Run Willie Run
by Richard Diem
In the early fifties, when Tornsey Park was completed in Sunnyside, I remember summertime races before the sun went down. A gathering of young boys by the park entrance at 42nd Street and Skillman Avenue, we’d be hanging around by the benches shooting the breeze, talking sports or whatever, and then someone would suggest a race, cross country. In Sunnyside?
Well we had a route, mostly in Sunnyside but which also took us briefly into Astoria. The race was open to anyone who wanted to participate. Most times I finished in the top five. I even won once in a while. Until Willie showed up.
Willie would often show up just in time for the race, and it didn’t take long before we only saw his back growing distant up ahead. Run Willie Run never lost a race. He ran so fast, not even Google can find him these days!
William Schumacher was a thin wiry boy and surely a natural runner. No one knew exactly where he lived and no one remembered him being at any of the schools we went to. When we went into the park to play softball, handball
or show off for the girls - standing up on the swings going as high as we could -
Willie was never around. Then just like that, when someone suggested a race, Willie appeared by the entrance ready to take off on our cross country run.
Off we went, straight towards 43rd Street, then a left turn all the way to Northern Boulevard. Then another left turn to the Steinway Street bridge, across, a left again and back to the park entrance, and there was Willie, not even out of breath, the winner again. Soon after, he just wasn’t around. He never did talk very much and more than likely he just went home to wherever that was.
Hope you had a good life, Willie, and thanks for the good memories