Dad's Memories

Early Brooklyn

- 08 May 98 - 19 August 98

We 4 kids, in order--Jeanette, Arthur, Elwood, and Catherine, grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. Our house, a small wood shingled one, shingled all over - not just the roof, was quite pretty, and different from others in the neighborhood. Address 2728 Church Ave, on the corner of Church Ave. & Lloyd St. Church Ave was a main drag - had a trolley line with the electric lines high over the tracks. The trolleys had a long boom to ride the wire & bring power to the car. Lloyd St. was a one block street, with us on the corner, 3 houses in the middle of the block, and a house at the other end - thats on our side of the street. The other side was vacant lots on each end, with an attached group of 3 houses in the middle.

There was a Firehouse a few blocks upstreet on Church Ave, and the engines - drawn by a three horse team - would come clanging by, with the proverbial Dalmation racing alongside the engines. Us kids could "visit" the horses in the firehouse, located almost across the street from our Grammar School--we all started there, up to grade 4, then moved on to other Grade Schools. The Firemen - I think- enjoyed having kids petting the BIG horses & we got to know them quite well--even let us clean up the Hossdroppings from the floor !

Lloyd St was the naborhood playground, - paved - it had 3 sewer manholes right down the center of the road, they served just right as Home Plate & Second Base for daily "punchball" games, or the place to set the Goals for Rollerskate Hockey games. For Punchball, an old tennis ball, or a rubber ball would do, and you "punched the ball" - no bats. First and third bases were chalkmarks by the curb. For Hockey, a mashed down can served as a puck - never did have a real genuine Puck.

The manholes were used to shovel snow down after a big snowfall. They'd get the snow into horsedrawn "dumpwagons" - the bottom opened up to dump the load over a manhole, and a crew then pushed the snow down into the sewer. Not hi-tech, but effective.

The "long side" of our lot ran down Lloyd St, and we had a 2 car garage at the inner end, set back about ten ft from the road. It was a good spot to practice pitch and catch - with the garage as a backstop. Kinda hard on the Garage doors if we happened to be using a hardball. That setback also served as "home" for nitetime games like "ring-a-levio", with maybe 8 or 10 kids, we'd choose up sides. One side to hide, the other to seek. If you were caught you were "in jail" - a marked area (chalk again - never ran out of chalk) in the garage setback. If a teammate could sneak to the Jail area and yell "Ring-a-levio" without being tagged, you were free again. Gosh, with like kids today say - Nothin to do- we never ran out of stupid things like that to keep occupied.

And the vacant lots made good "ballfields" for One-A-Cat - or Two-A-Cat. - if there were enuff kids around. Real baseballs. Only 1 one base in One-a-cat. A pitcher and a couple of fielders - no catcher - the pitcher ran in to cover home, and you had to make it to 1st and home or you were "out" and sent to the furthest field spot, and had to gradually work your back in to be "up at bat" again. Except you could not hit a fly ball over the fielders heads or you were automatically "out".

Had naborhood "teams" that sometimes played agains other Naborhoods, everyone had to chip in to buy a NEW baseball, a 90 cent Kiffee, and the winner kept both balls after the game. "Da woild serious" was not more importanter dan dose pickup games!!

Most all the kids were1, 2, 3 yrs older - and bigger - than me. Art was the best batter & pitcher on our bunch. He spent a lot of time playing catch with me, and I got to be better than some of the bigger kids as a result. So, I got to play with the big guys, and was picked sooner than some in the pickup games. Art could throw different kinds of "coives", specially with a tennis ball, and he showed me how to put different "spins" on the ball by snapping your wrist different ways as you threw the ball. Our Garage doors took a beating in the process. Even the best of the empty lots were all over bumpy dirt, no grass, and there were lots of errors on grounders. Fly balls - you stood a good chance of being out. A grounder stood a better chance of being a base hit. Cept big guys, like Art, could maybe hit a homer.

Later - as we got older - we could go way up to the Parade Grounds, a very big field near Prospect Park. It had about 20 baseball fields strung along around the perimeter - all wit real backstops, and genuine infields. The best ones, up near a "clubhouse" were reserved for some kind of League that played on Sundays. The others were generally on a first come basis, and you could depend on getting a game somewhere around the field. We'd often hike up to one of the League games - standees 3&4 deep on both sidelines (big crowds) they were kinda Semipro guys, and the play was high quality stuff. Last I heard, the Parade Grounds was still going strong.

Come Fall & several football fields took over - goalposts and sidelines marked out thru the center of the big field. When I first started work, they inveigled me into joining a Sunday playteam. Without much in the way of uniforms, the bumps and bruises hurt all week long, and I soon had 'nuff-a-that for me. Played about 4 or 5 games with that bunch before I got smart and quit.

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