Baseball cards were the leading gambling currency of kids in grammar school at Saint Bon’s.
From the second grade through the eighth grade, numerous boys from and outside the tribe engaged in these activities.
There was a definite pecking order in those who won the majority of cards and those who lost most of their cards.
Those who lost most of them eventually stopped flipping completely and thereby saved whatever cards they had in much better condition than the guys who pitched theirs.
The good flippers included Joseph Oppenneiser, Frankie Fierman, Tommy Baker and myself.
We almost never flipped against each other because it was a lost cause.
We would mostly break even for the entire lunch period and why do that when the list of losers was so much bigger? There were other games with baseball cards that the guys played in addition to the traditional farses (the card closet to the wall wins).
There was the intentional leaners game (leaners were cards that were flipped that wound up leaning against the wall instead of landing flat; you then had three chances to knock down the leaner or you lost the farses card, plus the three cards you flipped trying to knock down the leaner).
Intentional leaners were set up artificially and the guy who knocked them down in the least amount of cards would win the whole batch.
If good flippers were involved, you would only get five or six cards in the pot, but it was still better than the boring farses. A third type of game was topses.
That’s when you both kept flippingcards until one of the flippers landed his card on top of any other part of any of the cards that had been flipped.
The strategy in this game was not to pitch any cards too close to the wall because they were easier to get on top of than cards far away from the wall.
You could play the single concrete block (about six feet) version of this game or the gambler version of two concrete blocks or the super three block gambler version (recommended for those with large collections and big budgets only).
In the one block topses game, you could lose up to about ten cards if you were unlucky in one game.
In the two block game you would lose, on the average between fifteen and twenty cards.
The super three block game was for sharks and card-rich kids only.
One kid lost almost his whole stack of fifty cards in just one game of triple-block topses. Before we go any further, I feel it is my duty that some of the fine boys of Saint Bon’s actually cheated to win some cards.
The way to cheat in farses was to have two or three “ringer” cards.
Those were cards that were weighted at both ends with scotch tape so they would more easily go close to wall.
Good flippers were always on the lookout for these cards when they were not using them themselves.
These “ringers” were also good for knocking down leaners and, once again players were always on the watch for them in the leaners game, too.
The “ringers” were also very useful in topses as soon as the first card landed near the wall. “Ringers” could easily be used to go on top of a card near the wall.
That’s why it was wise to stay away from the wall in topses.
Some of the better flippers won hundreds, if not thousands of cards with these “ringers” over the course of years. Yet another form of card gambling on the playground was “match” flipping.
It was a rather harmless one-card game for the less talented flippers to win a few cards during lunch.
You would hold the card between your four fingers and your thumb and then flip it over.
It would either land on “heads”, which was the photo part of the card, or “tails”, which was the records part of the card.
Believe it or not, you could cheat at this game, too (although it was hardly worth the effort).
If your opponent flipped a heads, all you had to do to match it was have heads facing you when you flipped the cards (if you wanted tails, you would just have tails facing you).
Most of the kids quickly got wise to this scam and the game fell out of favor. Occasionally, Sister Superior would raid the flip games and confiscate our cards.
It was not too hard to see a large penguin coming, but it was always wise to play against a wall that was far away from the door entrances.
If you were dumb enough to play by the doors, you deserved to lose your stack.
I, and the other good flippers hardly ever got caught by Sister Superior, but that wasn’t the only pitfall for the gamblers.
Once in awhile, especially in the earlier grades, I used to admire my own winnings in my desk in class.
I lost a couple of good stacks of 54 topps cards when the nun came over to my desk and took them.
That taught me a costly lesson not to look at the cards after you brought them back into the class.
The best place to stash the cards was in your bookbag.
The only drawback to that plan, however, was that everyone’s bookbag was in the cloakroom and each student knew what everyone else’s bookbag looked like; especially the guys who were good flippers.
Some guys would lose pretty good stacks to thieves who took them from their bookbags in the cloakroom.
It only happened to me once and another costly lesson was learned.
IF you got into the cloakroom LAST after lunch and then FIRST when the final bell rang, you could safely put your winnings in your bookbag.
The nuns let the kids go to the cloakroom one row at a time, so it was always good to be in the first row, but I was in the last row.
So the best method for guys to keep their stashes of cards was in the desk and not look at them for the rest of the afternoon. There was so much commotion at the end of class at 3:00 that you could easily transfer your stash of cards into your bookbag after your trip to the cloakroom. The last series of baseball cards used to come out in September when we first went back to school.
These were known as the high numbers.
There was not a lot of interest by most guys in the tribes to get all the numbers.
We were just happy when we got all the good Yankees, which year after year, Topps always put in the low numbers or the first few series of the cards for that year.
Topps also did not produce the same amount of cards for the last series, so we were already looking forward to the next year’s cards that came out in January.
One winter, Ronnie’s parents went to New York City during the Christmas holidays and found some brand new 1956 Topps for sale in a store.
It was still 1955.
Ronnie’s house was only two houses away from mine and when he got back the day after Christmas, he gave me a pack for a Christmas present (his father had bought him a whole box!).
One of the tribe members had gotten a brand new English racer bike for Christmas as well as a pool table for the cellar and that was one of the best Christmases the boy tribe had ever had, but when I opened that 1956 pack and got a brand new Phil Rizzuto, it was almost as good as getting my other gifts.
By the summer of 1960, I was moving from West Paterson to Union City and going from the eighth grade to high school.
I was getting too big for baseball cards and comic books.
Girls didn’t care about those things and I was beginning to care about what girls thought, so I stopped collecting cards for awhile, but I never forgot that Phil Rizzuto. HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-day-saint-bons”Tales of West Paterson – A Day at Saint Bon’s HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-day-saint-bons”View HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/node/7864/edit”Edit HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/share”Tweet SUBMITTED BY HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/users/arthur-tafero”ARTHUR TAFERO FEBRUARY 15, 2011 – 1 YEAR 45 WEEKS AGO A Day at Saint Bon’s By Arthur H Tafero It was just another typical morning in West Paterson.
There was still about a foot and a half of fresh snow on the ground, but the steadfast dads of the development made sure that the snow plows cleared a path for the school bus into West Paterson and Saint Bonaventure Grammar School near McBride Avenue.
When Doug Kingsley got up, his mother Gladys, who was a British War Bride, made him fresh eggs with Taylor Ham and toast with fresh-squeezed juice.
Doug readied his bookbag and Gladys packed him three sandwiches for lunch.
Two were baloney and one was cream cheese and jelly.
One of the baloney sandwiches was for Doug’s best friend, Tom, who always wrangled a sandwich from Doug in exchange for giving Doug 100% on the daily math quizzes which the nuns let Tom grade because he was finished a full ten minutes before anyone else.
Doug really didn’t like math all that much and was, in reality, about an 80 student, but having a friend like Tom got his average way over 90.
Gladys must have sensed that something like this was going on, so the extra sandwich was always there for the gluttonous Tom. It was almost time for Doug to walk down the hill from Morley Drive to Williams Drive and then down another two blocks to the bus stop.
It was a decent haul.
He always met Tom at the bus stop and never bothered to call for him on his way down.
If he did call, Mrs.
Tafero was always compelled to make him another full breakfast and as much as he liked her cooking, there was no time for that today.
If you missed that bus, it was a long two mile walk in the snow to the school and you would be sure to be at least an hour or two late.
The nuns would eat you up alive for something like that.
The usual gang of suspects from the boy tribe were all at the bus stopplus a few members of that alien race known as girls.
Tom was there, Richie Fulong, Jackie Quince and his best friend Jackie Gillespie, Tommy Baker, and one or two others of the lower grades from Saint Bon’s. Then, of course, there were the alien girls.
Girls were pretty considered aliens by the boy tribe in the lower grades.
It was only by the sixth or seventh grade that we paid any attention at all to them, but by that time they had learned to completely ignore us.
There was Michelle McKern, Patricia Lyers, Barbara Banner, and Patricia Rooney.
Doug sort of like Patricia Rooney even though she was a bit taller than he was.
Tom liked Barbara Banner a lot and proved it by hitting her with a snowball in the head one time.
Barbara wore glasses and Tom thought that was cool.
Anyway, the bus finally ambled up to the stop and everyone stomped on the bus with their boots that all had varying amounts of snow.
The heat after getting on the bus always felt good after standing out in the wind and the cold for about fifteen minutes or so.
Everyone always sat with their same companion every day of the school year on the bus to school.
Michelle sat with Patricia Lyers, Barbara sat with Patricia Rooney, Tom sat with Doug, and the two Jackies always sat together.
Then the bus rumbled on to the next stop and next group of kids from the next development. The first stop after decamping from the bus onto the school grounds of Saint Bon’s was the cloak room.
There were no assigned hooks for anyone; it was first come, first served when it came to the most convenient hooks.
The girls usually came in from the cold first because they had more sense than the boys who would stay outside playing hockey with a crushed milk carton and their boots until the five minute bell rang.
If you weren’t in your seat by the end of that five minutes, it would cost you an hour of afterschool work hosted by Sister Aloysius.
Believe me, you would rather get twenty lashes with a whip than stay an hour with the Nun From Hell, Aloysius.
Aloysius was an seventy year old ogre who was on the verge of retirement.
She took a daily nap between two thirty and three and only woke up because the bell rang at three.
This usually meant that we only got about fifteen minutes of science a day since that was the last subject of the day.
There was a reason our class always performed poorly on Science exams, but that is another story. The first class of the day was always math.
Tom loved math and would finish about ten minutes before anyone else and he always got 100 per cent.
After a while, Aloysius would tell the class to just pass their papers over to Tom and he would grade them, then Aloysius would register the grades into the grade book.
Tom would always give his best friend, Doug, a 100 after correcting the numerous mistakes Doug would make on his paper.
As they got older, Doug did eventually get better at math.
Tom would give the kids he liked 100 or 90 without seriously checking their work.
The kids he didn’t like got their papers gone over with a fine tooth comb worthy of the IRS.
It really didn’t pay to bully or make fun of Tom because this was some pretty substantial power.
Of course, guys like Jake Romanowski and Bobby Carrollton would bully him in advance, anyway; telling him to make sure that they got 100.
Tom was careful to correct their papers just like he corrected Doug’s mistakes.
Eugene Timmins, who was a stupid bully, didn’t figure out he could get Tom to do this, so Tom made sure Eugene always got a 60 or less. Math class constituted learning a lesson from the book, then doing twenty examples of what you had learned.
You were graded on the twenty examples.
Then after the twenty examples, you were given another ten examples for homework and the whole process was started over again the same exact way until final exams at the mid-year and at the end of the year.
Aloysius did very little teaching; she was too busy terrorizing a fairly sized number of uncooperative students.
Her favorite target was Jeffrey Lovens, who caused Aloysius to break at least one ruler or pointer a day, every day, for each of the 180 school days during the year.
The bill for all these rulers and pointers must have been frightful, but that didn’t stop Aloysius.
She smashed Jeffrey on a daily basis and Jeffrey just laughed at her and it would only tend to infuriate here even more.
I am sure if she had had a shotgun, she would have gladly used both barrels on Jeffrey without blinking.
Everyone in the class would laugh every time Jeffrey got Aloysius’ goat and Aloysius would just get more agitated.
We always hoped that we could get her into such a frenzy that she would keel over from a heart attack, but that lucky event never happened.
Aloysius would always say “here c’mere, here, c’mere” as if Lovens or any other trapped animal in the class was going to come to Aloysius to get their beating.
No, it was always more fun to run away from her and entertain the class with the chase.
Now some students had more leeway with Aloysius than others, but you could not press your luck too far.
Tom, for example, because he graded the math papers, had a bit of leeway, but he could never stop himself from talking to his friends in class.
He talked or joked around incessantly, and eventually Aloysius would have to chase him around the class and give him a beating about once a week.
Still, it was nothing compared to what Jeffrey Lovens would receive. Math ended by 9:45.
Then it was time for English.
Both Tom and Doug found English to be tedious.
First, there was a spelling test of twenty words.
Usually, the girls were superior in both spelling and English grammar.
Barbara Banner and Virginia Mucino were particularly bright.
One of those two girls always corrected the spelling papers.
Poor Johnny Kusach couldn’t spell his own name correctly; he was the worst speller in New Jersey.
He seldom got over 50.
Aloysius would always make fun of him in spelling, just as she used to make fun of Johnny Massaras in math for getting low grades.
She would say things like “Kusach, you need a good whack to get that brain going in Spelling” or “Massaras, you must have fell on your head when you were delivered; why can’t you do math?” After the Spelling, came the exciting English grammar drills we did in our books.
There were twenty sentences that always needed correcting and then we would get ten more of them for homework.
These sentences were always tortuous for some of the boys, but most of the girls seemed to finish them quickly.
Of course, there was one area of English which tortured the ENTIRE class.
That was the inquisition of the Diagram.
I cannot tell you the absolute silliness of spending significant hours of instruction on Diagrams.
Here, the girls suffered equally with the boys.
Tom was so bad at diagrams that he got a 0 on one of the tests.
He copied one answer from Barbara Banner and it was the only one she got wrong as she scored a 90.
The basic diagrams such as Subject, Verb and the adjective describing the Object were about as far as most of the class understood this torture.
By the time we came to Gerunds, Objects of the Preposition, Predicate Adjectives and Predicate Nomitives and other obscure things within the diagrams, almost all of us were lost. English ended by 10:30.
Now it was time for Literature.
That was a relief for most of the class as most of us tolerated Literature fairly well.
Literature consisted of each of us reading one or two paragraphs aloud while the rest of the class followed.
If you lost your place when you were called on to read, you got a whack from Aloysius.
The good readers got to read two paragraphs and the poor readers like Vincent Minelli, who tortured the rest of the class with their poor reading, got to end mercifully after only one paragraph.
Even the best of short stories got butchered during this process which was followed by an exercise at the end of the story to make sure we completely understood and appreciated what we had read.
To this day, I do not remember one story or one exercise that I understood or appreciated.
There was one story, however, that stuck in my mind.
I believe it was a Hans Christian Anderson story of a boy with a ball of string.
It was a magic ball of string.
The boy was unhappy being a young boy and wanted to be an older boy.
The fairy that gave him the ball of string said that if he unrolled some of the string, he would magically become older, so the young boy unrolled some of the ball of string and he was now twelve instead of six.
He enjoyed being twelve instead of six for a few days, but then began to wish he could enjoy the freedoms enjoyed by the high school kids.
So he rolled out a bit more string and became a senior in High School.
He enjoyed this for a few days and then yearned for the life of a man with a job and a family.
He rolled out the string a bit more and enjoyed his life as a man with a wife and children for a few weeks, but grew weary of the responsibility of the bills, pressures at work and at home and other adult problems, so he finally rolled out the rest of the string and he was now an old man with no job, no family and no responsibilities.
It was then he realized he was better off as a young child, but it too late because he had rolled out all of his string.
I liked this story and realized that it was important to enjoy whatever stage of life you were currently in rather than pine to be older.
I was guilty, however, of occasionally falling into that trap one or two times myself as I got older. Literature ended by 11:15.
Then it was time for History.
Most of the class found History to be bearable.
Jeffrey Lovens usually got a whack during History by making a snide remark about Greek men or how the Roman Legion wore dresses.
I kind of liked History, but did not really take it too seriously.
Michelle McKern was very good in History.
We would all take our turns reading one or two paragraphs and then do the exercise at the end of the section.
It was there By then most of the tribe was getting hungry, but the food in the cafeteria was absolutely disgusting.
The spaghetti was overcooked noodles in weak tomato soup.
The fish cakes tasted exactly the same as the chicken cakes and the potato cakes.
It was eating small hockey pucks.
Some of the boys actually found them useful for hockey games when the playground was covered with ice.
We were only allowed to have regular milk (the public school kids had a choice of regular milk or CHOCOLATE milk).
We hated the lunches and drinks, so we naturally gravitated toward the candy store across the street named Tom’s.
Tom had fresh sandwiches made with lettuce and tomatoes, mayo or mustard on a fresh roll for 15 cents.
You could buy a coke or some other drink for 10 cents.
Lunch for a quarter a day.
Of course, at these exhorbitant prices, no one could afford to eat there every day, but once in awhile it was good to get away from the packaged lunch from home or the dreaded cafeteria.
Then again, Tom’s always had an ample supply of baseball cards, but we will discuss that in another story. During lunch hour, the girls used to jump rope and the boys used to play any variation of team sports you can imagine.
Lunch hour would continue with the boys flipping cards they had bought from home or from Tom’s.
Sometime Aloysius would go around and start confiscating the cards from the boys and say that gambling was a bad habit (although it was never a bad habit when the church did it with Bingo).
Fortunately, at her age, you could see the Nun From Hell ambling toward you well in advance of her actual arrival and were able to run away most of the time with you baseball card stash despite her pleas of “here c’mere, here c’mere!” By the end of lunch time, Aloysius had forgotten most of the boys that ran away because of her slowly declining memory.
She still managed to rake in about one or two piles of cards a day which she took back to the convent with her and stashed away in some unknown place.
The braver souls of Saint Bon’s in their last month of their last year at the school once made a daring raid on this stash of cards, but that is also a story for another time. After lunch, it was 12:45.
It was time for Geography.
Bernadette Hillman was the class whiz in Geography.
She was not only a reader good for two paragraphs, she was good at presenting those two minute presentations that most of us dreaded because we had to go up in front of the class to speak.
Guys like Cusach would go in front of the room with his eyes bulging and get out about fifteen seconds of unfathomable mumbling before getting sweaty and shaky and leaving early.
He always got a 60 or a 65 for his presentations.
Once Tom went in front of the class without absolutely doing any research and gave a phony two minute speech on Argentina.
He made up a story about Argentina’s cowboys (a partial fantasy), the cost of beef in Argentina vs.
The US ( a total whopper), how Argentina’s soldiers helped win World War II ( a complete fantasy), and how Argentina was going to have major league baseball in a few years (another complete fantasy).
Aloysius was impressed and gave Tom a 95 for his presentation which was almost as high as Bernadette Hillman’s well-researched presentation on India which received 100 (she got 100 on every presentation).
Some of her presentations contained partial truths and some outright fantasies also, but these came to no surprise to the kids at Saint Bon’s; most of whom were accomplished liars. By 1:30 it was time for either Music or Art.
The boys preferred Music and the girls preferred Art.
Fortunately, we had Music three days a week and Art two days a week (most likely because it was cheaper).
Doug could not sing two notes without hitting a sour one.
Tom loved the music classes, but absolutely hated the Art classes.
Doug liked the Art classes and was very neat.
Tom was sloppy and could not draw a straight line.
All the kids in the class would make fun Tom’s terrible artwork; even Doug joined in with the derision. “All you ever draw is stickmen or six-story battleships that look like the Tower of Babel” chided Doug. “Yeah, well at least I can divide without using my fingers”.
Retaliation at the grammar school level was swift and harsh.
Doug was also neat.
Tom was a slob; he always got paint, chalk, pencil marks or whatever was being used in the Art class on his mother’s white pressed shirt.
This also went well with the black dust that was on the side of the playground and made for a very interesting modern art look on Tom’s shirts.
On Art days his white shirts looked more like Tie Dye shirts. By 2:15 it was time for science and our daily dose of fifteen minutes of reading before Aloysius fell asleep by 2:30.
As soon as she fell asleep, she stopped calling on students to read and when she stopped calling on students to read, no one read anything any more.
We would talk with our friends, get an early start on our homework, or just make fun of Aloysius as she slept.
Lovens was especially good at making fun of Aloysius while she slept.
He would read science passages that weren’t really there with silly references to aliens that made most of the class laugh.
Once he brought a worm into class during science while Aloysius was sleeping and put it on top of her habit.
This caused a roar of laughter from the kids and woke Aloysius, who immediately grabbed her pointer and yelled “here c’mere! Here c’mere! As Jeffrey ran away.
The bell would ring at three and wake Aloysius.
Then we would go one row at a time into the cloak room and get our boots and/or coats and hats.
There were always one or two unfortunates who had to stay after school for various transgressions, but most of the time, the vast majority of us escaped into the schoolyard and the waiting bus.
If you were unfortunate enough to be detained after school, it meant at least an hour and a half of walking two miles home in the snow and the cold.
No one ever got picked up by their parents in those days.
The car was always with the dads at work and the moms were stranded the whole day without a car.
That meant that the kids were stranded, too.
We were not allowed to have bikes at school, either.
The kids would either wait for the bus by playing more games in the playground or get on right away if the buses were already there.
On the way home, a lot of the kids got a good start on their homework.
Usually between doing your homework on the bus and during Aloysius’ naps, you were done by the time the bus got to your development.
Such was an average day in the life of a school student at Saint Bonaventure Grammar school in West Paterson, New Jersey in the 1950s. HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-getting-taken-down-jersey-shore”Tales of West Paterson – Getting Taken Down the Jersey Shore HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-getting-taken-down-jersey-shore”View HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/node/7865/edit”Edit HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/share”Tweet SUBMITTED BY HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/users/arthur-tafero”ARTHUR TAFERO FEBRUARY 15, 2011 – 1 YEAR 45 WEEKS AGO Getting Taken At the Jersey Shore By Arthur H Tafero Johnny Prince’s grandfather, Harry Prince, was an engineer on the railroad for over forty years.
This provided his grandmother, Wilma Prince, something called a Gold Pass which allowed up to two people to ride a train anywhere in the United States for free.
Johnny always thought this was one the neatest things his grandparents ever owned.
His grandmother made good use of it on the occasional Saturday or Sunday she would go down by train toAsbury Park.
It was unbelievably convenient. The train went right past the back of Johnny’s grandparent’s apartment at 706 Avenue E in Bayonne in 1956.
He would often count the cars attached to the enormous freight trains that passed by.
When he was four, he used to count up to 500 or so of them attached together.
Johnny would also go to sleep with the distant sound of the train whistle blowing in the night. His gramma would dress him up on a Sunday morning and in less than ten minutes as they stood on the platform, you could see the light of the oncoming train that was still miles away.
With a thundering blast, the train would come to a stop and his gramma would flash her gold pass and they would just hop on.
Johnny remembered some of the stops named Raritan, Lakewood, New Brunswick, Red Brick and Deal.
Then would come Asbury Park.
Gramma and he would get off at the Asbury Park stop and take a taxi to the boardwalk.
Johnny was nine and Gramma would sometimes baby sit him for Johnny’s mother and father while they had a weekend to themselves in West Paterson. Asbury Park was the northernmost major boardwalk in New Jersey.
It was a very short trip from North Jersey or from New York.
You would get there from Bayonne in less than an hour.
Gramma would take Johnny to Uncle Bill’s Pancake house and he would order pancakes and sausage.
The place was ok, but it wasn’t as good as the places his mom and dad would take him when they went down much further to the Southern part of the Jersey Shore.
The syrup wasn’t real maple syrup, but the sausages were as good and they did have pats of Hotel Bar butter.
The orange juice was better at the Beechwood Diner, too.
That diner was in Seaside Heights.
But these were minor considerations back then.
The important thing was that Johnny was in Asbury Park with his gramma and he was going to have a damn good time. After breakfast, Gramma and Johnny would enter the boardwalk from the northern end and move toward the south.
At that time, the boardwalk stretched for a little over twenty blocks or a mile.
There weren’t a lot of good rides in Asbury Park like there was in Seaside Heights or in Wildwood, but there were a few.
His Gramma was too old to go on the rides, unlike Johnny’s parents who went in the bumper cars with him.
Still, he enjoyed the bumper cars without Gramma in one of the other cars; he just crashed into strange kids.
It was still a lot of fun; especially when they gave you that “why are you picking on me?” look.
Gramma did play a game of miniature golf with Johnny, though.
She wasn’t as good as his mom or dad in that game, either.
Johnny knew what was coming a bit later, though.
Gramma was a serious bingo and fascination player and they would be spending at least a couple of hours in each place after she had allowed Johnny to tire himself out on a few rides and a lot of arcade games.
There was no gambling allowed in New Jersey before twelve noon so the bingo halls and the fascination were closed until then.
It was still only about eleven, so the two headed out for one of the arcades. His Gramma was pretty good at skee-ball.
He deducted that his dad’s knowledge about how to skee-ball well probably came from her.
She won a lot of tickets and added them to Johnny’s and he got to pick out a cheesy little yoyo.
They had spent over two dollars to win a yoyo that you could buy anywhere for a quarter.
But that was the nature of the Jersey Shore.
You knew you were going to be hustled even before you got there.
You almost enjoyed being hustled after a while.
You knew that they were going to chisel you out of your nickels and dimes, but you just didn’t care and couldn’t resist the temptation to try and beat their unbeatable system.
Most of the boardwalk games were either fixed or so badly tilted toward the house that you might as well have just handed your nickels and dimes to them as you passed by. Your odds of winning a number game were, at best, 36-1.
It was amazing how many time almost thirty of the numbers were covered with nickels and one of the uncovered numberswould come up on the wheel.
The candy wheel was about your best bet.
It had the fewestnumbers and the best odds to win.
So Johnny’s gramma and he would spend a buck or two trying to win a box of Hershey Almond Chocolate bars.
I remember one time my friend Doug had won a box of candy on a nickel, but it never happened again for him and it never even happened once for me.
After Johnny and his gramma lost two bucks on the candy wheel, they slowly walked to the nickel dishes.
All you had to do to win a prize was to get your nickel to land in one of the thirty or forty dishes that were in the center of the booth.
The problem was when the nickel hit a dish it whistled off almost as fast as it came in and would land on the wooden floor.
Guys tried wetting the nickels, scruffing up the nickels and even using glue on the nickels, but nothing worked.
The cons on the Jersey Shore were wise to all the tricks and easily sucked out all those nickels from the passing suckers like us as I was to learn one summer working in Wildwood. After the rides and arcades it was time for a bit of lunch which was never a problem on the boardwalk.
Johnny had two foot long blister dogs with mustard and sauerkraut and gramma just had one.
She told him she shouldn’t be eating these things, but she just couldn’t resist.
They had fresh orangeades with the dogs and they were delicious.
Johnny didn’t have to worry about going into the water after eating, so he ate like a little piggy.
Actually, he ate like a big piggy whether he was down the shore, at gramma’s apartment, or back in the development. Going to Asbury Park with your gramma was not ever about going swimming.
The water was not as inviting as it was the more southern parts of New Jersey and gramma never swam anymore, anyway.
Nope, these trips were always about bingo or fascination.
Johnny knew gramma was serious when she started whipping out the ten dollar bills.
The bingo parlors were, thankfully, in the open air under a canopy.
This made the inevitable smoke from the smokers dissipate much faster and made the game bearable for him.
He was able to concentrate much better than when gramma or grampa took him to an indoor bingo hall with tons of smoke.
Gramma had sixteen cards and Johnny had eight.
She was buying every special, too.
Gramma spent well over twenty dollars and didn’t come close to winning any of the games and then they left.
Twenty dollars was a lot of money in those days. That didn’t stop gramma, though.
She walked a bit further down the boardwalk and took Johnny into the Fascination parlor.
Even though it was enclosed with smokers, the air-conditioning kept the air flowing even better than the Bingo parlor.
The cool air felt nice on a hot July or August day.
Gramma would spring for another ten dollars worth of dimes for this game.
It was twice as fast as bingo because it only had 30 lights compared to the sixty numbers that bingo had.
You also had a much better chance of winning at the Fascination parlor as I was to find out later because the most of the bingo games on the boardwalk were fixed.
Fascination seemed not to be.
It was very tough to fix a Fascination game because you had to roll a ball down at least five times to get a line and win.
If you did win in five balls, you got a ten time bonus and that only happened maybe once or twice a day.
Instead of cash prizes like they gave out in bingo, you got a ticket for every game you played whether you won or lost.
A win would give you 100 ticketsand a diagonal win would give you 200 tickets.
Sometimes they had special games where you had to light up an X or a Y or even a total board.
The total board games were a lot of fun because they lasted a long time and the people playing would get really intense about them, especially if they were just one ball away from covering the board.
We got one ball away from a full cover twice, but we lost both times.
Full cover games gave you 500 tickets.
You could save up your tickets for the year or even numerous years and cash them in any time.
Gramma said she had over 20.000 tickets at home.
Johnny looked around at some of the big prizes and most of them were 5,000 to 10,000 tickets.
They included things like a small television, a gigantic radio, and a record player.
They even had a cold-cut slicer for 5000 tickets that his gramma had her eye on. After an hour or so, they left with gramma’s 700 tickets.
Johnny had won two games and gramma had won four.
The other tickets came from the approximate 50 games they had each played.
It was almost supper time.
The foot-longs had magically digested in the last four hours or so.
Finding something different to eat was not a problem on the boardwalk, either.
Gramma had a jumbo shrimp cocktail which was quite expensive at a dollar.
It was eight giant shrimp with a red cocktail sauce served in a paper dish.
She gave Johnny two of her shrimp, which he had had before and knew tasted good.
But Johnny opted for a full rack of baby back ribs which was also a dollar, but his gramma didn’t bat an eye.
Johnny washed the ribs down with another orangeade; he couldn’t get enough of that stuff.
After they left the high-end eatery on the boardwalk, they took a much needed walk up about fifteen blocks to the taxi stand which also had a little candy store.
There was always baseball cards and comic books in that Bryer’s Store and gramma knew that Johnny liked both of those things and she always spoiled him so she brought him a Giant 25 cent Donald Duck on Vacation comic and five packs of baseball cards.
Johnny was in heaven on the train back to Bayonne.
He had spent a full day with gramma at the shore AND he had a Giant comic and twenty-five spanking brand new 1956 baseball cards and one of them had been a Whitey Ford.
How on earth could life ever get any better than this? HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-moms-trip-new-york”Tales of West Paterson – A Mom’s Trip to New York HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-moms-trip-new-york”View HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/node/7866/edit”Edit HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/share”Tweet — Once every summer, very early in the middle of the night of a Saturday morning at around 4 am, my father would wake me out of a sound sleep and ask me if I wanted to go crabbing down at Barnegat Bay.
I would pop out of my bed with a shot and we would be out of the driveway in less than five minutes. My father and I could alwaysget out of the house in five minutes.
We were on Highway 1 going down to the Jersey Shore to save money on the New Jersey Turnpike tolls.
I liked Highway 1 better anyway, because it always had far more interesting scenery.
At the Beechwood exit, my fathermentioned that we had made good time so we could stop for the “big” breakfast. The big breakfast was important because we wouldbe crabbing for about eight straight hours without a chance to get lunch.
The only item you could buy on the piers at Barnegat in those days was a soda at the soda machine.
So we really geared up for the Beechwood. First we had French Toast with four link sausages each, smothered in real maple syrup.
We always ordered lots of extra pats of hotel bar butter, too We both had a large, fresh orange juice with our big breakfasts and then we would order two ham and cheese sandwiches on fresh rye with mustard to go for the lunch we wouldeat in about six hours. After we left the Beechwood, we would take a special road that went east from Highway 1 to Barnegat Bay.
It was still not six am and the sun had only been up for a little while. My father had the windows wide open because he never wanted to waste the batteries on air conditioning.
I think we used that air conditioner about six times in six years of that car.
But the good part of having the windows open and driving toward Barnegat Bay was the salty smell of the ocean air that filled your lungs as the air rushed in the window.
It was still early and the cool air felt good on my skin. My father did play the radio on the way down to the shore, though, and a lot of the songs were fun to hear.
But when you were on that road going east fromHighway 1 to Barnegat Bay, you had to shut the radio off.
All you would hear would be lots of static because of the endless telephone pole wires that crossed the local highways down the Jersey Shore.
I had my transistor radio with me, but I was saving the battery for the Yankee game later on in the day.
We drove in silence, but the beauty of the Jersey marshlands next to the bay combined with the delicious air, more than made up for the absence of music.
Music could never compete with the symphony of nature.
Then we headed for the bait and tackle store that was a few blocks from the piers. You had to have a pretty strong stomach to go the bait and tackle store after having a massive breakfast, because the smell was pretty raunchy.
You could smell the stench of dead fish bait two blocks from the store before we parked.
Once inside, the owner asked what our poison was and I wanted to say everything in here smells like poison, but I kept my mouth shut for a change.My father would bring out our two crabbing cages and the bait man would know exactly what we would be looking for. “Here’s two fresh fish heads; if they aren’t enough, don’t worry, you can come back and there will be plenty more.
Here’s some twine to tie them down with; better take a little extry in case those buggers get a little rough with your bait.
He was talking about South Jersey Crabs, who could be pretty big and ornery, and would rip your bait to shreds if you left the cages down in the water too long. “Here’s two sturdy bushel baskets with tops; make sure you secure the tops or the buggers will crawl right out of the bushels and bite ya.
Does yer boy know how to grab on to a bugger?” “Sure, I do, you grab them from the opposite sides where their eyes are”, I said confidently. “That’s a good boy.
I’m gonna give you an old pair of my fishing gloves to borrow so you don’t get blisters too bad from hauling in those cages about thirty times an hour.
You can drop’em back off before ya leave.” “Thank you”.
I had been trained to have good manners by my parents. After my father paid for the fish heads and baskets, I took the gloves and we walked toward the first pier.
It was already half full with people crabbing and fishing off the pier, so we moved down the rocky breakers to the second pier and there weren’t too many people there yet.
It was just after seven am and we were both ready to go. First, dad tied the fish heads securely to the cages.
For those of you who are uninitiated in the area of crabbing cages, they consist of four folding sides that close in on the bottom part of the cage.
Only the top and the bottom parts of the cage are immobile; the other four sides collapse when they hit the bottom of the ocean.
This allows the crabs to smell the fish head, crawl into the cage and begin nibbling on the bait.
After about a minute, if there is a lot of crabs that day, to two minutes, if the crab schools are light, you quickly pull up the cage with great tension, so that the four sides close up quickly around the crab or crabs.
Then you repeat the process as long as your arms hold out or until your bait begins to disappear. After you pulled the crab cage up, you would carefully empty it of any occupants into the crab baskets and then put the lid on.
They were really biting today.
The first haul got us four crabs apiece from each cage and they were of pretty good size.
If you caught a baby or immature crab, you were taught to always throw them back into the water.
Sometimes, you would pull up the cage, expend your energy, and have nothing to show for it, except the eye of the fish head just staring at you as it emerged from the frothy sea. But today, that was not a problem, because it was a brightly sunny day.
The sunnier the day, the closer to the bottom of the ocean the crabs would go, or at least that was the lore.
It seemed that on cloudy days, they would swim closer to the surface to get to the light. The sun was beating down in its traditional August best.
We were both sweating like pigs, hauling in the cages, but you didn’t mind the exertions when the cages were always occupied with big blue-bellied beauties. The funny thing was that I hated most seafood, including crabs. My father liked them a little, but my mother was an absolute fanatic about seafood and crabs, in particular.
So we were catching enough of them today to make her gain fifty pounds.
By noon time, we had completely filled up one full large crab basket and almost half of the second one.
We had caught over eighty large crabs and it was time for a break.
Dad broke out the ham and cheese sandwiches and sent me down the pier to get a couple of cokes.
At this point of the summer in the development, the boy tribe often resorted to various new crazes of the fifties.
This month’s craze was bottle cap collecting.
Many members of the boy tribe put together a pretty good collection of soda and beer caps by the middle of August.
There were some guys, like Bobby Bettell, who had over a hundred different bottle caps, but he was lucky because his father was a bartender in downtown Paterson.
Most of us were only able to collect the soda caps and our father’s favorite beer.
I had a decent collection, but nothing special.
Then I got to the soda machine.
It appeared that all the men at the pier were drinking beers; just one or two were drinking sodas.
The thing was, unless they brought a can opener (and some of them did), they found the cap opener of the soda machine to very convenient to open their beers.
This led to a tremendous variety of beer caps that had accumulated in the cap collector at the bottom of the machine. My eyes were bulging.
It was a treasure trove of new and weird beer caps and they were all new and relatively straight, not rusty or bent badly.
I bought a yoo-hoo for me and a coke for my father, but now my mind was completely on these dozens and dozens of unusual beer caps.
I found a small, empty plastic bag and emptied the caps into it and then brought the two ice-cold drinks back to where we were crabbing.
I cannot tell you how well that Yoo-hoo went down in that hot sun.
It was the best yoo-hoo I ever had.
It was probably the best cold drink I ever remember having in the hot sun.
The sandwiches were absolutely delicious, also.
It is amazing how much more you enjoy food when you are outside and have been working hard. We were done eating in short order and went back to work filling up the second basket.
We could have easily filled up a third or even a fourth, but my father said not to be wasteful, because we could never eat even the ones we had already caught.
So we cleaned up our mess, watered down the crabs in the baskets one more time, and then packed them into the Chevy.
Then I returned the gloves to the bait man and thanked him again.
I had blisters, but they would have been much worse without the gloves.
I remembered to take my large bag of caps, but my father said they would stink up the car.
So I had to rinse them in ocean water for a few minutes before he would allow me to take them home.
The smell in the car was overwhelming, anyway, because of the ocean plankton that was occasionally attached to some of the crabs.
The caps wouldn’t have had a chance against this stench, but it was a moot point.
You could still hear the crabs moving around in the back seat.
They were scratching against the wood sides of the basket.
I was looking at all the different beer caps and how it would almost double my collection.
I was sure there were some in there that even Bobby Bettell didn’t have. When we got back to the development, I put the TV on to catch the last few innings of the Yankee game.
They were winning 8-4 against the Tigers; but Al Kaline had two homers, already.
My mother was screeching with joy over the size and the amount of crabs we had.
She already had four large pots of boiling water going and had put in various spices.
She also made up smaller baskets to give to our friends and neighbors. She gave away almost one whole bushel and boiled the other.
She still had fifty crabs at her disposal.
We invited the neighbors over for a crabfest and they supplied the beer and soda and chips.
A grand time was had by all.
I even found some of my mother’s leftover pizza in the refrigerator while everyone else pigged out on those crabs.
It had been a great day, but I was getting sleepy and it was only seven o’clock at nite.
How that could that be possible? HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-jimmy-lifeguard”Tales of West Paterson – Jimmy the Lifeguard HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-jimmy-lifeguard”View HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/node/7876/edit”Edit HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/share”Tweet SUBMITTED BY HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/users/arthur-tafero”ARTHUR TAFERO FEBRUARY 16, 2011 – 1 YEAR 45 WEEKS AGO Jimmy the Lifeguard By Arthur H Tafero There was a place called the reservoir in West Paterson. The kidscalled it the Resey. After the last day of school let out in the first week or so of June, you would see kids nag their parents to drive them or they would ride their bikes to the Resey.
In order to swim at the Resey, you needed resident tags.
These were little red rubber bands with a copper id number attached to them.
You had to wear these little tags when you were on the reservoir grounds.
They weren’t too expensive; only two dollars a year for kids and five dollars a year for adults.
Coaches got free tags, as well as their wives.
The reservoir was actually the drinking water for West Paterson.
We used to be slightly revulsed at the idea that we were peeing in our own drinking water, because no one actually came out of the water unless it was for food or for lightning.
There was a long line of large red wooden buoys linked together from one shore to the other at the five foot mark.
Kids were not allowed to go beyond this long string of buoys unless they were certified swimmers by the lifeguard, Jimmy. Jimmy was one of the development heroes of the kids.
He had a great job where you got paid when it rained and didn’t have anything to do but listen to the radio and read in the lifeguard shack.
What could be better than that? I asked my parents if Jimmy really got paid when it rained and they said he did.
The guys in the development couldn’t believe it.
We sweated like pigs when we did the lawns for a lousy quarter or fifty cents if we did both the front and backyards and this guy got four dollars a day for doing nothing! You couldn’t imagine how badly about a half-dozen of us wanted that job. Jimmy got us all certified as official swimmers within the first weekof vacation.
Our dads had already taught us how to swim and some of them, like my father, were competitive swimmers in high school.
So that wasn’t a problem.
Jimmy had to go through the testing of each us though to make sure we could swim.
The test was simple.
All you had to do was swim from the ropes (that what they called the red buoys connected by rope) to the raft about a hundred feet past the ropes.
If you didn’t go under, you could swim.
The test was a snap for all of us, but naturally, one of us had to play a little prank during the testing. Some of the older boys in high school would often swim out to the raft with their girlfriends and hide behind the side that was not visible from the shore.
Here was one of the few places (other than the woods) that you could make out with your girlfriend without anyone seeing you.
The raft was made of sixteen hollow steel barrels tied together by study ropes and wires and topped a with wooden floor on which was covered with burlap.
You could see the left and right sides and, of course, the front side of the raft, but you couldn’t see the far side of it.
Tommy Baker decided he would play a trick on Jimmy.
He started out the test by swimming the first seventy feet out to the raft then he suddenly sunk out of sight.
What he had done was to swim underwater to the far side of the raft.
He was a very good underwater swimmer and going thirty feet or so underwater was nothing for him. Well, the first thing that Jimmy did was call out: “Tommy!!” “Tommy!!” On the third Tommy, Jimmy dove into the water and swam past the ropes like lightning.
He dove in the spot where Tommy had appeared to go down.
Tommy was sniggering behind the blind side of the raft as he heard Jimmy call his name and come to his rescue.
The other boys dove in even though they hadn’t officially passed their swimming test, yet and joined Jimmy searching for Tommy.
Some of us were a little suspicious something was going on, though, because Tommy had a reputation for being a bit of a weasel at Saint Bon’s. Now some of the adults were congregating on the beach pointing to areas beyond the ropes.
Two of the fathers dove in to help the search.
Everyone was beginning to get worried.
Then someone heard a little bit of a laugh out by the raft. “That little bum”, muttered Jimmy. “It’s Tommy Baker, we should know better”, sighed Mr.
Vitale. “O GeeGoneNannies” blurted Mr.
Kingsley. This sounded like a terrible curse, but it wasn’t.
Jimmy swam to the other side of the raft and grabbed Tommy, not to gently I might add, and held him under the chin as he swam to shore. “Let me go! I’m not a baby! I can swim in from here!” “Oh no.
You’re gonna get the treatment now”, promised Jimmy. Tommy kept yelling to let him go, but Jimmy still acted as if he was rescuing my even after they passed the ropes.
The dads were laughing. The kids were laughing.
But Tommy’s dad, Mr.
Baker wasn’t laughing.
He had been worried for a second, but then he quickly figured out what his kid had pulled off, and he ran out and roughly grabbed him away from Jimmy. “I’ll take it from here, Jimmy, thanks” Mr.
Baker then commenced to whale the piss out of Tommy.
Tommy started to bawl loudly, which was very embarrassing for a seventh grader.
He won’t be doing that again we thought to ourselves.
We did have to admit, though, it was a pretty neat trick. After the Tommy Baker fiasco, Jimmy went back to the testing like nothing had happened; he was pretty cool about the whole thing.
We could still hear Tommy Baker wailing in the distance as his father was kicking him to the car.
We all passed the test easily and then Jimmy asked us if any of us wanted to be junior lifeguards.
Was he kidding? The pay was a dollar a day and our job would be to birddog for Jimmy (that meant if we saw anything at all that appeared to be unusual we were to alert him immediately in the shack.
He said we would be paid whether it rained or not and we would be on duty for seven hours a day.
We could swim, go out to the raft, and play on the beach as much as we wanted; we just couldn’t leave the reservoir grounds from ten to six.
We would also get an hour for lunch.
What a deal! All six of us jumped at the chance.
Doug, Ronnie, Hatchie, Delphino and Topozzi and myself all volunteered.
We would all be assigned one day a week to be junior lifeguards.
It was better than getting an allowance! (and a lot less work).
On the weekends, we couldn’t do it because Jimmy would have be on the Lifeguard’s chair because of all the people that came for those two days.
But one day a week was better than nothing. Jimmy said before we could get our first-aid certificates, we had to learn mouth-to-mouth.
None of us wanted to do that.
I said I would only do that for Barbara Barnier or Diane Palladesta and the other guys agreed with me.
Jimmy told us to forget about that part of the test and that we could do it on a plastic dummy.
We made sure we washed off the dummy real good after each guy gave it artificial respiration and we were now officially junior lifeguards for a buck a week.
We found out later that the Town Council had allocated two dollars a day for the job, but we really didn’t care that Jimmy was taking his cut; we were just happy to have a job.
Better than that, it usually rained at least once a week and you got the buck for doing nothing! In one three week stretch, Hatchie had a tremendous run of luck.
He had three straight days (his day was Wednesday) that it rained and he just collected his buck without working.
The funny thing was that we enjoyed the job just as much as getting paid for a rainy day.
It was probably the last job that any of us ever had where we felt that way. HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-trip-woods”Tales of West Paterson – A Trip to the Woods HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-trip-woods”View HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/node/7877/edit”Edit HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/share”Tweet SUBMITTED BY HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/users/arthur-tafero”ARTHUR TAFERO FEBRUARY 16, 2011 – 1 YEAR 45 WEEKS AGO A Day in the Woods By Arthur H Tafero These trips into the woods were not really planned too well.
One or two of the guys would mention how hot the sun was and how it would be cooler in the woods and that was all we pretty much needed for motivation.
We would quickly run home, get our canteens of water or kool-aid, some finger food or sandwiches (no mayo, it would go bad) and maybe a few comics and run back to meet behind Topozzi’s house which was the gateway to Topozzi’s woods.
It was the same gang of the usual suspects; me, Doug, Hatchie, Frankie Klump, Topozzi, Delphino, Jackie Shaw, and Zippy.
No matter how many times we went into these woods, after a few hundred feet, it always seemed brand new to us, even though there were beaten paths throughout some areas within these woods. There was a ten degree difference in the temperature as soon as you entered the woods; sometimes even more if there was a gentle breeze.
You could smell the green. We stopped after about ten minutes when we got to the first little clearing with a large selection of climbable trees. “Don’t climb that big one, Shaw, your fat butt will break most of the branches” Shaw was big and bulky, but really fat.
And the guys in the tribe almost always called each other by their last names unless they were really good friends. “There goes Tafero again reading his damn comics.
Don’t you ever do anything except read comics and collect baseball cards, Tafero?” I ignored Delphino and climbed to a nice comfortable branch.
Topozzi and Delphino were also boy scouts and they had brought an axe and twine with them to show how good they were at making an outdoor shelter. “We’re not gonna have a hurricane Delphino, so why don’t you spare yourself?” “Yeah, you and Topozzi are always doing that scout crap; what a waste of time”.
Doug always backed me up when I made a comment to someone and I did the same for him. “You’re just too stupid to be a scout, King and Tafero is too lazy to be one”.
Delphino, as usual, always had to have the last word. “It’s too noisy here, I’m going deeper into the bush” said Hatchie “Yeah, you guys sound like my parents when they fight”.
I couldn’t make out the voice of that comment.
Hatchie and Frankie Klump kept going deeper into the woods.
Zippy finally decided to stay in the noisy area.
He climbed one tree to the top in about thirty seconds.
His appearance was simian and his ability to climb trees was amazing and despite all the guys constantly making monkey and gorilla jokes about him, he was still just about the nicest guy in the tribe. “Hey, Delphino, how come you can’t climb a tree well if you’re a scout?” Zippy enquired. “Because I didn’t have monkeys for parents, that’s why” “And why can’t Topozzi climb high into a tree?” “Because he doesn’t know who his real parents are”.
The insults and quips were coming from everyone now except Jackie Shaw, who never participated in the ragging.
There were the occasional curses and expletives, but the guys in the tribe found out early on the biggest laughs were always achieved by the most clever remarks, not by some simple-minded curse. “Hey, King, did you bring your canteen; I’m thirsty” Doug was always known for bringing a canteen.
I even picked up the habit from him. “Yep, I’m always prepared, just the scouts are supposed to be” That got a good laugh because Doug wasn’t a scout. “After you die of thirst, can I have that cute little yellow handkerchief you wear?” “Nah, if he dies, he’ll leave it to Delphino as a momento”. “Both of you guys are just jealous you’re not scouts, that’s all”.
Neither Delphino nor Topozzi had brought canteens with them. “Hey Topozzi, I’ll sell you a swig of my kool-aid for a quarter” “I’ll give you a nickel” “Make it a dime and ya got a deal” “You want a swig too, Delphino?” “I’m not paying a dime for watered down Kool-Aid; I’ll give you a nickel” “Nope, it’s a dime or its nothing at all.
You’ll probably get buried with full boy scout honors and a salute.” “Ok, I’ll make it a dime, but you are such a damn thief.
The whole kool-aid pack only costs a nickel.” “Yeah, but think of all the labor I put in to make the grape taste just right” “Yeah, it must have been all of five or six seconds.
That’s about as much time as Tafero ever works, anyway”.
That got a good laugh from everyone to my slight embarrassment. “I want to see the money first, boys, then I’ll send down the canteen with two swigs left.” I gulped almost three quarters of the contents of the canteen so there would only be two swigs left.
I didn’t trust those guys.
They flashed the two dimes. “Okay, swear on the honor of the scouts that you will give me the dimes before sunset” “I swear” said Topozzi. “Me too” said Delphino. “You gotta say “I swear”, Delphino” “Ok, damn, “I swear” “Ok then, here it comes” I dropped the plastic canteen and tried to hit Topozzi’s head, but I missed.
Topozzi took his swig first, and by the time Delphino got it, there was only a sip left because Topozzi had taken two swigs. “Thanks a lot Toz, you left me enough to live for about five minutes” “It wasn’t me, Tafero only left one swig in there” “I heard the canteen hit the ground; there was more than a swig in there” “Tafero! Did you leave at least two swigs in there?” “I swear on Mickey Mantle I left two solid swigs in there” “You’re paying my dime for the swig, Toz” said Delphino as he gave Toz a relatively harmless swat in the head. Everyone was quiet for about an hour; either reading or napping or just staring up at the higher branches of the trees they were in.
Topozzi and Delphino stopped building their lean-to and just climbed a branch or two off the ground and started sleeping.
Shaw was also sleeping, but Doug and I were reading comics. I was reading the latest adventures of Sergeant Bilko, which I also followed on TV.
I loved the way Bilko manipulated everyone on the base and had wild money-making schemes that always went awry.
My other comics were Plastic Man and Blackhawk.
I never let anyone see that I was big fan of Donald Duck, Comics and Stories, and Uncle Scrooge, so I didn’t bring any of my ample supply of those with me.
I liked how Plastic Man could adopt himself to any situation.
He was a lot like Bilko, except he did it physically instead of mentally.
I liked Blackhawk because of the exclamations. “Mondou!”, “Sacre Bleu!” and other French catch phrases I had no idea what the translations were. Doug was reading those corny Western comics like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
I guess he had always wanted to be a cowboy.
But I liked Army and Horror comics now because they had so much in common.
I really liked the EC comics like “Combat!” and “Tales From the Crypt”.
Hatchie was a big fan of army comics, too.
He had gone deeper into the woods with three of them I hadn’t read.
Maybe I could buy them from him for the twenty cents I was gonna get.
I had eaten two baloney sandwiches with mustard and I didn’t have any more kool-aid left so, I took a nap.
When I woke up, I saw that Topozzi and Delphino had left, but Shaw, Doug and me were still left.
We decided to call it a day because we could tell by the position of the sun it was close to five and our parents would be getting supper ready and I never missed supper at my house (my mother was too good a cook).
I invited Doug over for supper and since Shaw was with us, I invited him too because I knew my mother always made enough food for at least six people even though there was only three of us.
Doug eagerly accepted because he knew what my mother’s food was like and so did Jackie because he lived next door to Doug and usually followed his lead.
On the way back, we ran into Hatchie and Klump coming out a different area of the woods. “See anything interesting in your area?” I asked “Yeah.
There were naked girls dancing for us” quipped Hatchie.
Klump guffawed and Doug smiled. “Hey, if you still got those three army comics, I’ll give you a dime for them” “You can have the three of them for twenty cents” “Make it fifteen cents and you have a deal” “OK, Done” “We have to stop by Topozzi’s house to collect twenty cents he owes me, first.” “We have to go in that direction, anyway, so that’s ok by me.” The four of us continued on to Topozzi’s house.
We rang the side door bell.
In the development the protocol was very important.
Kids only used the side doors.
Only adults used the Front Doors.
Topozzi’s mom came to the door. “Is Arthur home?” The other guys giggled a bit, but Topozzi’s mother didn’t get the joke. “Yes, Arthur, we were just about to sit down and have supper; won’t you and the boys join us? “No thank you, Mrs Topozzi, I would just like to speak with Arthur for a second” “Hey, speak for yourself, Tafero, I love Italian food.
Here’s the comics.
I’ll collect the money from Arthur during the meal” “Okay, but don’t forget you owe me a nickel change” “I’ll throw in another comic; Frankie, give me one of your “Combat” comics.
Frankie always had a ton of comics because he had four older brothers. “I’m staying, too” added Klump. “Hey Tafero, if you want more comics, Ill sell you a few hundred at two cents each.” I tried to catch my breath and act calm. “OK Frankie, Ill see you later this week as soon as I can rustle up a buck or two.” “OK, deal” Frankie and Hatchie went inside to eat with the Topozzis.
Jackie Shaw and Doug came home with me for spaghetti and sausage and I had four almost new Army comics I hadn’t read yet.
God, could things get any better than this? HYPERLINK “http://expertscolumn.com/content/tales-west-paterson-trip-new-york-mr-kingsley”Tales of West Paterson – A Trip to New York With Mr.
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