Growing Up on 42nd Street – A Serial Story – Part 1

I’m sure that you’ve all heard of 42nd Street in New York City.

There was a show with that title and a song, “Give My Regards to Broadway.” Growing up a block away from Times Square is undoubtedly different.

I grew up on the top floor of a 5 story walk-up on 42nd Street. We had a milk man and a beer man who delivered and a wet wash service. I did whatever my older brother, Joey, who was 3 years older did. When he went to school, I did homework that my mother made up. In my early years I did what most families did in those days (no TV and no internet) so we listened to the radio and read comic books.

We also took day trips to Coney Island by subway, visits to the 1939 Worlds Fair by subway, and movies in one of the 10 or so theatres on 42nd Street. For special outings, we went to Rockaway Beach (by car). I didn’t like it because the waves were too high. I did like the fancy playgrounds and the diving exhibitions and of course the junk food.

When my brother was allowed to go out on his own, I went with him.

We didn’t go far, just up and down the street on our trike or roller skates.

Later with my cousin, Andrew (1 year, 1 month and 1 day younger than me), we went farther afield. We went all the way to Central Park. Sometimes we walked/ran and other times we took the subway for a nickel. If we were lucky or daring we would sneak on the subway and spend the nickel for a candy bar. Almost any candy bar was a nickel in those days.
Most of the year we took our scooters to the park to glide down the moderate hills. In Winter, we took our sleds. There were a lot of small hills in the park and 2 big ones – Cherry Hill and Pilgrim Hill. You took your life in your hands on those with all the other sleds and “ice skates” using them. (The subway riders hated to see us coming with our snow encrusted sleds in the crowded cars.)

We also went to Joe’s Beach in Verplanck – “upstate”.

It was named by all the 42nd Streeters for my father, Joe, aka Pop. It was a very small beach made up of pebbles, rocks and pieces of bricks. The area was once famous for it’s brick making business. The beach was on the Hudson River about 25 miles north of the city. No waves there except when the huge Day Liner paddle boats went by on there way to the Indian Point or Bear Mountain parks.

I do remember the lunches on the beach. Pop would gather up some bricks, add a grill to it, and fire it up with driftwood. He often cooked pork chops which were the best in the world especially after spending the morning swimming in the river. For desert, someone would go to the Verplack General Store and buy a load of Hersey’s ice cream in rectangular pint boxes. Everyone got a half – boxes cut in two – which was a lot for kids my age. What a treat!

(To be continued)