Courtyard Days / Memories of Young Richard
by Richard Diem
In the courtyard of memories, I think of those times
The man with a monkey played for nickels and dimes
While we kids played marbles, Red Rover, and tag
In school, pledged allegiance to our country’s flag
“Have respect for your elders,” still rings in my ears
We walked all our sidewalks without any fear
Jawbreakers, bubble gum, a penny a pop
Candy store hang outs, our favorite spot
“Hit it how many sewers?” Stickball champs of the street
Girls playing jump rope, cute chatter so sweet
Puppy love innocence, schoolyard of dreams,
Life was as good as it currently seems
Sunnyside days, the times that I knew
Through clouds of past years these pictures shine through
My parents divorced when I was quite young and we were living in Belle Harbor, Queens. In 1943, my mother with my two brothers moved into a Sunnyside apartment house at 43-07 42nd Street. She had remarried to a man I called Bill, but would eventually call “Pop.” We lived in a ground floor apartment, number 1L. There were four rooms, and I shared the front room facing the street and a side window facing the court entrance with my brothers.
The courtyard was a scene of many interesting activities during our growing up years. Entertainers often came to sing and play instruments, and even organ grinders with their little dancing chimps. To us, it was very exciting when they came, as windows would open so residents could throw down nickels and dimes, some wrapped, some not. After playing or singing, the entertainers would search to retrieve the coins, but they always missed a few and we’d be right out behind them to find what they missed.
Besides the street, the court, roof and basement was our play area when we were very young, before we set out for new adventures at the lots, parks and on all the other streets of Sunnyside.
When Mom left Belle Harbor with us she took very little of the furniture and in our apartment we had an empty room with only a long wooden bench that my stepfather built. That bench became a key part of my budding interest in hockey. My parents worked, so when no one was home I let my friends come in, and the room became our hockey arena. The bench served to seat those who weren’t playing at the time. When, in time, furniture came, my hockey rink had to be changed into a bedroom due to the birth of my sister. As for the bench, its life and history would continue for many years afterwards.
One of my chores was to go down to the basement to do the wash in the laundry room’s shared machines. I actually liked going down there because that’s where the janitor had an apartment and that’s when I met his daughter, pretty Peggy. It was a sad day when they moved to Maine.
Richard Diem came to Sunnyside early in life, attended PS 150 and JHS 125. and L.I.C. H.S., after which he entered the Marine Corps. He went on to become the franchised manager of a newspaper home delivery service and later, a Postal Service mail carrier. He is a minister to the homebound through his church and a professional caregiver forced into retirement by Covid-19. He loves writing about his childhood memories.