With the rapid growth of the Internet throughout the world, more
and more nations are becoming part of one huge global community.
- This is viewed by many as progress. At the same time, sadly,
people are losing that important concept of the neighborhood.
In fact, there are those who hardly even know their next-door
neighbor. Even worse, there are those who hardly know their own
- Neighborhoods, of course, have existed since the dawn of
- And from these neighborhoods sprung up towns that spread
to the building of great cities and countries.
- The warm memory of one loving neighborhood of the 1930s and
1940s still remains deeply entrenched in my heart. That was my
childhood neighborhood in The Bronx, located at 168th Street
between College And Morris Avenues. It was just a few blocks
east of the Grand Concourse, as how I aptly directions for reaching
my five-floor apartment building. It just sounded rather impressive
with my directions to always mention the Grand Concourse, for
the Grand Concourse was the boulevard of boulevards in The Bronx.
- Actually, a Bronx neighborhood then was simply called a block.
The word neighborhood was much too fancy for our simple taste.
Yet, oddly, our block never had a block party. Perhaps we didn't
really need one, as every day was a party for us kids.
- There was that much fun for youngsters with all the varied
street games we played throughout the year, at a time when there
was a minimum of auto traffic. And when an occasional car did
pass by, we boys gave each driver such a nasty look that you
think he wanted to quickly abandon his vehicle.
- What made my block so wondrous? Well, for one thing, it was
blessed with the convenience of several small stores: grocers
druggist, tailor, shoemakers deli, Chinese laundryman and, naturally,
- popular candy store, the very nerve center for we lads.
- Our block didn't have an official bookie joint but somehow
we sensed that bets were discretely taking place within the confines
of the drug store.
- And, indeed, we knew all the store owners quite well, that
is except for Charlie, our Chinese laundryman. He just couldn't
- Finally, we simply gave up on pleading and gesturing for
Charlie not to starch the collars. If you ask me, I think Charlie
must have assumed that there was some law in America that compelled
men to wear starched collars.
- But ah, the candy store...,where in those days you could
truly buy a piece of candy for a mere penny. No wonder Lincoln
became my number one all-time President.
- Ah,the candy store .... where we bought our beloved baseball
- Unfortunately, along with these baseball cards were the chewing
gum that ruined our teeth for coming extractions. For this was
in an era when dentist either drilled, filled or pulled.
- Our shoemaker was Angelo, who was Italian. And just why all
shoemakers I've known were Italian, I'll never know. Consequently,
- I once had a dream of traveling around the world to find
out if all other nations just had Italian shoemakers.
- But how often we went to Angelo for new heels and soles on
our battered shoes. And the heels always seemed to be made by
the O'Sullivan Company, So,strangely, O'Sullivan became my favorite
- However, when being so young and innocent, I often thought
that, if O'Sullivan was so Irish, why didn't he make green heels.
Yes, kids can often hold some weird ideas. Anyway, three cheers
- Then there was our corner druggist, Mr. Slote. I especially
liked Mr. Slote because he had the only scale around that gave
both your weight and fortune. Women loved the scale because it
kept registering less pounds than their true weight. And with
me, while my weight kept increasing, I somehow got the same fortune.
And to this day, I'm still waiting to become rich and famous
while keeping company with world leaders.
- But Mr. Slote was like our neighborhood medic, particularly
for either removing a cinder from an eye or helping to relieve
our colds. Yes, no matter what type of cold his customers had,
Mr. Slote would give that same red liquid concoction. Still,
we kids took his medicine gladly, knowing It was far better stuff
than swallowing that bitter cod liver oil.
- Also, what I found so fascinating about my old block were
the constant stream of people, day in and day out.
- First off, there were the many mothers who didn't work outside
the home in those times. So, on our block, these mothers would
always bump Into friends or relations and strike up a spirited
conversation,, as a large number didn't even own a telephone
to do their gabbing or gossiping. And with women, there is always
much to say, even when it was raining. Thus, they may not have
done any singing in the rain but talking - yes.
- So, if today's young generation ever ask how people ever
got by without the telephone, this is one answer ... good old
face-to-face conversation. It was often a sure cure for the blues
- And along with the residents of our block were the non-residents
who came to service the households and who gave so much life
to the street. They were the I-cash-clothesmen, clergy, butcher
- sharpeners, newspaper boys, mailmen, teachers, insurance
agents, gas meter readers coal delivery men, doctors, street
photographers, Boy Scouts, umbrella repairmen, dog catchers,
musicians, western union
- boys, Good Humor ice cream men, etc.
- And forget about drug pushers. In that era, the only things
being pushed were baby carriages.
- And, you could always spot doctors who were making house
- They all carried that same type of small black bag. I often
wondered what great magic was contained in those small bags for
treating such a variety of sicknesses.
- Nowadays, the only time you ever see doctors making house
calls are in the movies of the 1930s and 40s.
- Oddly, on my block, we rarely saw a policeman, except when
they were selling tickets to the Policemen's Ball, which no one
I knew ever attended. I'm not sure many policemen ever attended
this ball because, with their flat feet, they didn't make good
- And there was a good reason why we rarely saw the police.
Somehow word must have leaked out to the criminal element that
it wasn't safe for them on our street. And they were right. A
crook would have been quickly spotted by some sharp-eyed mothers
- would have promptly clobbered him with their heavy pocketbooks.
- Then, on our block, there were the varied activities of we
tots: kick-the-can, marble shooting, touch tackle, penny pitching,
tree climbing, curb ball, card tossing, car dodging, roller skating,
stickball, leapfrogs, Johnny-on-the-pony, hide and seek, scootering,
girl teasing, tag, charking, bubble-making, etc.
- Our playground was the street and at no cost to the taxpayers.
- Yes, this was my old block ... a block teeming with delightful
people of all types, occupations, nationalities and religions
who blended so beautifully together. Then along came progress
and goodbye went our heaven on earth.
- And how can I ever forget my dear mother who never warned
me against talking to strangers. To her, nobody was a stranger.
They were all God's children. Indeed, with my sweet mother and
my old block, I learned much about trusting people and loving