THE SOCIAL FABRIC

Quote of the Day:

“It’d take a guy a lifetime to know Brooklyn t’roo and t’roo. An’ even den, yuh wouldn’t know it all.”

-Thomas Wolfe, -Only the Dead Know Brooklyn

I was born in Methodist Hospital on 7th avenue back in 1964.

We lived at 665 10th street between 8th and 9th avenues from 1964 to 1969. When I was 5 years old, my father left us so we were forced to pack up and move 7 blocks away to 228A Prospect Park West. Our new home was a 5 room apartment over Bob’s Hardware Store. I’m sure the reason for the move was financial.

On 10th street we lived in a very cool brownstone.

Growing up on 9th avenue, the streets of Windsor Terrace became my classroom.

I’ll be honest, I probably learned more from being on the streets than I did as a student at Holy Name. (I was enrolled in H.N.S. from 1970-1978)

The boys & girls schoolyard, any street corner, someone’s stoop, and of course Prospect Park. In those places we took notes, contributed to the discussion and of course were tested on a daily basis.

The education was priceless.

If you were lucky enough to get through, you earned a Ph.D in streetology; the course was ‘Street Life 101’. It was a pass-fail; No credits, no tuition.

Hanging out with friends you learned to figure things out. (Hopefully some of the people who grew up in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s) have figured it out by now?

You learned how to play sports taught by excellent coaches and of course you learned how to relate to people. You learned about teamwork, discipline and of course toughness.

There were no parents packing your lunch in the morning and driving you three blocks away  in a mini-van to meet your friends. There was no cell phones where mom was texting you every 30 minutes to see if you were ok. There were no parents standing around the field shouting words of encouragement or even standing at the pitcher’s mound with a baseball cap and glove, tossing the ball underhand to us.

In our neighborhood classroom you learned how to make it through in the ‘Game of Life‘.

Today, I’m not so sure Street Life 101 is a class that is offered in the course catalog.

When I was in the 8th grade at Holy Name (1978) at dismissal we’d run home, change out of our school uniform, slip into a pair of jeans, lace up our sneakers and jog to the schoolyard.

We played basketball, football, punchball and stickball. There was no gymnasium for us to play in. There was no expensive health club where we were members. There were no personal trainers and no specialization in one sport where we had a coach working with us. There was no shooting or pitching coach. One friend told me, ‘My speed and agility drills were ducking punched from my father’.

If you weren’t shooting a jump-shot or rounding the bases after punching the ball into the well, you were sitting on the side bullshitting with your buddies.

Our “lunch period” was walking to Joe’s on Prospect avenue and getting a slice. If you were lucky enough to have extra money you walked across the street and picked up an iced tea from Henry’s. There were no juice boxes.

I’m sure the very nice people who have moved into the neighborhood in recent years are very nice people with good jobs, happy family and high aspirations; but boy did they miss out.

Growing up in the neighborhood during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s was a magical. Doesn’t matter if you started a blog and write about the daily happenings at Connecticut Muffin; if you didn’t experience an egg cream from Rae and Otto’s, or if you didn’t hang out on the parkside at night with a bunch of friends, you missed out.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to hang out in the boys or girls schoolyard with friends, chill out on a stoop and shoot the breeze late into the night or even shoot a few jump shots all alone at night in the boys schoolyard, you missed out on a great time.

Respectfully,

Steve

Hoops135@hotmail.com

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26 Responses to THE SOCIAL FABRIC

  1. Brooklynati64 says:

    Steve, I was born at Methodist a couple of months after you. In fact, my grandmother (Sue Meier) was a nurse in the delivery rooms.

  2. Gene Green says:

    I was Holy Name 59 -67 and even 10 years earlier everything you have is so true. I transferred out of Brooklyn Tech rather then be thrown out and the dropped of of Jay at age 16. Spent 8 years in the Navy and between learning on the streets and the experience in the military I think I have had a better and more useful education then most Ph D’s. I still use what I learned in the school yard and the neighborhood. I was 16th street and then up to the circle and the family ended up above Bob’s lighting outlet next to Associated

  3. John Langton says:

    Steve- My mother was friends with your mother, and there was another lady they were friends with, Antoinette. Wasn’t she your landlady on 10th?

    • hoopscoach says:

      Johnny,

      You are correct!

      ANTOINETTE from 10th street. She lived across the street from us.

      Her husband’s name was Dick.

      One day we were hanging out. So Antoinette is coming out of her house. My mother screams out, ‘HEY ANTOINETTE, HOW’S YA DICK?’

      I almost died I was so embarrassed.

  4. jimmy vac says:

    Steve,
    Agree on all the points you made. One of my favoritet things my buddy Donny Rice and I would do is rehash the day from our third floor windows which faced each other in a straighline on Windsor. We’d shoot the breeze until a neighbor told us to shut up. As you stated, a game of stickball, hoops, cocoleaveo , Rae’s & Otto’s egg creams and a slice from Franks was a great day,,, would not trade my childhood for anything…

    • hoopscoach says:

      Thanks Jimmy…

      I also think the communication was much better back in the day. Not sure if the kids get together and talk anymore.

  5. TonyF16ST says:

    Don’t forget when you went out in the morning all you had to worry about was Beng home at 5 for supper. Btween the time you left and 5:00 you could of went to Mars. W got on trains, buses,bikes and went everywhere.
    When you walked out that door you were on your own, we had no fears and neither did our parents,they didn’t even know where we were half the time.
    Like I said in my house the thing was. ” DON’T BE LATE FOR SUPPER”

    • hoopscoach says:

      That’s right.

      When dinner was ready at home, if I was in the girls schoolyard across the street, my mother stuck her head out the window and screamed my name.

  6. TonyF16ST says:

    You were a lucky guy. My Father got home @ 5:15 we had to be home @ 5 washed up and waiting. No one called out a window. Not that it would have done any good we were never near the house . And you didn’t go out after dinner if you were late. They never really asked much other than be home @ 5
    Thats what amazes me. No one even said like so what did you do where did you go?

  7. jimmy vac says:

    That would make me cringe.. when I would be playing stickball or cocoaleeveo and my mother would yell “dinner” or to bust my chops
    ‘it’s Prince spagetti day!” .. now as a parent, I used to enjoy tweeking my kids in front of their friends like offering to show the video of my daughter giving my son a bath ,,

  8. Tom Gerbasi says:

    Great stuff as always, Steve. My “cell phone” was my mother yelling out the window from the second floor on 11th avenue. I swear I could hear her from the PS 154 schoolyard. Speaking of which, I find it sad that on a beautiful day in Brooklyn, practically every schoolyard is empty. Back in the old days, if you didn’t get out there at 8am, you were waiting for a while to even get a spot to play on.

    • hoopscoach says:

      Thanks Tom,

      Excellent stuff – you are correct all across the board.

      When I am in the neighborhood it saddens me to see all the schoolyards empty.

  9. Frank says:

    Hoopscoach, this is what makes reading your blog so bittersweet!! I read this excellent blog everyday, and although I had a great childhood, I truly wish I had lived on Windsor Place 25 years ago. I think we all have to admit that the times have changed and I don’t know when I will let my kids ride the train alone, go to the park alone or even go to HNS alone (they are one block away). Yes, I am guilty of taking kids to playdates and they love juiceboxes and the Armory is a fantastic place for them to run around in!! Just sad that times have changes so much!!

    • hoopscoach says:

      Frankie,

      I’m with ya bro – I wouldn’t allow my kid to do those things either.

      Hope you are well and thanks for writing.

      I never had a juice box when I was younger. We had quarter water’s!

  10. TonyF16ST says:

    You would think with all the Hi-Tech Surveilence and large police presence, see something say something peolple would feel more comfortable but it’s not that way at all. People tend to be more to them selves and closed mouth.
    We need to be really greatful we grew up when we did. In a place where everyone knew everyone, there were no fears, people sat out or stopped to chat to their neighbor. I remember when mothers would leave the babies in the strollers in the aeries for fresh air or out in front of a store when they shopped on the avenue. It just seemed so safe back then. Kids today don’t know what they are missing not growing up in a true “NeighborHood”

  11. Karen (Artz) Shanley says:

    Love this read Fin. Thanks, it brings back so many good memories. There was no place in this whole world I would have rather grown up. The life lessons we learned hangin on the streets with our friends were the best education we could have had. We didn’t worry about bullying cause if you were picked on there was always one of your friends who would go kick the bully’s ass. We watched out for each other which is probably why our parents didn’t need to worry that we were gone all day. No one was ever left to fend for themselves. You always had someone who had your back.

    How I wish my children could grow up the way I did. The lack of street smarts for the kids today scares me. The lessons we learned with our friends by our side can never compare.

  12. Pat Fenton says:

    Read the comment by Karen, Steve. I’m sure she’s so much younger than me, but she certainly knows what she’s talking about. And she learned the valuable lessons of our neighborhood Windsor Terrace so well. Bullies were a welcome target for some of the more tougher guys in our neighborhood, who loved nothing better than kicking their ass.

    I was blessed enough to have lived there, grown up there, from the late 40’s in Holy Name School, became a teenager in the 50’s there, and hung out on all its street corners, passed through Manual Training High School, drank in its bars all through the 60’s. In the end I came out of it as a Court Officer, a nod to the civil service mantra I was preached, and became a writer, still.

    Some beautiful thoughts by Karen and the rest of the Windsor Terrace crowd, Steve. There is a sad string of longing running through them, but we’re all lucky to have been there. There is a great Buddy Holly song called “Learning the Game” , a lesson we all learned so well along 9th Avenue in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. I know I did.

    Pat Fenton

  13. David Cullen says:

    Great post, Steve. The athletic activity in our neighborhood was great. Some of the comments bring up a lot of memories. From the Holy Name Summer League to playing hoops at 154s and going to Nat’s for cold water afterwards, these experiences were priceless. While school doesn’t hurt, livng life itself and interacting with others is probably the best education one can get.

    And if I was in a different neighborhood, and I would bump into someone from our neighborhood (probably visiting a relative) in my travels, there was always some type of bond.

    Good Post!!! While I hope younger people get some education and skills, don’t forget about activities, whether it’s basketball in a schoolyard/gym or taking nice long walks.

  14. I can’t agree more with everyone who responded to this blog. Growing up on 16th street was something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I love coming back to the old neighborhood and running into all the people who made my childhood and teenage years something so special. Where I live now, people love to hear my Brooklyn stories and they can’t imagine how it must have been to grow up in such a terrific place. You can’t get the full meaning of “the neighborhood” unless you were born and raised there. We formed friendships and bonds with people that have lasted a lifetime, and I would not have wanted to grow up anywhere but where I lived. Can’t wait for Paddy’s Day weekend!

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