Monday, February 1, 2010

Mo (Never Written Before)

Not long ago, Mo used to say week after week, "I've never done this before. I've never written anything before."

Now, as soon as he opens his notebook, his face lights up, and his once-fidgeting pen doesn’t leave the paper until three pages later. He tells me, “It’s been in my head all this years. It was just waiting to come out.”

As new seniors join our class, and tell us they’ve never written before, guess who is the first to assure them it’s ok? Mo tells them, "I've never done this before either, just like you."

The Big Three

Football, basketball and baseball were the major, and I may add, the only sports we played at the catholic school I attended. Just having a red and blue sweat shirt was enough of a thrill in seventh grade; and although I only played in the last few minutes of an away game, a tackle I made on a big tough running back from a Philadelphia team, helped my reputation on the playground.

Even though we did not have our own gym in which to practice, our eighth graders were very good athletes and I faithfully watched them from the bench all through the basketball season.

My not having gotten close to five feet in stature helped me to make the first team in baseball. Our coach, Father O’Connor, used me as the lead-off hitter. Most of the time, pitchers walked these guys, but I was able to lead the team in runs scored. I played a pretty good second base too, and the few singles I hit put my batting over 300.    As you might expect, I was quite impressed with myself and it all gave me a big head.

First Jobs

After earning nickels and dimes carrying shopping bags from the Acme and the A & P supermarkets to their cars and or homes, some of the housewives asked if we could cut their grass, shovel their sidewalks and snow covered steps and help clean their cellars. 

In the summer in between 7th and 8th grades I was hired as a soda jerk by a drug store owner named “Doc”Schekter who taught me to scoop ice cream for cones, milkshakes, and ice cream sodas.  Sodas were also made by adding coca, coffee, root beer, and other syrups to fizzy soda water.  Customers would also bring tasty cakes and pretzels to the soda fountain where we had learned to work the cash register. 

Bananas, cherries, and some kinds of nuts were used to make ice cream sundaes which adults ordered for themselves and sometimes their children or grandchildren. 

Teenage boys spent their nickels in the pin ball machine while other kids watched.  Sometimes they lifted the machine onto the wide edges of their Tom McCann shoes to cheat. 

Some used a coat hanger to pry up the edges of the top of the machine and score points and illegal free games.  When caught they were thrown out of the store for a while but the police were never called. 

39 cents per hour was my wage and I felt like a BIG SHOT!

Summer Days

Not long after I learned to walk, my cousin showed up at our apartment on top of the bar. He took me on an adventure in the fields and woods nearby. Joey took me everywhere. He was three years older than I, and the best cousin anyone could ever have. I got to hang out with some of his buddies. They taught me how to play fist ball, tag and tug of war.

When I was in the second grade I started to take Joey’s younger brother Johnnie, (who was two years younger than me) to the same places Joey took me to. A few years later their sister Patsy would come along. She had a great sense of humor and was a lot of fun. Patsy was about a year and a half older than me.

Johnny used to fall in the creeks a lot when we were jumping from stone to stone. It was always at the end of the day so when he got home for dinner soaking wet, I’d get blamed and hollered at a little. But, I never really got punishment for anything.

Aunt Helen was wonderful, beautiful and funny! She was also a great cook and I stayed for dinner a lot.

We also went to the playgrounds, ponds and creeks on the weekends during the school year but Joey was usually at practice for school sports. Patsy would skip her sport games.