Saturday, June 12, 2010

It Wasn't Always Idyllic

The recent email I sent about the murder in our old neighborhood really resonated with a lot of people who shared some of their experiences that showed we were still a rough inner-city neighborhood.  Here are a couple that come to mind for me.

Remember how we were always invaded from the surrounding neighborhoods during Halloween?  I went trick or treating with my sister Toni and she was a little ahead of me in the staircase.  When I got to where she was, a kid from outside the projects was trying to steal her candy.  I pushed him down the stairs and he went down to the next landing.  It's amazing how adrenalin just kicks in because I was just protecting my sister and this kid was at least my age or maybe older and he was a "tough side-street' kid.  This was probably a common occurrence.

The other incident occurred when I worked at the A&P.  I used to walk up 29th St and I was always accosted by some guys north of Mermaid Ave.  Got pushed and smacked around but it was more frustrating than being really scared.  I used to run non-stop both ways when going to and from work.  Once, when I had a little extra time, I walked up 28th St.  I should of been doing that all along or at least alternating with 30th St but in reality, it probably didn't matter.  Those were rough streets.  I was walking up 28th St and saw one of the guys who was always picking on me.  He acted like he didn't know who I was but I walked up to him and said something to the effect that he wasn't such a big man without his friends.  He just kept walking away.  I felt flush with being in control again.

Thereafter, I told my father that if he wanted me to work (a real big thing for him) he had to pick me up when I got off at 9PM.  That worked out well except for one time.  A little back story.... when I worked at the A&P there was a guy working there named Alonzo Brooks who was the toughest kid at Mark Twain.  Some of you who went there undoubtedly know who he was.  Now, Mark Twain was junior high but he looked like a man.  This was a serious person who I was deathly scared of.  As it would happen, he liked me.  I used to get his dry cleaning for him when he asked (like I would say no!).  This was 1967 and at a time of racial tension in the city and he used to tell me... "DePinto, when we  take over, I'll make sure nothing happens to you."  I found this both funny and comforting at the same time.

Anyway, I used to wait by the locked front door at 9PM until my father pulled up and then the night manager would unlock the door and let me out.  One night, he said that he was busy in the basement and he was just going to let me out then and I could just wait outside for my dad.  Shit! Of course, as soon I was standing outside for a few minutes, a couple of guys came up to me to rob me.  Alonzo came walking out the door and soon as the two guys saw him, they turned and ran.  Like I said, he was a serious individual.  My father pulled up and as I was getting in the car, I nodded at Alonzo and he nodded at me.  True story.


gconeyhiden said...

hi, can you tell me what st. the mermaid ave. A&P was on. thanks, gary

Coney Island Houses said...

The large A&P was on Neptune between 29th St. and 28th St. There was a small A&P on Mermaid between 28th St and 27th St. on the north side of the street.