Rosemarie (Gralton) Piscopo
A 5 step concrete stoop at the end of the Madison Court Walkway, at 39-74 44th Street, justified the establishment of the official “hangout” with just enough space for us 4 girls – Paula DeFina, Phyllis Cutillo, Joan Kelly and me, Rosemarie Gralton – and some wandering neighborhood boys Robby Russo, Bobby Pinto, Andy D’Onofrio and Dave McAndrew.
It was a place to sit and talk, planning what to do on that hot summer day (who had a pool?), perhaps getting ready to annoy neighbors with a game of Ring-a-Levio and screaming, “Olly Olly Oxen Free” at the top of our lungs, or perhaps drawing a “Scully” game on the smooth asphalt and shooting wax-laden bottle caps to the numbered square boxes. The bottle caps had to be extra smooth and we did that by continuously rubbing them on the concrete sidewalk. Oh, mustn’t forget the stick ball games down by the garages near 39th Avenue and 43rd Street. During our rest periods on the stoop, we would greet several of the neighbors passing by on their way home from work. The mothers were often greeted with hugs. 44th Street between Skillman and 39th Avenues was an awesome place with lots of cool spots for our games.
Torsney Park came to fruition in early 1951. Mr. Kelly took Joan and me (we were inseparable) over to this huge mound of dirt (now the ball field) and told us this was going to be a BIG playground. To us 6 year olds, this was like looking at a humongous whale. We were so excited, and looked forward to the days of swinging on the swings, climbing monkey bars, sliding down slides, and best of all, playing ‘knock hockey’ by the clubhouse. When we were not at the park, the stoop was our air conditioned abode with the beautiful Sycamore trees providing much needed shad and cool breezes. The trees produced those prickly balls, and we wasted no time to put them to good use. Put them into a sock and watch out! They hurt…One of the nice things we did to each other. Hmmm…
We were bicycle enthusiasts. Bike riding, which is considered to be the best cardio exercise there is, had up zipping all around the neighborhood, especially alongside of the garages on 43rd Street, with the dips in the concrete sidewalk that made us go flying towards 39th Avenue. There was very little car traffic back then, so we took to the road all along 39th Avenue up as far as 50th Street. We girls had the advantage of owning these two wheel apparatuses; I don’t think the boys had bicycles.
Edebohl’s on 48th Street and Queens Boulevard was Ice Cream Heaven. And who could forget ‘White Castle’ on 43rd Street and Queens Boulevard. The burgers were 9 cents a pop. Not like today’s prices. You couldn’t beat that and they were good. The car hops served car customers until I was in my twenties. Like everything else, they just died out. I suppose the liability costs were too great for the corporation. Horn and Hardart Bakery Store at the 46th Street Bliss Street subway station was a popular Friday night stop off spot for some of our moms. They stopped by on their way home from work to buy some baked goodies. Fannie Farmer candy confectionery store was directly opposite on 46th Street. It was a busy corner. I can’t forget these memorable places.
Our small group attended St. Teresa’s, Queen of Angels, P.S. 150, J.H.S. 125, Bryant High School, and several different Catholic High Schools. By the time high school rolled around, the “stoop” started to see less and less of us stopping by. We were becoming more mature and responsible, with part-time jobs and other interests. In other words, we just grew up. Now I wish we could just walk down 44th Street, grab a seat at 39-74’s stoop and sit awhile. Perhaps we should warn the homeowners, ‘cause “WE’RE BACK!!...