HOWARD PLACE

(The neighborhood tour continues…)

I had the same routine every time I went to the boys schoolyard.

Walk down the two flights of stairs in our apartment above Bob’s Hardware Store, basketball under my scrawny arm. (I got yelled at for dribbling in the hallway once) So I made sure to pick up my dribble while in the building; totally going against the old adage, ‘never pick up your dribble’.

Standing idle on the corner of 9th avenue and Windsor Place, but working on my ‘handle’ facing the convent waiting for the red light to turn green I would cross the two-way avenue and head down Windsor towards Howard Place. (Did I ever tell you about the time Mrs. Deere grabbed me when I tried to walk against the red light?)

Arriving to the other side safely, I always picked up my pace and pushed the dribble out in front of me down Windsor. I’d hang a hard right onto the small block they called Howard Place which was sandwiched between Windsor and Prospect avenue. (I’m going to have to do some researching and find out why it was called Howard and whatnot)

Isn’t it ironic that Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt filmed a movie on the corner of Howard and Windsor called, ‘As Good As It Gets’.

Anyways, as I dribbled up the block always working on my left hand, I could hear the birds chirping in the trees, people talking or arguing across the street on their front porches and even observing some of the kids out on the street playing ball or riding their bikes.

Howard Place had a line of homes on one side of the block; the other side being Holy Name school of course. I’d say there were approximately 30 houses on the block, give or take one.

Thanks to Brownstoner.com I located a photo of Howard Place.

I always thought it would be cool to live on Howard because you could always see who was in the yard. Also, the front porches seemed like a great spot to hang out and shoot the breeze.

The first family I recall on the block were the Corrigans; They lived closer to Windsor. They were a good wholesome family. Excellent athletes and overall down to earth ‘peeps’.

You also had the Rutter’s and Cottingham’s a few doors up going towards Prospect Avenue.

Who could forget Mr. Zoli the mysterious resident at 19 Howard.

Often times, I recall trying to avoid a bunch of the neighborhood guys playing poker right on the sidewalk outside the school; that’s right, there’d be a bunch of fella’s tossing coins in the pot, raising or seeing their neighbor.

This group took up most of the sidewalk, formed in a large circle. You either walked around them in the street or you stopped and watched the current game until the hand was complete and some lucky soul was pulling in the cash with both arms from the winning pot, while the losers moaned and groaned, slapping their losing hand to the concrete. I enjoyed watching the game, I had a desire to learn the game.

The Trapp’s were probably the most popular family on the block, for many reasons of course. Mainly though, it was their red hair (nah just kidding).

It was basically their involvement in basketball in the neighborhood, the most popular sport…(Go ahead, try to debate that one, pundits)

If you didn’t have a basketball with you, which at times I didn’t, you had free reigns to go down the Trapp’s basement stairs and grab one. When you were done playing you walked back to their house and tossed it back!

Gerard, who I deeply admired growing up was the best. He was a six-foot-five guard who could do it all. He was a star at All Hallows High School (GT, care to share the story 40 years later why you went so far away to attend high school?) He then went on to play at Villanova before transferring back home to St. Francis College.

His brother Bobby (Also an All Hallows alum) was also a very good player until back problems hampered his progress.

Not only were Gerard and Bob excellent basketball players, they were ‘salt of the earth’ people.

To this day I speak with both of them via email.

I hear their sister Betty was a pretty good player too.

The Dixon’s, Molloy’s and Rower’s were also very nice families on Howard Place. I grew up with all the boys from those families, and became pretty close with Kevin Molloy. We were classmates at Holy Name and also teammates. We spent many a nights hanging out doing what most teens do.

What I miss also from those days on Howard Place was playing whiffle ball with the legendary Tommy Hoch.

This guy was the best!

We’d choose up sides and have a blast. Home plate would be in front of his house. Someone would pitch from the opposite sidewalk and the balls would be flying over the black, gated fence across the street. At times the white, light plastic ball would often get stuck in the tree

Last but not least, Howard Place was where the boys schoolyard stood. There were three full courts surrounded by a chain linked fence. The games in the yard were legendary. Summer league, three-on-three contests, taps and of course stick ball.

During rain-delays in the Summer League people would scamper across the street and wait out Mother Nature taking refuge on the front porches.

It was magical.

Sure there are schoolyards scattered around the city that are populated by kids, but there was nothing like the boys school yard at Holy Name located on a wonderful street, Howard Place.

-SF

Hoops135@hotmail.com

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25 Responses to HOWARD PLACE

  1. Ed Cush, Jr. says:

    Tommy Houk was the best – I was just talking to Glenn T. about him the other day. So many kids spent so many hours playing ball with Tommy. Some could hit a ball futher, but no one could hit a ball higher! Do you remember his dramatic upper-cut swing?

    The other thing I remember about Tommy is that he never forgot a name. You could introduce someone to him once and he would never forget that person’s name. I’m glad we spent so much time playing whiffleball with Tommy – it made him happy, but it made all of us a lot happier (especially on those long summer days!). Don’t know what happened to Tommy, but hopefully he’s doing well.

    Ed

  2. hoopscoach says:

    E.C.

    Tommy will be included for a future, ‘Jewels of the Neighborhood’ entry for sure…

    Thanks for stopping!

  3. Jerry Cole says:

    EC,

    As one of my favorite college baskeball folks Kenny Williamson would say, “No Question!” Tommy Houk had a Dave Kingman like upper-cut swing and that light whiffle ball seemed to stay airborne forever when he hit it. He was always so happy to see everyone and always greeted you with a hello and a wave & a huge smile on his face.

    Coach,

    Tommy definitely qualifies as a Jewel of the Nabe in my book. I’d wager that at some point Tommy more than likely played ball with just about everyone within a 6-7 block radius of the schoolyard.

    Jerry

  4. K.Molloy says:

    I used to see Tommy back in the early 90’s on the F train coming home from work. He had a job in the city and we would chat on the ride home. I moved out of the neighborhood in 94 and have not seen him since. He was the same good natured Tommy and had not changed a bit from when we were kids playing whiffle ball. I remember my Mom told me that when they sold the house on Howard place he and his mother moved to Manhattan to be closer to one of his brothers or sisters, something like that. My Mom sometimes got stories mixed up so that may or may not be accurate.
    Wherever he is I hope and pray he is doing well and is as happy as he ever was. He is one of the kindest gentlest souls ever to walk this earth and his presence in our lives and our childhoods certainly blessed us more than we can know. For everyone of us who is right now thinking back to those whiffle ball games and or the other games like “red light green light” that we used to play with Tommy in front of his house, I know there is nothing but good memories flooding in. Thanks Tommy and as I think Bob Hope used to sing “for the memories”:)

  5. hoopscoach says:

    Out of all the possible stat categories in baseball, one thing is certain; Tommy Houk is the all-time leader in Games Played, At-Bats and Most Games Pitched!

  6. K.Molloy says:

    He was a huge yankee fan. He always had to be the yankees if you played him. He knew everything about the yankees. And he used to wear a yankee cap all the time.

  7. Eileen Slavin McElroy says:

    Kevin
    you said so eloquently what I think every kid who ever played on Howard is feeling and thinking. Nice Job!
    Tommy’s heart is huge and I agree wholeheartedly that we were blessed as kids to have his presence in our lives growing up.
    Some other memories..
    ~My brother Eddy and Richie “teaching” me to roller skate…thier version…..have me hold on for dear life to a stick ball bat as they ran full speed down the street (and of course these were the metal wheels that would trip you up with every speck of dirt on the ground!) My knees were destroyed, but I was skating pretty successfully by the end of the morning!
    ~the major skellies tournaments….we would spend all morning finding old bottlecaps, melting them down etc for a huge game in the middle of the block near the Rutter’s and Trapps house.
    ~Wild games of red rover, spud, cocoleavio. Sometimes these were like mini tournaments and games would continue for days on end.
    ~Big Marty Rutter playing football with us outside the house

  8. Glenn Thomas says:

    I remember when I first blew out my knee and needed surgery to repair my torn ligaments. The nurse turned out to be Tommy Houk’s sister. After we chatted we found out that we were neighbors. I didn’t play too much whiffle ball on Howard Place. I do remember taking Tommy Houk “yard” a few times! lol! Even an upper decker to the third floor! How it got to the third floor with all those trees I do not know! I remember Robert Lannigan and Dave Cullen playing on Howard with Tommy. Robert Lannigan used to wear shorts and had those tube socks that went up to his knees with his high top black sneakers. I think that only his knee caps got tanned in the summer! After playing hoops and walking down Howard Pl. to go to snow White Dairy and get the quart of fruit drink for 20 cents it was always fun to see these guys playing whiffle ball on Howard Place.

  9. hoopscoach says:

    Playing on ‘Tommy Houk’ field (outside his home) was a treat.

    It was rare a car came driving by.

    What I recall most was the interesting conversations we would have on the pitchers mound when they was trouble brewin’.

    Me: “C’mon Tom, I know you can get this next guy out.”

    TH: “Ok Steve, I’ll try my best.” As he would shake his head and look you in the eye.

    Trying his best was what Tommy Houk was all about. If we could all take a lesson from him…

  10. Eileen Slavin McElroy says:

    Glenn
    OH THE VISUAL of Robert Lanigan you just gave me is priceless! I grew up next door to the Lanigans and our older siblings forced a fist kiss on me from Robert when I was probably around 6!
    Mary and Regina would hang out the back windows to talk, since our moms thought it ridiculous for them to tie up the phone when about 4 feet of wall space separated our apartments!

  11. hoopscoach says:

    Lanigan had the Kevin Porter look going on.

  12. ML says:

    Glen
    I remember the snow White Dairy but we called it the egg store. I went there after basketball practice with Kawas and
    would buy those awful grape drinks and think they were great.

  13. K.Molloy says:

    Whatever happened to Robert Lanigan? Does anyone know?

  14. Mary (Slavin) Matteo says:

    I know Robert Lanigan’s whole family moved to Staten Island but I lost touch with his sisters, Carol & Regina.

  15. Dee Dee says:

    Hey is that my house in the picture…LOL. Another great thing about Tommy was that he let everyone play whiffle ball. I also remember every Friday night Tommy would walk to Joe’s and get dinner. I used to ride the train with Tommy…he had a very good sense of humor. Where ever he is I hope he is doing well. Howard Place was a great block to grow up on. Many memories and laughs happened on the Corrigan’s stoop.

  16. Prospectandtenth says:

    I’d have to say that Tommy is THE WIFFLE BALL ICON for all of us that played on Howard Place. He was the kindest person anyone could come across in their lifetime. Its true that he never forgot a name, and when I saw him on the F train many years later he looked exactly the same as he did when we palyed those big games in front of his house.

    I hope, if he does live in Manhattan, he lives on a quiet block where he can teach the kids there the great game of wiffle ball.

  17. BT says:

    YOU GUYS AND LADIES ARE AWESOME… ESPECIALLY YOU EDDIE, BY STARTING ALL THIS OFF WITH TOMMY. YOU SEE WE WERE THE FIRST GROUP OF KIDS TO GROW UP WITH TOMMY ON HOWARD PLACE. IT SURE WAS AN HONOR TO GROW UP IN AN ENVIORMENT WHERE EVERYONE CARED FOR ONE ANOTHER, AND I THINK THAT IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT. I REALL YTHINK TOMMYS DAD WOULD BE PROUD OF EACH AND EVERYONE OF US BECAUSE YOU SEE TOMMYS DAD WAS THE FIRST TO INTRODUCE TOMMY TO ALL OF US. HE WAS ALWAYS OUT THERE PLAYING EVERYTHING THAT TOMMY WANTED TO PLAY WITH HIM. I CAN STILL SEE TOMMY AND HIS DAD PLAYING ALL THE TIME OUT IN THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE. TOMMY NEVER GOT TIRED, THE SAD PART IS TOMMYS DAD PASSED AWAY VERY SUDDENLY AT A FAIRLY YOUN AGE. GOD BLESS MR HOUK…. I THINK EACH AND EVERYONE WHO CROSSED TOMMYS PATH BECAME HIS DAD IN A SENSE, BECAUSE THATS WHERE TOMMY REALLY HAD ALL HIS FUN PLAYING ANY AND ALL THE GAMES AROUND HIM, ESPECIALLY WIFFLE BALL. I WOULD PERSONALLY LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE OF YOU AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE FOR TAKING THE TIME TO REALLY GO OUTSIDE YOURSELF AND GET TO KNOW TOMMY BECAUSE ME LIKE ALOT OF YOU REALLY AM VERY THANKFUL FOR TOMMY BEING IN OUR LIVES… PEOPLE CAN BE ARE VERY CRUEL OUT THERE AND WHEN I THINK OF HOW LUCKY TOMMY REALLY WAS TO HAVE ALL OF US, IT REALLY MAKES ME FEEL LIKE I CAME FROM A GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD AND I AM SURE MR HOUK FEELS THE SAME WAY……THANKS AGAIN, 15 HOWARD PLACE, BOBBY TRAPP.

  18. Betty T B K says:

    Tommy is all of the above, his Parents, brother and sister did a great job with this gentle spirit, that was always a big part of who he is. I also am very thankful to have had the privilege of living on Howard Place, and seeing Tommy on his porch or in front of his house waiting patiently for someone to come and play ball with him. Always smiling and saying hello as he would go about his day. What a family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. JOHNNY FIN says:

    I PLAYED AGAINST TOMMY HOUK MANY TIMES, HE WAS A TRUE ICON TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD. I RECALL GOING TO THE YARD, AS WE CALLED IT AND IF HE WAS THERE HE WOULD SAY” HEY JOHNNY WANNA PLAY, ) WITH A BALL AND BAT IN HAND,,,,,,,,,,,,OF COURSE WE PLAYED AND IT WAS ALOT OF FUN., I REMEMBER THE FOUL TIPS GOING ONTO MR ZOLI S PORCH,,,,,,,,,,OH BOY,,,,,,,,,,,,BE CAREFUL,,,,CAUSE EMILY MIGHT SCARE YOU!LOL, ANYWAYS ITS GREAT TO SEE THE PEOPLE FROM WINDSOR PLACE ARE CLOSE, MY BROTHER STEVE IS ONE OF A KIND GUY. GREAT JOB THERE RED, ALSO A HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO ALL OF THE MOTHERS……..PEACE ,,,,,,,JOHNNY FIN……

  20. Anthony Cirillo (Benson) says:

    Robert Lanagan is doing great. He lives in Brooklyn and I am in contact with him on a regular Basis. If anyone would like to contact him I would be glad to forward your number to him. My e-mail is acirillo1@nyc.rr.com. I hung out on 10th ave and 18th street with Eddie Buzzo, Andy Lamboy and Louie Sisto, Mikale Casagrande(little Monk) and the Late Eugene Debenedetto and many others. . This log has brought back some dear memories for me, Kings, Slap ball, Skellies and stickball. If you would like to drop me a line please feel free to use my e-mail above.

  21. hoopscoach says:

    Anthony,

    Tell Robert Lanagan, that Steve Finamore said hello. He can reach me at:

    hoops135@hotmail.com

  22. Jenet Levy says:

    Hi. You mention the Rowers. I have lived at 31 Howard for about 13 years. I bought it from Mary Ellen Rower. You say you wonder how the street got its name. Originally on the site where Howard and Fuller are now was the Howard and Fuller Brewing Company. Also you say there are about 30 homes on the block – 23 to be exact. It’s still a great place to live.

  23. Glenn T says:

    They need to bring back the summer league in that schoolyard and have those games back on up till 10pm like we used to do in the old days! The kids would love it!

  24. hoopscoach says:

    Great idea!

  25. gerard lang says:

    When my mother told me that the Langs were related to the Trapps, my first thought was those poor Trapp! LOL

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