Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Stream of Memories: 1940s

Memories of the early 1940s: sitting in the old Plymouth car with a rumble seat and a running board we used to jump on and ride as kids; all civilians standing up for soldiers when any arrived at a crowded restaurant counter to eat during WWII; my father wearing a fedora at all times out of the house, and always tipping the brim when passing a lady; scouting the gutters for tin foil (cigarette packs) so we could later cash the ball of much government needed tin foil in at special depositories and make some money; scouring the same gutters for matchbook covers we used as $$$ for card playing (hotels were 100s, X-lax fifties; 10, 5, 1 covers were based on amount of printing on inside; giving you some idea what was rare and valuable in our upper-poor circumstances); making balls of rubber bands, large enough that they bounced. and using them as baseballs; footballs made up of wrapped-around newspapers; scooters made of orange crates where we nail them on end to a length of two-by-four, with hand-made handles on the top of the box for turning and old, discarded skate wheels attached to the bottom of the two-by-four as scooter wheels; 'war projectiles' made of long blades of grass (weeds) and carefully enveloped with black tar dug up from hot streets and then wrapped around the thick end of the long grass blade to throw at one another; neighborhood block-ladies gathering at night, sitting out on under a streetlight chatting and, as out-of-factory paid 'piece work' cutting insignias for WWII uniforms; burning dried-out swamp tails to keep away mosquitoes; the same women doing other 'piece work' putting together puzzle pieces that hung from chains; other women and some older men gathered on a porch or under the same streetlight getting buckets of beer from the Clinton Cafe corner tavern to drink on those same hot night; WWII rationing and stamp allowances from the government (so many monthly allotments of stamps for scarce meat and sugar and other food items)--that's how we 'at home' participated in the war effort--sacrificing; my mother sending me to the grocery store to feed a friend newly dropped-in, shopping on 'account' at Eddie's (Vargian's) Market; we'd order, Eddie would pack our foodstuffs in bags, he'd record what we owed for daily purchased items in a marble-covered school book, amounts written in with a thick, black pencil, whose sharpened head he always placed in his mouth first, to darken the result by that application of saliva...and my Mom and Dad would pay up at the end of the month--Eddie charged a little more for items, but if you didn't have money (which we many times didn't), we always were able to eat; the horse parlor (bookie joint) with my father, where his day was: work all night as a waiter, from 10 at night to 8 in the morning, come home and sleep, up at 2 PM and listen to the horse race results on the radio and go back and forth to the bookie parlor to place new bets on each races in cash and pick up any winnings--this happened until dinner time--he did that six days a week; Sundays driving to White Castle's for bunches of 5-cent hamburgers and a visit to Hudson County Park...and on and on.

Memories. Where have seventy years gone?


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