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Newtown's Creek

by Richard Diem


The picture may not be pretty

And the premise may be weak

But to a young boy from the city

This was his country creek


Beneath Kosciuszko’s bridge

Between Brooklyn and Queens

Flowed the fetid Newtown Creek

Not a haven for boyhood dreams


Nearby, Calvary Cemetery

Made adventures by day and by night

For the restless boys of summer

Looking for playtime delight


With the bridge lights overhead

The copper refinery close by

A putrid stench filled the air

That we certainly could not deny


This was our summertime playground

Under the moon and the sun

We’d never a thought to go fishing there

But it gave us hours of fun

Passing whole days tossing rocks

Into the eddies and streams

This creek made for lasting memories

In us boys of Sunnyside, Queens

          I remember as a young kid going with friends to forbidden places in the summer.  We would hang out in the cemeteries in the area, and then end up going to the Newtown Creek to explore and toss rocks and whatever into the foul smelling water.  I remember well the foul smell from the late forties, early fifties and then again when I took a job in the copper refinery.  The rats there grew huge, maybe nourished by drinking and eating from this chemical creek.  We kids threw rocks at them.

          Years later I took a job by that creek under the bridge at Phelps Dodge.  I won’t detail the chores or how dangerous the work was, but at that time, I was more interested in the fact that it paid well due to hazardous conditions.  One morning, a chain broke on an overhead carrier filled with hot copper causing an explosion.  Three workers in front of the furnace died.  That was enough for me.  I said farewell to this job and so ended the putrid stench of Newtown creek from under the Kosciuszko Bridge for me for good.

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