Growing Up on 42nd Street – A Serial Story – Part 2

My apartment layout was quaint.

It was called a “railroad flat” because all the rooms were in one row. They started with the kitchen which was small but workable. The next room was supposed to be the dining room but my parents took it over as their bedroom. The following room was a single bedroom. Then came the bathroom which was tiny. The next room was a second single bedroom. This was followed by the living room also known as the “front room.” It fronted on 42nd street and had two windows and a fire escape which was great on hot days. We often sat out there. All the other rooms had windows on an air shaft. The air shaft was where the clothes-line was to hang out wet wash.

Being on the top floor meant the roof was one flight up.

The roof in New York was also known as “tar beach.” My mom took us up there to get a breath of fresh air. One flight up beat 5 flights down!

Time goes on. My grammar school, Holy Cross, was on 43rd street. Across the street from the school was a large city playground with swings, slides, a fountain and monkey bars. It was also where the students gathered to march into school. We marched when the principal rang her hand held bell. My first day of school was traumatic. Joey walked me to the playground then ran off to be with his grade. I was in the first grade (we didn’t have kindergarten) but didn’t know where to go so I did the next best thing, I cried. The first grade nun saw my dilemma and took me in.

I liked school and having a talent for art served me well.

I remember the first grade fondly; lots of songs and drawing. The second grade brought reality. Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic and homework! This was serious stuff and we had a nun to match. The third grade was a little better. Besides the 3 “Rs” we did arts and crafts.

The 3rd grade was also when I started to hang out with non-family members. My close classmates were Danny, Girard and Mike. Mike lived in the apartment below mine. It was not an ideal place. Whenever Joey and I took a bath and did our water aerobics, lots of water spilled on the floor. From there it went to Mike’s bathroom and fell like rain from the ceiling. It was also noisy. Often we would put on our iron wheeled skates in the front room, skate to the kitchen and down the five flights of stairs to the street. There were lots of complaints but “kids will be kids.”

(To be continued)