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(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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