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 grew up there.
It had a very long, large basement, which was absolutely taboo for us kids. Our parents forbid 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 us 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 garage chutes next to the elevators. Bags of garbage where thrown down, to be burned daily. It wasn’t unusual to open the chute to see a roaring fire shooting up.
Every once it 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 cubies 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 spent her childhood years at 44-15 43 Avenue, formally known as Foster Hall. She attended City College and went on to Columbia to obtain her teaching credentials, and taught in New York City public schools for 10 years. Eugenie subsequently moved to the West Coast where she was inspired to return to school and train to become a Registered Nurse. Periodically, she returned East to visit her mother, by then widowed and still living in Apartment M-2 where she remained for more than 50 years until her death in 1995.
Like others, Eugenie’s childhood friends have moved far afield, but several of them from Foster Hall stay in close touch, reminiscing about Sunnyside.