Deposit Bottle $$$ Collection
It’s morning; I smell espresso coffee brewing which is generally ready for consumption around 7 AM. My mother would call for me “Peppino” to get out of bed but not this morning since there is no school today; or for the next several months for that matter. I am ready to rise and shine as quickly as possible from my cot to meet up with my friend Pecker. Pecker is my friend’s nick name. We all have them I never really knew why we had nick names. It was a neighborhood thing, I guess kids labeled each other with a nick names in order to give each based a weird or exaggerated visual description of a person other than their birth name. For the most part nick names were not complementary.
The kids I hang out with sometimes call me “Lollypop Head” or “Keno”. My “Keno” nick name came about because of my mother’s Italian accent. When supper was ready, and everyone in my family were about to sit at the dinner table, my mother would call out for me to come home. She would scream as loud as possible, from our second story window “Pepkeenooo”.
This was her attempt to get me to come home for our family dinner as quickly as possible. So my friends who heard my mother screaming out my name would then in turn say to me “hey Keenooo your mother is calling you”. As for my Lollypop Head nick name was descriptive because my head is way too large in proportion to my skinny body.
On the other hand, Pecker is a tall skinny kid about 9 years old, with blond kinky hair in an afro style cut; he has light skin, with freckles on his face and he sort of walks like a chicken. I think that’s why the Pecker nick name suited his appearance and movements. Pecker last name is Parker and when anyone in our gang was pissed off at him for whatever reason we called him “Pee Pee”.
Pecker and I were planning to meet no later than 8:30 AM that day to seek out an illegal fireworks dealer in some smelly basement or shack on President Street. During the past several months we were collecting glass two cents deposit beer and soda bottles from the longshoremen after they finished their lunch break at Nick’s sandwich shop on Columbia Street. There was a lot of competition in collecting these valuable cash refund bottles.
If we were lucky on occasion we would snag a five cent deposit quart beer bottle. No sooner than a grungy hard working dock worker exited the sandwich shop we were all over him begging, dancing, and fooling around to get his attention for our reward after he was fished eating his lunch. The Dock worker is also called a Longshoreman always has a big cargo hook with a handle on his belt. They always had to be careful when sitting on the curb to eat their lunch because the cargo hook has a sharp point and it could stab them in the leg if it wasn’t turned away from them. Sometimes me and Pecker would split up to cover more territory. We did this and succeeded in spite of the heavy competition from other kids who want to snag these deposit bottles for themselves. After doing battle for several months we managed to squirrel away $18.50 to buy the fireworks which we planned to burn and shoot off during the 4th of July celebration. This was going to be a big deal for us to have as much fire power as possible so that we can show up our buddies.
Meanwhile my mother was making my breakfast which consisted of a half a cup of espresso coffee heated with milk and four tablespoons of sugar. We sometimes had some leftover bread with our coffee along with jelly. There were also times during the wine making season we would dip our bread into some home made wine for breakfast. After consuming my jolt of caffeine, milk, sugar and bread my 90 pound body was in overdrive. I told my mother that I was going out to meet Pecker and I proceeded to bounce and jump down two flights of stairs to hook up with Pecker.
Pecker was waiting for me and the loot we had accumulated for our trek toward President Street to seek and find a fireworks dealer. It was going to be a hot day so we were dressed in shorts tee shirts and Keds sneakers.
“Hey Pecker are you ready to go?” He didn’t give me much of a response with the exception of a shrug and wave of his hand. I said okay and we proceeded to walk north on Columbia Street towards President Street. I was thinking that Pecker most likely did not get much sleep during this heat wave. Pecker lived with his alcoholic father no mother and he also had to take care of his younger brother. Our neighborhood was settled primarily by Italian immigrants. We could generally tell the birth country of a kid’s parents. But Pecker was a mystery. Pecker did not resemble his brother in any way. We never knew his mother and we all speculated that his Farther came from Ireland. Who cares?
Pecker was one of the peewee gang members. We all seemed to have fathers and mothers that would provide us with shelter, food, clothing or whatever. I just thought that Pecker had a lot of responsibility for a 9 year old kid.
The sun was out and the heat wave wasn’t letting up. We continued to walk toward President Street.