Hide and Seek
by Eugenie Marek
The building I grew up in, 44-15 43 Ave, was one of the larger ones in Sunnyside. It had six stories, two elevators, one on either end to service the two separate seven apartment units. They were creatively called “front” and “back”. It had been built in the late ’20’s, like much of Sunnyside, when many young families had moved in. Lots of kids, including myself, grew up there during the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. .
It had a very long, large basement, which was absolutely taboo for us kids. Our parents forbade it as did the Super. And there was a janitor who lived in an apartment down there who always yelled at us You could get there by the elevators, but we kids used the rear entry, at the bottom of a long exterior ramp. That door was always hooked open. Once inside it was almost too dark to see. A large even-lower room held the utility boiler. The janitor managed two garbage chutes next to the elevators. Bags of garbage where thrown down, to be burned daily. It wasn’t unusual to see a roaring fire shooting up in the open chute.
Every once in a while, we kids would play Hide and Seek down there. It was so scary but just too tempting not to. There were many dark small rooms and cubbies that scared us. I would run in with the other kids, already frozen with fear. I didn’t want to be “it” but hiding near a wall or cubby when you couldn’t see was horrible. There were ‘things,’ some imagined but some actually there, even live things that never saw the light of day.
I don’t even remember us having a firm game plan. I think at a certain moment, one person would get spooked enough to scream. Then we would all scream and run crazily in the dark until we made it to the open back door. Right before that was an open pit which had a heavy metal cover, which banged a bit if you walked on it.
It was a badge of courage as we ran out, to jump as hard as possible on this cover before we left. I can honestly say we all made it out alive every time we played. But, boy did we get yelled at!
Eugenie Marek grew up in Sunnyside, attended City College and Columbia to obtain her teaching credentials, and taught in New York City public schools for 10 years. She subsequently moved to the West Coast where she returned to school and trained to become a Registered Nurse.
As with other Sunnysiders, Eugenie and her childhood friends have moved far afield, but several Foster Hall friends stay in close touch, reminiscing about Sunnyside.