STICKBALL MEMORIES

By Larry Bender

My sister Carole, my parents and I lived at 114-06 Queens Blvd. which was at the corner of  76th Road. All the apartment buildings from Queens Blvd. to Austin Street between 77th Avenue and 75th Road were all the same, six story boxes with roofs that allowed you to dry your clothes with clothes pins and launch water balloons. We also ate watermelon on the roof and spit the pits into the wind.

Across from my apartment building was a funeral home, Schwartz Bros so we were always looking out to see who might have passed away from the neighborhood.

I also used my roof at night to search the heavens with a neat telescope that one of my older cousins handed down to me. It sure worked for him as he became a senior VP for Dupont in Delaware and actually played tennis a number of times with Margaret Osborne Dupont. His name was Bobby Wiederhorn and he is still alive and lives in Delaware. He lived on Kessel Street near Yellowstone Blvd. Near his home was had an incredibly steep hill for bicycle enthusiasts.

One of our favorite games at Austin Street playground was stickball. I think all of the building superintendents (supers) in our neck of the woods were constantly on the look-out for our group which had a nasty habit of cutting brooms off of broomsticks.

Some of the people who we grew up with still live in those old buildings and never left the area. Robert Mund and Jack Blumkin are the names I remember.

We lived on the 3rd floor in apartment C-4. My bedroom window looked right out at the Fish Grotto restaurant and the loading area for the Grand Union supermarket. We used to play stickball with pitching on the fly and there were many times that I almost blasted my own window out with rocket line drives.

We used to lose a lot of Spaldeens on the roof of the Grand Union and I could see the collection building up on the roof. I tried to climb up the drain pipe one day and almost killed myself. My father got mad and said he was tired of giving me quarters for  balls. So one day he got a ladder and climbed up on the roof and collected all the balls and gave them to me. We never had another shortage of Spaldeens.

Most doors were kept open. Our building was friendly with many visits to neighbors. My immediate neighbors were Barney and Molly Jussim who owned the candy store, like Jones’, on Queens Blvd. and 76th Road. They were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Molly loved to cook. Every Passover you knew you were going to get a homemade batch of matzoh ball soup and everything else that went with a Seder meal.


I think the Jussims thought I wasn't eating regularly because they always tried to give me food. They both lived to about 95 or 96 and died within months of each other.

The Jussims gave me my very first job where I worked on Saturday night to get all the Sunday papers ready. And the rest is history.

Thanks for all the memories.


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