Having known him for almost a year, I know Mo has done a lot in his life, but, in class, what he always writes are stories from his childhood, from a young boy’s perspective. It all makes sense now – that’s the point of view his grandkids can relate to.
When we were in 4th grade we found out from the older guys that we could play basketball in the public elementary school gym - if we would work for Jerome the janitor clapping erasers to get the chalk out of them and use a large broom to sweep the classrooms.
After an hour or so of work, Jerome would take us to the gym and loan us basketballs. The Catholic school gym was in the basement where the baskets were only six feet high. The girls had to play their league games there. The boys had to practice there and played all the league games at another school’s gym.
Jerome’s brother Baron was also a janitor. We washed windows for him. That was tough. But, our basketball skills improved and some of us became good players for our schools, all thanks to the janitors who came from the hills of Kentucky and/or Tennessee where they made homemade whiskey. They never offered us any but the stories about them from the older guys fascinated us.
A Sailor Boy’s Sweetheart
During World War II, my dad’s little brother John served in combat with the U.S. Army. The family had a party in a large back room of a restaurant somewhere in Philadelphia. Dad’s 4 brothers and 4 sisters were there. About 6 other grandchildren were there. All the aunts and unvles sany songs and most danced. Suddenly into the room came this big broad-shouldered lady who must have weighed over 200 pounds, singing “I’m only a Sailor Boy’s sweetheart but I’m proud of my sailor boy.”
It was Uncle John with pillows stuffed in his coat and a wig borrowed from a mop. To me he was hilarious. Best of all he came home safe and sound from the War!
When school ended each day from about third grade through eighth grade, I used to run to our apartment on top of the barber shop. I’d run up the stairs and grab a note and money and run back down the stairs and head the ACME Market.
Mostly, I’d get Wheaties, the Breakfast of Champions for breakfast, and potatoes, string beans, and meat or fish from the butcher for dinner.
Within a few minutes, I was back in the apartment and would give Mom the change and rushed down the stairs to head for the playground. The football, basketball, and baseball teams had already been chosen at that time. The latecomers, including myself were then added to the teams.
Looking back at school, I realized all that running back and forth to the store probably got me into better shape than playing on the playground. I appreciated the playground even more.