Up On the Roof
by Richard Diem
Here we are the three brothers trying to climb still higher up on the roof of our grandmother’s apartment house. I’m sure many other boys in the neighborhood had their own roofs to explore. Sunnyside had many apartment buildings. When we tired of the roof, there were always basements to explore.
The boys were often on the edge of mischief until a neighbor came up to hang clothes on the line and called the house super to chase us off for our own safety. So we were told. The girls came in the summer for their tans on “tar beach,” as they called it. Of course, they were allowed, being so well behaved. I will admit our mischievous pranks went too far at times, especially in the winter time when we dropped snow bombs on people. Looking back, I hope we never hurt anyone. Guess it was good we got chased from the roof.
I’ll mention one personal story about the roof in the house where I lived at 43-07 42nd Street that could have turned out dangerous if it wasn’t for a good neighbor who happened to hear us and so, stopped a disaster from happening. Jackie M. was a bully who was a year older than me, and he made my life miserable whenever he saw me. As my friends and I were getting older, weight lifting and developing muscles was a big thing for us. Jackie M. didn’t lift weights, so when I felt ready, I challenged him to a fight. Where? Well, how about up on the roof. We bloodied each other enough to call it a tie when the neighbor stopped us and we were both taken down to our mothers. No we didn’t become friends, but he never bullied me again.
When I moved to Sunnyside around 1943, I entered P.S. 150. Right away, in my first class room, there were no available seats, “Move over if you would Joel,” and I squeezed in, so Joel and I shared a seat of beginning and lasting friendship. I went on to J.H.S. 125 and then Long Island City High School. I graduated in 1954 at 17, and enlisted in the USMC for three years. Since retiring I have worked as a caregiver for mostly men with Alzheimer’s.