Growing up in the 1940's and 50's in a place called Brooklyn, the center of our universe was located deep in the section called Red Hook and Bushwick. At Smith-9th, the old IND Subway is grandly elevated as the highest elevated station in both Brooklyn and the city, conforming to old regulations that allow tall-mast ships to navigate the Gowanus Canal. The metal trestles and pillars are constructed of concrete. Like that grand station, so are our memories casts in a concrete never-dying remembrance of what life was like once upon a time.
A generation of very poor children living in Brooklyn, NY post World War II lived in cold water flats. Their immigrant parents arrived here from such places as Ireland, Italy, Germany, Puerto Rico, and were mainly unskilled laborers. They struggled day to-day to support their families with basic needs and an education with a deep God-abiding focus on hope for the future.
Out of that setting, we would like to take you by the literary hand and revisit some of the experiences that made Bushwick, and Red Hook, in our lives so memorable. Join us as we document and recall eye-witnessed accounts of some of these experiences. Join us as we view street games we played, many of these games self-taught and many others passed along from one generation to the next. Imagine these children not having electronics with perhaps the exception of a portable radio. Many living in cold-water flats or apartments, with or without an indoor toilet. This meant whoever did not have an indoor toilet, used an outhouse: a narrow shack located outside the building without plumbing!
Generally, a flat had two or three rooms, no heat, and no hot water from a sink, no bathtub, maybe a laundry sink, which could double as a bathtub. Some apartments had a coal stove for cooking food and the stove also provided heat. The children lived with their parents, grandparents and in some cases along with aunts and uncles. These children would wake up every morning, to a meager breakfast and either sent off to school or let out of their home to fend for themselves. But the rule was: they were expected to return home for dinner and be on time.
These stories are not meant to chronicle pain and suffering that a generation endured, but to document some the experiences growing up on the streets of the densely- populated Brooklyn. Their ingenuity bested boredom through street games and spontaneous adventures. Games like tag, buck/buck, hide & go seek, one and over, ring-a-leavee-o, and others that did not require a ball, rope, skates, bat, baseball cards, marbles, straws etc occupied our time. And, we can add to this mix various adventure games that involved fireworks, chalk, balloons, lumber, sticks, yo-yos, straws, also discarded items (Skates, Gallon Glass Jars, Cans, Carriages, etc.) that could be recycled into a game or new object. These stories feature 'Pepino' a nine-year-old Italian American kid, who lives with his mother, father and teenage sister in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn New York during a summer right after World War II, and told through his eyes.