Following a reader’s request, we are reprinting a Town & Village Soapbox column that originally ran on September 1, 2011. The column, submitted by Peter Cooper Village resident Joe McGrath, details his memories of an early Stuyvesant Town.
Town & Village encourages readers to submit their own columns for “The Soapbox,” which features a different voice from the neighborhood each week (space providing). All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 800 words, to firstname.lastname@example.org or Town & Village, editor, 20 W. 22nd St., 14th floor, New York, NY, 10010.
Nobody asked me about the old days, but…
Nobody asked me, but I miss the good ol’ days in Stuyvesant Town as a wide-eyed, red headed/freckled faced youth and teen. Where has the time gone? Man, do I miss:Egg-creams and lime rickeys in Fradels on Avenue B. “Schlepping out” around 8 p.m. to get my Dad a pint of hand packed ice cream at Daltons and the Daily News Night Owl newspaper.
“Pensie-Pinkie” and “Spaldeens” at Jo-Jo’s Toy Store on 14th Street.
Being legally allowed to play in Oval grass… only with major snowfall. During those snowfalls, knowing that all security officers, gardeners, handymen, plumbers and porters would be called to duty to shovel overnight and salt ground to ensure our safety. I can still hear the shovels! Non-negotiable… done with pride and success.
Mission sodas (specifically orange) at Ralph’s on First Avenue and 16th. Vinnie loved us!
Our Annual Little League Award Ceremony at McKenna’s Restaurant on First Avenue. And great teams like the Shamrock Cleaner Shamrocks and Gristede Comets.
Speaking of First Avenue… man does the neighborhood miss that Great Gin Mill and Restaurant! And if you are old enough, it was your or your Dad’s hangout — Freddy’s!
The best grilled cheese on the Lower East Side at Mindy’s, right here on 14th Street between Avenue A and First… just two doors down from you got it. Horn and Hardart!
Buying baseball cards in Woolworth’s or “Five and Dime” Store (now the spiffy looking rental office) on First Avenue and 15th (later Jan’s). They had the ones with see-through wrapper, so at least you could peek at the first and last card. And please, let there be a Willie Mays card in the middle.
Having at least one water-balloon fight back in the old days.
And of course, I just know that you had a “black and white” at one of the Town Rose Bake Shops (14th between A and B, or First Avenue and 13th).
Hitting our teenage years (legally of course), and gaining entry to Guy Fawkes on Wednesday nights for 25-cent beer night, and Nurses Night… They drank free! Yikes.
I know I’m really reaching, but who can forget “Bottle Cap Baseball” developed by a local politician’s son and one of first local shows on Manhattan Cable TV? The game was played similar to “scully” and had its birth in Playground 12.
Manhattan Cable TV (now Time Warner Cable), sending the great Marty Glickman to our Con Ed Field to broadcast the Majors Little League Championship Game. Yes, Marty Glickman!
And boy what I do I have to do to get my hands on the board game “Challenge The Yankees,” and play a few hours against my friend Timbo…like our days after a Little League tilt…D’Agostino Cardinals vs. New Star All Stars. He was always the Yankees and back in the mid 60’s, they didn’t always win!
And where did the New Star Deli ever go? Wasn’t it just a few years ago, where we went there for our Yoo-Hoo’s and those funky little wax bottles filled with some sugary drink that could not have been good for anyone?
I know if you’re a neighborhood regular you had to run into such icons like Ramon, Todd, Lester and Eddie Panic the deliveryman.
Getting your favorite slice and should I mention that it was 15 cents? Prince of Pizza on Avenue B, or Angelos (dba C&A) next to Immaculate Conception on 14th? Great “combover” Angelo. Or maybe Nunzios on First Avenue, and wasn’t Nunzio like missing three out of his five fingers, but he wasn’t shy making the pizzas!
“Regular or a Trim” at Andrew’s Barber Shop. I always preferred Phil…second chair in! Kind of resembled Paulie “Walnuts.”
And let’s never forget the large Woolworths on 14th… and that “hair-netted” wonder working the lunch counter. Please don’t tell me that I ever had the Chicken- A-La-King.
Mouseys on 13th and C…..and the infamous Ivan and Ida…and such characters that seemed that they could come right out of a sitcom or a horror movie… Butchie, Annette, Louie and owners Kenny and Billy. And oh the many games of Strike Ninety or Flash we played on the shuffleboard bowling machine with Richie (who is so deeply missed) and great friends Jimmy A, Ricky, Danny, Mike and Tim. I can still smell the sawdust! And unfortunately, the urinals!
The Stewart Sandwich machine in Mouseys too, serving such delicacies like the “Torpedo Hero”. Yummy.
The Corner House, Dintys, Dublin Castle, Posh Place and Allens.
Hopefully you were able to be a member of the Knights of Columbus, whereby at one time, we had two of the most successful and competitive Councils in NYC… Ave Maria on 14th and B and Vera Cruz on First Avenue and 22nd. Raising money for charities, while forming lifelong friendships and softball battles that are still talked about today 30 years later! Priceless.
And if you did frequent Ave Maria on 14th and B… you had to have stopped by Ya-Ya’s Diner right? Chee-burger…chee- burger….chips and rotating apple pies in the window.
That was a great block in the day, you know (14th between B and C), a block that Town & Village originally called home. And what was right upstairs? The bigger than life Stuyvesant bowling alley… that somehow turned into a bingo parlor for many years. Blasphemy!
The recreation department’s yearly summer trips to Alley Pond Park in Queens? At the time it seemed like it was in the Hamptons, not Queens. And first time this city slicker ever went fishing…yup, caught guppies in a cup!
Moe’s Sporting Goods on Avenue A between 12th and 13th. The “real” Moe’s… way before “gotta go to Moe’s” came out. What a dump…but he would find it for you. Mickey Mantle glove… here it is. Stan Mikita hockey stick… got it! Chicago Shoe Skate ball bearings and wheel truck… here it is. Moe Frankel… one of a kind!
All of the Christmas trees in the Oval. Not just one gigantic tree… and those great wooden ornaments like Woody Woodpecker.
Please tell me you were lucky enough to have your parents take you to Freedom Land (now remarkably Co-op City) or perhaps Palisades Park (“Ride The Coaster, get cool by the waves in the pool.”) or Rockaway Playland!
Oh yeah, forgot one more great place on 14th and B, right under Knights of Columbus… China Boy Restaurant (later Tai Pei). Back when we had somewhat large/sit down Chinese Restaurants, unlike tiny storefront/take out joints now. And the magic of walking through the beaded doorway to restrooms.Turkey Bowl Battles in Playground 9 and Playground 5. Freezing cold Hockey League games at Playground 7, and trying to score on goalies named Whitey, Gio and Teddy. Turkey Trots organized by my friend Bubba and still going strong over 30 years later.
And in closing, sitting down at the East River (now Stuyvesant Cove) watching the boats as a youth. The bench where we hung is now right next to the sign memorializing one of our many heroes from 9/11, FDNY Captain Paddy Brown of Stuy Town. As we close in on the 10th anniversary of that horrible day, please remember Paddy and all of our men and women who paid the ultimate price that day.
Now that’s my “Stuy Town,” my neighborhood…where friendships are made, fostered and still treasured a half a century later! I’m sure that I missed a whole bunch.
So if you ever “had your name taken,” bombarded anyone with “itchy balls” (round cone type objects that fell from our trees), or bought a “whammy” off of Joe the Good Humor Man, you know where I’m coming from!
Seems like only yesterday.