Summer Smiles

More “Summer Smiles” from Carole:

Dear Dick:

Listening to your podcast and reading your blog always takes me back, and your latest about summertime is no exception.

Like you, I’m a city kid. The first 10 years of my life were spent in the Bronx, almost spitting distance from Yankee Stadium. We lived in a 4th story walk-up that used to get the afternoon sun – so to cool off, we’d sit out on the fire escape listening to the roar from the Stadium, and munching on chilled canteloupe that Mom would give my brother and me.

If we were lucky, Dad would come home from work around 10pm(he held a second job running “community recreation” at one of the local schools in the evening) and he’d have us all pile in our old jalopy for a drive up to the Armonk (Westchester) small plane airfield to cool off and maybe have a soft-serve ice cream from the little stand that was there. (Does it still exist??) The ice cream stand owner had an Irish Setter that routinely knocked me over and stole my ice cream cone…..

“Tar Beach” – that’s where we’d go during the week in the summer (unless Mom drove us to Orchard Beach). Mom and my older brother would sit and play chess on the roof for hours, and I’d just hang out with them, usually reading a book.

But weekends — we lived for weekends. That’s when we’d pile in the car at 6AM and head down south to “C-I” (Coney Island). THAT was the cat’s meow. We’d go swimming at the Washington Annex, one of about 5 salt water pools that existed at that time. My parents would play blackball handball while we swam – then out onto the beach for the rest of the day (including a picnic lunch). ¬†Off to Nathan’s for dinner and a ride on the bumper cars next door, followed by a ride on Feltman’s carousel. On our way up to the boardwalk for the fireworks, the poor basketball concessionaire would cringe when he saw Dad – who was a deadeye when it came to swishing the baskets. I always left there with arms full of kewpie dolls and plaster of paris statuettes.

After the fireworks, when they thought it’d be cooler at home, off we’d go – happy and exhausted.

In my 11th year, we actually moved to Coney Island — we lived in the middle/high income city housing that abutted the boardwalk between 29th and 33rd streets. I was ecstatic – my window faced the ocean, and I always had it open at night to let in the cool breeze and the gentle sound of the waves kissing the shore.

It was a wonderful time of my life. In the summer (during the week)I worked as a swimming instructor and lifeguard at Abraham Lincoln HS (my alma mater).I’d bike ride to and from work, and when I got home (after being in and out of the indoor pool all day), I’d change into a suit and meet my folks on the beach to swim and body surf till 8PM. We took pride in “closing the beach” for the day. Mom would have packed a thermos full of hot coffee, and we’d sit there in our sweats sipping coffee and watching the sun go down.

Those were simple times, but great ones. We were “losers”, too. Not rich in the material sense. We did things as a family. Even though they were simple – they were wonderful, and I remember them wistfully even now. Saturday nights, we’d walk from 31st st (our building) up Surf Avenue to the Stillwell Ave train station for Italian Ices and the Sunday papers, which would arrive around 11PM.

As you said in “Losers” — riches come in so many flavors

P.S. – My parents actually met at the Washington Annex pool, where my dad was….a lifeguard!!! (and a handsome one at that!!) Speaking of the cross-chest carry — I did my share of those as a Water Safety Instructor….. I’m with you. Very easy to have a (2 piece) bathing suit malfunction in surf when performing a rescue. It’s not as though you wereadminstering unecessarymouth-to-mouth on her, for pete’s sake!!!!!


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