My Dad Shares His Experience Of Growing Up In "Da Bronx"
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
I will always have fond memories of growing up in “Da Bronx” in the 1950’s. It is an experience that is best described as an extraordinary moment in time. "Da Bronx" was a true melting pot consisting of a multitude of ethnic groups who co-existed in towering walk up tenements.
The days were filled with activities that every young kid enjoyed like playing stickball in the middle of the street or preparing for downhill street races using orange crates and skates attached to a 2 by 4. My friends and I also had fun horsing around playing "Johnny on the Pony" and "Skully" with crayons melted in bottle caps. These were all activities that kept us busy until night.
We all spent time hanging around the stoop discussing the issues of the day. Those were easier times when politics and wars were the furthest thing from our minds and TV news anchors kept their opinions to themselves and just reported the news. On summer nights, we had impromptu parties on what we famously called “Tar Beach” which was the rooftop of the tenement building. The fire escapes provided a cool place to sleep on the hot steamy nights.
The mixed aromas of the exotic foods being prepared for dinner each evening filled the air throughout the neighborhood.
Voices of mom’s calling out from their windows to their children to come home for dinner was a daily ritual.
Saturday afternoon was spent with my Mom, food shopping at the market on Arthur Avenue and carrying the bags of food home. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a slice of pizza at The Half Moon Pizzeria.
We all looked forward to Saturday night when the local church dance would be held in their auditorium. The formation of the girls standing together on one side and the boys on the other side of the dance floor gave everyone the opportunity to select who they wanted to dance with that night. The chaperones would keep a keen eye on the slow dancers, reminding them to make room for the Holy Ghost. The fast dancing resembled everyone appearing to have an out of body experience.
If you had a date on Saturday, the local movie theater was an option either at the RKO Fordham or the majestic Paradise Theater on the Grand Concourse with it’s grand staircase and ceiling which appeared to reach to the heavens with thousands of sparkling stars.
The evening would not be complete without taking your date to Jahn's Ice Cream parlor and ordering a “Kitchen Sink” which consisted of a scoop of ice cream of every flavor topped with bananas, cherries, sprinkles and whip cream!
Sunday morning was set aside for early Mass and dressing up with the clothes that our parents bought for us every year for Easter Sunday. After Mass, we headed to the local bakery to pick up fresh Italian bread and pastries while Mom prepared dinner at exactly 2pm like clockwork. Attendance was mandatory.
Growing up in the "Da Bronx" is an experience that created the most talented and creative minds of our time. Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Stanley Kubrick, famed astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, movie directors and producers Penny and Garry Marshall, comic book writer, Stan Lee, actors, Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Al Pacino, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin and Chazz Palminteri. These are just a handful of Bronxites among hundreds who contributed their talents.
I am so blessed to have grown up in an environment that has taught me how the simple things in life can make you happy and the diversity of friendships will last a lifetime.