The spin top game was a lot of fun for me. My top came out of the war without too many scars. I don’t think that my top could take another direct hit. To bad Nunzio and Mike Tomato weren’t as lucky. I don’t know why it felt so good when my top made a direct hit and Nunzio’s top exploded into four pieces. It was like WOW! That’s the way the game goes. It is just about lunch time. We don’t have enough money for a sandwich or a devil dog so we’re heading to the candy store to buy some penny treats like sugar daddy pops, Mary Jane’s, sugars dots on paper, Tootsie rolls and many others. The old candy store has seen better days.
The old couple Larry and Mindy who run the place sell cigarettes, cigars, news papers, penny candies and kid toys like yoyo’s, pea shooters, Kazoos, Clay, Checkers, Balsa Airplanes, marbles, Chinese finger games, chalk and a bunch of magic games.
We turn the corner on Columbia Street and we see Roger and a couple of teenagers standing in front of the place smoking cigarettes. Roger sees me and says “hey big head where you going?” “We’re just going to buy some candy.” “Why don’t you grow up kid and have a smoke with us? I’ll sell you guys these cigarettes for two cents each or three for a nickel. Are you ready to make a move up, little man?” “Listen Roger we only have fifty cents between us and we’re hungry, I don’t think that blowing smoke is better than candy. Even if we had enough money we would not buy your cigarettes, we would rather go to Nick’s and spend our money on a hero sandwich and soda. This way our bellies are full and we don’t smell like shit.” “Yeah: Big head! Grow up; look around you, if it’s so bad why is everybody smoking?” I didn’t even answer him. We push our way past him and his friends and walked into the candy store. They think they’re so “cool” all dressed with a shirt, jacket and cap in the middle of the summer. These guys are just want-to-be men, all grown up, smoking their brains out to impress the girls. Roger is the smartest one in the bunch. he is always looking to make money. He buys a pack of cigarettes for twenty cents and sells them loose to the want-to-be men kids and make himself forty cents and doubles his money.
Mrs. Mindy is behind the counter and asks, “hey, Pepino what are you up to?” “We want to buy some candy Mrs. M.” There are about fifty different candies in her display case. This is not going to be easy for the four of us to pick out what we want. But Mrs. Mindy knows the drill and she will give us all the time we need to make a selection. After about a half hour of give me that one, no-no that one, no-no, again that one we finish our back and forth selections we walk out and sit on a stoop next door to eat our treats. I like the sugar high better than Roger’s smoke high. My father likes to smoke his Lucky Strike cigarettes. I hate it when his friends come to visit, they spend their time talking and smoking for hours. Even after they all go home the apartment smells like a sewer.
We sat on the stoop and had our candy. I bought Bazooka Bubble Gum, sugar dots on paper and sugar juice in wax bottles. It wasn’t much to eat but sugar treats always makes us happy. The best treat of all is Bazooka Bubble Gum. As we sat on the Stoop chewing our Bazooka bubble and seeing who could blow the biggest bubble and we also read stories about Bazooka Joe on the inside of the wrapper. As we sat there we see a bunch of guys walking up Columbia Street. It looks like Jimmy Pizza and four of his cousins.
He stops in front of us and says, “Hey Keyno, do you guys want to play Ring-O-leave-O?” “Okay, looks like we have eight guys with your cousins.” It’s Jimmy and his cousins against me and Nunzio, Mike Tomato and Reno. The teams are a little light but four kids on each team is about the bare minimum number of players. Columbia Street is too busy with all kinds of traffic so we walk to Nelson Street near P.S.27. We find a spot on Nelson and Hicks Street for the home base. You need two teams to play Ring-O-Leave-O. You choose sides and one team has to chase and find the members of the second team. When you find and grab one of the team members you’re chasing you have to hold them yell out “Ring-O-Leave-O, 1, 2, 3” at that point they become your prisoner. You then take your prisoner to the established home base which is like a jail. Let’s say your team has two prisoners to guard. One of your team members has to stay with the prisoners at all times to prevent the second team from trying to set them “Free”. They can set their team members free by trying to run around the guard, stepping into the jail box and yelling “Free”. If the he can step into the jail box to free his team members, the guard can capture him by yelling “Ring-O-Leave-O. 1, 2, 3.” It’s not that easy to capture the guy who’s trying to free the prisoners because two of them generally rush the guard at the same time and you can’t stop them unless you have help from one of your team members. If the prisoners are set free you start all over again. There is a lot of running and fighting in trying to capture the second team members. This game can and does get pretty ugly at times but we love it.
Jimmy’s cousins are so fast that they seem to free the prisoners at will. Our team starts to run out of steam and we have to concede the victory to Jimmy and his cousins. We all sit down on the curb to rest. We all covered with sweat, most of our tee shirts are torn to shreds and some of us are bleeding from scratches we got from struggling to get free. We all looked and smelled pretty bad. It was getting late so I told the guys that I was heading home.
I went over to Luquer Street towards Columbia. I then see Joanie and her dog Joy sitting on the stoop of her building. She looked at me as I was walking by and says “Pepino, what the hell happened to you?” I told her that I was playing Ring-O-Leave-O with Jimmy Pizza and a bunch of guys over by P.S. 27. Then she says, “Wow! You guys must have been running and fighting for hours. Who won?” “Well, Jimmy and his cousins beat the hell out of us. So I guess you could say that the victory was theirs today but I’m looking forward for a rematch before this summer is over.” “I’m sorry you didn’t win the game. But good thing you came by because I wanted to ask you something. The thing is that I’m going to visit my aunt Lora on Long Island for a week so I wouldn’t be home to walk my dog Joy. You think that you can walk him for me in the morning and again late afternoon? My Dad said that Joy is my dog and he will not walk the dog while I’m away. It’s just one week. Can you please do that for me?” I couldn’t control the smile that came across my face. I tried to stay calm when I said. “I think I can do it.” I hope that Joanie did see all the dancing and my jumping that was going on in my mind. Wow! I love this dog.