Today’s blog entry deals with a great friend. We have known each other for a very long time and he has contributed not only his thoughts but a few images on the blog. As youngsters Glenn Thomas and I grew up together; we played ball and hung out all the time over the years. Matter of fact, it was with Glenn that I first started going out to nightclubs in Manhattan; we hit them all. Seems like we went out every Friday and Saturday night in our late teens into our 20’s. When Glenn had surgery on his knee due to a basketball injury he had to rely on a set of crutches to get around but that didn’t stop us from going out. First it was Xenon, Limelight (“No Jeans Fella’s, No Jeans.”), Red Parrott, Nells, Fun House, 1018, Electic Circus, Peppermint Lounge and many more.
A memorable moment that stands out to this day is when we would hang out in his basement and pump up the volume on his late brother Drew’s stereo; the bass was turned way up for ‘Isn’t It Time’ by the Baby’s. (Click here to see the video and listen to the song) Glenn’s mom, a lovely woman would flick the lights at the top of the stairs if it got too loud…and boy did it get loud. We rode our Mongoose Mountain bikes to East 5th street, Manhattan Beach, across the Brooklyn Bridge to midtown Manhattan and of course catching the F and A trains to take in a New York Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Garden. Those were the days my friend…
To this day I am proud to say that Glenn and I are best friends and communicate on a daily basis.
Recently I sat down with Glenn (nah, not really; we conducted this Q and A via electronic mail). We tossed 3 questions his way…
CD: Which teacher at Holy Name made the biggest impact on your life? Which one do you remember most and why?
I had some great teachers in my time at Holy Name. There are actually two teachers that really stand out in my memory to this day. In first grade I had Sister Helen Dolores. Sister Helen taught us how to read with those big hard covered reading books. I think those books were entitled “David and Ann”. I also remember how Sister Helen taught us how to print letters and write numbers. I can still remember her little sayings and gimmicks that helped me to remember how to make these letters and numbers. I presently have a daughter in kindergarten. Kids learn in kindergarten today what we learned in first grade. I was helping Carolina make the number “5”. Sister Helen’s saying came into my mind and I explained to my daughter the very same way that it was explained to me. “Down the street, around the corner, and his hat blew off”. My daughter loves that saying and does this all of the time when we work on homework. Yes homework in kindergarten! It has been 41 years since I was in first grade and those fond strategies still remain. I’d like to think that Sister Helen had a large part in that.
Another teacher that really made a big impact in my life was my third grade teacher Mrs. Lynch. Mrs. Lynch was an old woman back then. She was a very caring person and a great teacher. Mrs. Lynch was always dressed impeccably with long manicured nails with her hair always done nice. She was very motherly to the boys for back then she taught in the boy’s department. Mrs. Lynch always seemed to have a story for every situation and was very animated when telling these stories. She was very encouraging and would always build our self-esteem up! At times she would also yell at us. My friend Ernie Williams from 16th Street (Dennis Williams’ younger brother) sat next to me. I remember Ms. Lynch screaming at me and Ernie for talking too much. I told my best friend Ernie that Ms. Lynch was an ‘old bag”. Well Ernie snitched to Ms. Lynch. In front of the class Ms. Lynch told the whole class “Mr. Thomas for your information I am not an old bag…I am a young one”. I went home and told my parents. They were not happy but I remember them laughing afterwards. Third grade and Mrs. Lynch stand out in my mind for that was the first year that I got involved with the Sports program at Holy Name. I tried out for the baseball team and got cut by Mr. Castaldo. That day after the cuts were announced and being a bit disappointed for not making the team it was Ms. Lynch of all people told each of us that we just missed making the team and that with a little more practice we would sure make the team the following year. She was right!
I also tried out for the Bantam “B” basketball team coached by Nicky Cannella. Nicky was assisted by Georgie Routhier. I remember basketball tryouts being held in the HN Boys yard at 3:30 pm after school. I remember hearing the announcement for tryouts over the loudspeaker at school. I never played basketball before but I wanted to try it out. It seemed like there were hundreds of kids in the yard with all age levels and teams using one of the six baskets. Other former HN coaches like Mickey McNally and Pete Gillen were there. We did layups the whole practice and I remember Cannella calling me “hoppity hop” for I hopped when I dribbled the ball. He must have taken a ton of kids on that team for I actually made the Bantam “B” team. I didn’t play in the games much but who cared for I had a uniform and belonged to something. I remember when the final cuts were made and the names were put up on the bulletin board in school and finding my name on it! In class Ms. Lynch read my name out loud and acknowledged my accomplishment. I was on cloud nine! Teachers like Sister Helen Dolores and Mrs. Lynch really shaped me not only with their teaching of subject matter but just as importantly in terms of character building and positive reinforcement.
CD: Your favorite Holy Name Summer League memory both as a player and as a fan?
Wow! That’s a tough question! There are so many great memories of the HN summer League. As a player I had many. I guess that I’d have to narrow it down and say that my best memory was winning the 1980 Middle League championship with a team called OTB. Our team was a rag-tag collection of guys that played on different teams the previous summer and also played the ponies hence the team nickname! Some of those very teams from the previous summer had folded and guys wanted to play. Besides me, our team consisted of Danny Mahoney, Gerard Kash, Joe Farrell, George Brossard, John Brown, Hank Fifield, Charlie Worsdale, and John Godfrey. Forte Bellino was our coach and actually played a bit. No one including ourselves expected anything from us in the beginning of the summer but for some reason we were winning our games and realized that we were not that bad after all!
We beat some very good teams such as Collura coached by Ray Collura. I remember making it to the championship game with OTB against Team Ferro. Team Ferro consisted of all of the Ferro brothers (Billy, Tommy, Mark, John, and Ricky). I believe the game went into overtime with George Brossard making the crucial free throws to seal it! What’s sad is that George Brossard, Joe Farrell, and most recently Forte Bellino are no longer with us today! I miss those guys a lot! We had often talked about having an OTB reunion at a bar and I guess that is not in the cards anymore.
As a fan of the HN summer League there were tons of favorite memories.
I remember as a third or fourth grader going up and watching Mickey McNally running the league. I remember the bright lights with everyone having a white t-shirt in their back pocket. Danny Byrnes (Patty Byrnes’ older brother) was playing in a game. All of his “Huns” friends were outside the fence drinking their containers and screaming in at the players on the court. Danny’s team was down 1 point. Danny was fouled with like 0:01 to go in the game and he was awarded two free throws. Mickey McNally was the referee in the game. Mickey handed Danny the ball. The crowd outside the fence on Howard Place were screaming and shaking the fence. Danny makes the first shot. Mickey then hands Danny the ball for the second shot. The crowd outside the fence again starts to scream and yell. Danny takes a deep breath and then flips the ball back to referee Mickey McNally and says “Wait a minute Mick I’m going to take a F*$&-in heart attack!” The whole yard erupted in laughter!
Another memory that comes to mind is the Blackout of 1977 or 78. I was watching a game on the sidelines and in an instant the lights went out. We at first thought it was just the schoolyard that was affected only to find out that the whole city lost power and we were part of NYC history.
Lastly the memory as a fan of the HN summer league was watching the classic Middle League Battles between Farrell’s and Collura in the Championship. I believe this was 1978 and 79. Farrell’s had guys like Bill Kahaly, Corrado Candiano, Frankie Palazzo, Snappy Corrigan, Danny Ryan, Charlie Kawas, John Corrar, and Marty Lakowski (Marty Lake). Farrell’s was coached by Brian Dannaher. Ray Collura was player/coach for his team. He had Billy Gallagher, Ray Godfio, John Saris, Buddy Thompson, John Finamore, the late Michael Bundrick, and Patty Byrnes to name just a few. I remember seeing basically the whole neighborhood up in the yard watching these championship games in back to back years (78 and 79). I also recall a lot of trash talking and seeing a lot of wagering going on the week prior to this classic match up! The summer League was a fantastic tool in that it helped make an already tight-knit community even closer.
CD: Born and raised on Sherman Street, and still living here, what is the biggest change you have seen?
This is the most difficult question to answer out of the three for there are a lot of changes.
I would have to say gentrification is the biggest change. Gone are the middle class that we all knew. Besides people having less kids and moving out the neighborhood
I remember waking up and seeing and playing on the street with families that resembled your own family in terms of attitude and socio-economics. On my street the kids today go to schools like Poly prep, Berkley-Carroll, and Packer Collegiate. Families are more upper middle class. My street (Sherman Street) has a lot of nice families but kids don’t play in the street anymore. It seems that the creativity and imagination is lost with today’s youth. Everything is a schedule with music lessons or something else. Enjoying simple pleasures is a thing of the past. Gone are those fun street games like kick the can and stickball. Back 25-30 years ago people knew their neighbors and if you didn’t you made it a point to introduce yourself and your family to those people. People today seem to have more of a “Manhattan like” mentality where they only sleep in Windsor Terrace.
Their kids go to schools out of the area. I miss the days where we had more teachers, NYPD, FDNY, DSNY, and MTA guys in the area. There is still a small amount left of the old guard left in the neighborhood. I have this very strong connection when I run into these very same people on the street. It’s even stronger when I run into someone who has moved away and has come back to visit. The school yards are empty after school. I walk by the HN Boys yard and it’s empty at 3:30. I still love to live in the Windsor Terrace/ Holy Name Parish area. It still has its charm but lost are many of the wonderful ‘characters” that made the neighborhood.