Living as a kid in the Bronx, wasn’t as terrible as most people would think. I have a lot of memories, positive and negative, but all are worth writing about.
One of the most awful things about living in the Bronx, for me, was living in a top floor apartment with a tar roof in the summer. Especially when air conditioning wasn’t a given. There was a time when most people didn’t have AC.
A few of my friends parents had living room furniture with plastic covering. You didn’t want to visit during the summer. It’s like when you run in your car to crank the AC, but it is just so hot that you stick to the seats. That is how it felt.
My sister and I would sleep with wet towels on us and a fan blowing.
All the brick buildings didn’t help either. They also seemed to absorb all the heat and humidity sand when you walked by, the heat would bounce back at you.
Worst of all was the subway. We lived along the 6 train. The El is what we called it but to others it would be known as the elevated subway. The train was actually the same height as my bedroom window and when the subway went by, the windows would shake. It’s funny what a kid can fall asleep in. It was normal.
So, every once in a while, one of the dads or guys in “the club” would come out with a gigantic wrench and open up the fire hydrants or as many would say, the “Johnny pumps.”.
All the kids would pour out from every crevice within a 5 block radius and come running. No fancy bathing suits, no parents running after them, just kids. We would run through the street, screaming and laughing, slapping through the water. It was an instant water park for us and there was no better place on earth.it would also be a free car wash. Cars would approach, close their windows and drive on through.
Eventually the cops would come, we would scatter, as most of us knew not to mess with the cops, and they would shut down the pump. The adults standing around would disappear also so they wouldn’t get a ticket.
It was like the scene in the Godfather where Sonny Corleone beats up Carlo on the street. All the kids were playing in the pump. That was what it was like.
Seriously! You never knew what was going to happen. That was part of the excitement.
We weren’t too worried because as soon as the cops were out of sight, we would come out like the Munchkins in Oz. The Hero of the block would come gallantly with his wrench and the water would flow. We only got away with it maybe one or two more times that day before we were pushing it with the cops.
Eventually the city realized they could control people opening up the pumps so they gave out green sprinkler caps. So at least when the pumps were opened, thousands of gallons of water weren’t being wasted.
It was a glorious feeling. It was something only a kid from the city can understand. It was times like these that make me smile now and wish my kids could experience. Kids don’t have the freedom or time to explore and navigate their way on their own. Everything is organized and planned. Mothers need a planners to keep track of what the kids are doing today.
If someone asked my mom where I was back then, she would just say, “Out.”
As long as I was home for dinner, I was okay.
So, here’s to your own memories.
They all count.
The are the architecture
of what we become.
The good ad the bad.