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Random Memories

    by Steve Kessler

I remember that in the 1950s, there were at least 3 Jewish delicatessens in Sunnyside:  the B & H Deli on Queens Boulevard between 45th and 46th Streets, Keltz's Deli on Queens Boulevard between 41st and 42nd streets, and (Sam) Roth's Deli, on 43rd Avenue, between 45th and 46th Streets, right next door to The Dungeons bowling alley with, of course, pin-boys rather than mechanical pinsetters.


I remember that my dad, who was a bit of an electronics whiz, built one of the first TVs in Sunnyside in our basement, and on fight nights from Madison Square Garden or when Milton Berle was on, there would be 30 people standing in our living room watching.


I remember the actor James Caan shooting baskets in the PS 150 schoolyard. (His parents lived in an apartment right across 41st Street from the schoolyard, and his aunt and uncle, Ella and Bob Klein, owned Klein's Florists on the corner of 46th & Greenpoint Avenue).


I remember that Larry Kappel, Robin Wolfe and I had a formal league and played the board game "All-Star Baseball" in all 3 houses.


In addition to stickball in the street, we also played "stoopball" between the Kessler and Kappel houses, where you threw a pink Spalding against the steps to see if you could hit an edge and send the ball sailing over the fielder's head.


On Skillman Avenue and 46th Street, on one corner, I remember Benowitz's candy store, which later was bought by Phil Kleinman and Bill Strum, and on the opposite corner was (George) Golden's Superette, the 50’s equivalent of a 7-11.  When my dad died in 1957, my mother took some of the insurance money and opened an ill-fated dress shop on Skillman Avenue called, Skillman Designs.


I remember my uncle Al Dolid telling me that when he and my aunt were first married and lived in the Phipps apartments, his barber was Perry Como, who, at the time, also lived in the Phipps.


My final memory is a bit of a story:


One night, when I was 11, and Larry K. and Robin W. were almost 13, my parents went out and left me with Larry’s parents, Ruth and Irving Kappel.


Larry and Robin came up with this idea that they would send the little kid (me) to Glass's Pharmacy (on 48th and Skillman) and buy 3 cigars and say that they were for my dad, since Mr. Glass didn't know me or my dad.  He sold them to me.


Larry & Robin and I went down to the "garages" on 39th Avenue to smoke them.  There we were, clandestinely hiding and puffing away when around the corner comes a police car and we all took off running after dropping the cigars.


As we are trying to run away, a voice behind us yells, "stop or I'll shoot!"  I froze, as Larry and Robin ran away leaving the little kid to "take the rap."  They took me back to Kappels’ and as they were telling Irving and Ruth what had happened, (they found the cigars and that made them believe me that we weren't there to steal anything), Larry and Robin walked in.  Once the police had left, the 2 older boys were taken to task for corrupting the young "Kessie" (my 11 year old name)!

Steve Kessler and Larry Kappel in 1955

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