My Coney Island Memories
all stories written by JK Sinrod
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The following pages contain some short stories and observations of my life growing up in Brooklyn, NY. Excuse the fact that they are in no particular order since they were written separately over the years. At the end of each page click NEXT PAGE to continue.....
A Hot Coney Island Night
It was 1962 and our transistor radios played the Beach Boys and The Four Seasons. We could hit those high Frankie Valle notes till we turned about 13 and our voices cracked and changed for good. We hung in groups where there was strength in numbers. We were loyal to the block, loyal to the neighborhood, and Brooklyn was our world. We thought we ruled the streets, and never used words like, LOVE, HELP, THANKS. Most of us were poor kids. Jews, Catholics, Italians, Irish, Polish. We could see that our parents were different, but we were all the same. Some called us white trash, but not to our faces. We had our rules. Cursing, cheating, conning were all fine. Making fun of someones heritage or color or race was fine too, as long as you could take it in return. But above all mother's were sacred. Your father may have been a bum or a drunk but, you never ranked on anyones Mom.... NEVER.
We played street games, not for fun, but for blood. Winning was everything. Didn't Vince Lombardi come from Brooklyn? We played stickball, ring-a-leevio, johnny-on-the-pony, punchball, poison ball, stoopball, single double triple, kings, box ball, I declare war on Germany, red light green light. (How many of these can you remember the rules to?). We did arm wrestling and Indian wrestling. We raced from sewer to sewer, jumped fire hydrants, climbed barbed wire topped fences until we spent the last ounce of sweat, or till our Moms stuck their heads out the windows and screamed our names to come home for supper. We battled all day and night and seems like we were always testing ourselves. Who was the fastest, strongest, even the best long distance spitter. Loyalty, strength, speed, power, quick wit, and a big mouth, yeah those were the tickets to survival.
The first was an immigrant girl from Sweden we called "Heidi". I was about 12 she was 14. Man was she cute. she was short with straight dirty blond hair cut in bangs, green eyes, and a gorgeous athletic figure that drive boys wild to this day. Heidi had real charm speaking broken English with a slightly crooked smile. She tried her hardest to educate me in the ways of teenage lust, but I didn't really understand the facts of life as yet. I helped teach her some choice "American" phrases and street smarts, and I spent the entire summer, along with every boy on the block trying to get her attention. She ignored me. I ran like the wind, hit sewer length home runs, and wrestled other would be suitors to the ground. By the end of the summer I had won her over. Someone told me she "liked me". (The old Brooklyn "human telephone" chain of command succeeded where direct contact simply wasn't done). Before I knew it we were spending the hot steamy nights together on the stoops holding hands, in private of course. It was a very secretive relationship. We made an effort to tell no one, and not be seen as a couple in public. I think she was embarrassed at being with a younger guy, and what did I know about such things? We would meet in darkened hallways and make out with the tiny radio blasting AM tunes in the background. The first kiss was strange and awkward for me. "Do You Love Me" by the Contours screaming in the night, she immediately went into a teenage mode of sloppy wet kissing. "In my country this is called French kissing", she said. I was shocked and pulled back. She had to explain it all to this little boy, and she did. Through her teachings and my as yet undiscovered desire, hormones & work ethic, we managed to spend the entire winter exploring this brave new world together. Once in awhile my parents were out and we got to be inside burning up the couch, but mostly it was in a hallway with heavy winter coats, gloves, woolen hats all discarded and thrown down in a heap.
From freezing temps, huddling nightly we emerged that spring as different people. I was now a savvy big shot
junior high school man of the world who had an older girlfriend. She was an
"older" teenager that I had used up too early because I had no idea how lucky I
first real date in public was at a then closing Steeplechase park.
By the time we kissed and groped each other at the top of the Wonder Wheel, I could sense that the
thrill was somehow gone from our lips. It was over and I moved on with assurance
that I would have no problems finding another even better one. I was dead
wrong. When I saw her the next
year she got herself
in trouble with an older guy this time. I saw her with a big belly in the
streets and laughingly asked her if it was mine? She laughed at me with a still proud expression on her face,
and called me a "little boy". Her
English was now as trashy and street smart as the next. The little girl had
grown up and out of her naive charms. Girls have this ability to devastate
us boys with just a few words. I was crushed.
I didn't see her again for several years. I was sitting on the bus coming home, when a very tired looking woman boarded. Tattered clothes, hard lines of a tough life on her face, and uncut dirty blond hair. She was holding the hand of a small child, with another baby in her arms, and possible evidence of yet a new one on the way. Our eyes briefly met, then turned away. She still had that proud, tough look on her face but no smile now. I felt sick. Not so much by what had happened to her, but by the fact that we were unable to say a simple hello. What we once had was between two different kids in another time and place.
I've spent many hours reflecting on that time. Remembering those hot Coney Island days running through the streets, and those frigid nights in the hallways with her. It was fate that had me meet her at an age where she was a teacher and not yet a true mate. Had it been only a few years later, I might have been riding that same bus, but not as a cool young man with my entire life and promising future in front of me... but as a challenged teenage father. She was the first and although only a young boy, I loved her.
Steeplechase Park about 1962
A Day In The Life..... 1967
The alarm went off, it's so early that it's pitch dark outside..... I gotta get going. Wash... comb hair... look in mirror. Hair short and neat. Little hint of longer sideburns. Jeans black skin tight size 32... they look good, just bought them at the dungaree factory on Coney Island Ave yesterday.. about $3 bucks. They are poured right down into my brown penny loafers, We can't wear blue jeans to school, it's not allowed. (Why I wonder?) Button down shirt. Need a little cool touch. I look in the closet at 4 inch wide Mod ties. Tie City in Manhattan $1 each. Which one today, humm...... polka dots? No. Here's a nice paisley one. I grab my schoolbooks books bound by a one inch red rubber strap, and run out the door to catch the Seagate shuttle bus. Just a few people on it. Caryn, Tina, Butch, Nancy, Jimmy. It's too early for a hello. Just a nod of the head will do. We get off and run outside the gate to transfer to the Surf Ave bus. If the driver sees us running, he's just as likely to close the doors and take off.... bastard. The bus is almost empty now but by the time the bus makes it to the Coney Island Houses, I'm packed in like a sardine with fellow babyboomers. There's Mitch, Alan, Mike, Dave. Mitch and I always get a kick out of the stupid early morning cartoons. Alan and I argue baseball mostly. Still too early and hot to talk much. What's air conditioning? Luckily I'm pressed full body up against a sweet young thing. Is that Este Lauder? Man it's just perfect mixed in with my gallon of Canoe. We can barely breathe we are so close. Hope I don't embarrass myself, did I remember to brush my teeth? No matter, I don't speak, either does she. I'm going steady with someone else anyway and its 1967. I hear music through the hairspray, hormones, perfume and deodorant. The Monkees are wailing, "Take the Last Train to Clarksville". Someone has a transistor radio on the bus. It's near the window of course, for better reception. Hard to believe but by the next year, we'll have our hair down to our shoulders and be listening to Hendrix and Joplin on FM, smoking pot and having "free love" as much as we can get!
About 20 minutes later we all disengage and walk the couple blocks to Lincoln HS. I don't have a class for awhile so I walk down to the cafeteria to get a snack for breakfast. Hey I'm a senior now, and I own this place! I run into a couple of friends and get the reaction to my wide loud tie I crave. "far out man".... "groovy"..."psychedelic"... "oh wow". Makes me feel good, a little different than the rest. Yet I also belong. Isn't that what we all wanted? I had a bread and butter hero with a milk for a quarter. I walk up around the study hall. Poor suckers don't have a friend like I do in the program office, so they have to sit there and silently read for 45 minutes while I can roam the place. The halls were dead quiet until the bell rings. All hell breaks loose. Wall to wall boys and girls struggling to get to class. With each change of classes it was a social event. Saying hi, flirting, making plans for the weekend, slapping fives. All done in about 10 minutes. God help you if you finished a class on the first floor and the next was on the other side of the building on the third.... and a creep of a teacher who couldn't wait to mark you late each day. I think 2 lates equaled an absence? Made no sense to me? Some teachers were awful. Some of them were terrific. Mrs. Edelman comes to mind. She was one of the rare ones, whose verve and passion for her English class, helped her draw out an insecure young writer like me now and again.
Last class is done. School is over now. I pick up a soft pretzel, (we called them bagels then), from the guy on the corner for a nickel and take the bus trip home. I'm wearing my team jacket and damned proud of it too! Maybe I'll get together with friends that drive, and cruise Kings Hwy this weekend? Why was it that the other school's cheerleaders always seemed to be prettier? On the slow bus ride I'm thinking about getting home in time to watch "Where The Action Is". Paul Revere and the Raiders are on today. I'll probably do my homework with Soupy Sales on in the background..... but hey the weekend is coming! I spend most of the evening on the phone. I can't go to sleep, eat or even breath without my girlfriend and I exchanging a few hundred "I love you's" on the phone first. Young love, or is it lust, is all consuming and intense beyond belief. I revel and wallow in it. We are all there is in our world, and little else matters.
There's yet another sweet sixteen this weekend. Which dungarees will I wear? The dressier black or brown ones? We need to arrange the timing so we walk in late to make an entrance. We are a cool couple alright. Picture perfect in everyway. All the single kids are jealous, and I really like the view here on top of the world with my gorgeous soulmate at my side. I'll be slapping fives with the guys, while she'll be off in a corner whispering gossip with the girls. I better practice the Skate, The Jerk, and the Slop in the mirror. I lay in bed thinking, with my radio on..... "A Whiter Shade of Pale" playing in the background. What will become of me? Of course I'll marry her (I never did), the war in Vietnam, graduating High School, going to College, my girlfriend, the Mets, the Jets, my girlfriend, the Rangers, the Knicks, the next weekend, my girlfriend. How could life get any better than this? Little did we all know..... it never would.
Kim and June 1967 Kim and Linda 1971 or so
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