly because I didn't know what had happened; only that someone was dying. I never parsed out the difference between an ambulance siren and death. For years they represented the same thing to me.

By day the building was a fascinating place to play. There was a series of ramps to get to the basement. They were for moving furniture in and out more easily. At one time; in the 1930’s when my mother first moved in there; the building had a concierge and all deliveries went through the basement.

The basement also contained 4 tremendous boilers, not unlike the ones found on the ships I would later serve aboard, and these boiler rooms; while “off limits” by paternal edict; drew me like a magnet. They had fires going all the time to heat the mammoth amounts of water required for the two separate halves of the building, which contained over 100 apartments.

On the corner of Kings Highway and Bedford Avenue the building had a separate apartment which was accessible only by the private entrance which stood about a half story above street level. This put that apartment on the same plane as the first floor, which was reached by going up several short steps from the lobby. I don’t recall ever having met the people who lived there; maybe they worked days; but they must have been home on weekends when we played on their “stoop.” They never said a word, though we must have been loud, and I assume they either liked kids, or they had the patience of Job.

The lobby opened up to two wings; left and right; with each side serviced by a separate elevator. Both sides had long rows of mailboxes, flush with the walls, and I looked forward every day to watching the mailman place the letters so deftly into each box. He was quite a marksman, never faltering or missing a single one. I always felt as if I were watching a magician at work; his sleight of hand seemed just as quick to my little eyes.

The roof was another magical place for me. Although I was too young to go up there alone, on Tuesday nights in the late 1950's we used to go up there with our parents to watch the fireworks from Coney Island, about a mile and a half away to the south west. I also remember going up there and "helping" my father install our first TV antenna, dropping the cable from the roof down to our window and then pointing the antenna towards the Empire State Building with its huge antenna in Manhattan; about 12 miles away to the north.

The stairs were the main mode of transportation for my brother and me whenever we went “out” to play. We lived on the 4th floor, in apartment 4-A and so it was always a mad race down the stairs to the lobby, which seemed to take forever to get out of. If I remember correctly there was a suit of armor in the lobby that went with the Tudor looking beams which were the motif of the whole building. The exterior was still the same when I passed by in 2011, but I didn't go inside. I think I was afraid of spoiling the memories I have by seeing the place now that I’m older.

One time; this is back in the 1970’s; I went to look at the building before I left Brooklyn for the Navy. I remember thinking how small that front courtyard was compared to my memory of it. How much smaller it has gotten since that day, when I left to see the world, I cannot say, though I imagine it has shrunk even more.

Well, this is just a ramble prompted by an old photograph not seen clearly in decades. And just think; there are; potentially; 299 more to write about. Who said “you only get to live once?”

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