Advertisement

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Remembering the street games of New York

August 24, 2011|By Joe Puglia

It was Saturday, June 2, 1962. The Mets were playing the San Francisco Giants at the Polo Grounds on 155th street and Eighth Avenue in Harlem. I was selling peanuts in the grandstand, trying to make a buck. I’ll never forget that day; Willie Mays had returned to New York and hadn’t been back since the Giants left in 1957.

Willie was a hero to the kids of Harlem, and the buzz around the neighborhoods was that he was going to play stickball with the kids on the street after the game. I didn’t want to miss his return, so I left the game early. In 1951, when he was rookie of the year with the Giants, Willie played stickball everyday with the local kids.

In the 1950s and ’60s, street games such as stickball were a major part of life in New York. They defined a generation and are a source of nostalgia in characterizing the golden era of New York. The streets are empty now.

Advertisement

This is true of La Cañada. Spontaneous play has atrophied and has given way to organized leagues of competitive dads supervising their protegees, sucking the marrow from creative play. Often, children spend their time indoors surfing the net and playing with iPads and Nintendo games.

I often meander through the streets of La Cañada. Rarely do I see groups of kids playing in the street. There are few shouts of laughter or exuberance for scoring the winning run or point. It’s a marked difference to how I grew up in the Wakefield section of the Bronx. On any given day during the summer, scores of children would be playing stickball, skully, stoop ball, ring-o-leavio or box ball from morning to evening. Our mothers would shout out of the tenement windows signaling dinner. After dinner we’d return to play a few rounds of hide-and-seek. The next day, we’d do it again.

Depending upon your experience where you grow up, you can either be deeply embedded in the culture and community in which you live or you can casually glide through your reality with little effect. Growing up in the neighborhoods in the ’50s and ’60s had an intense effect on who we were, and who we are today.

La Canada Valley Sun Articles La Canada Valley Sun Articles
|
|
|