For displaced, misplaced, and nostalgic ex-Bronxites

Old Kingsbridge Road


by Denise Streit

O

nce I was allowed out on the streets from Grandma Rosie's apartment, I ventured onto OldKingsbridge Road...

Old Kingsbridge Road was very different from most Bronx streets. "The Road" was both an unpaved and paved road that was one block long. It ran from Garden Street to Grote Street, parallel to Southern Boulevard. This was a country spot to a Bronx kid; to live on a dirt road with a view of the wooded Bronx Zoo directly across the street was a special treat. I believe that its uniqueness made it a special place in my life.

I lived at 795 Garden Street from 1954 to 1969. My windows overlooked that short dirt road. My playmates and I played with dolls in the courtyard of my building that was on the road. I learned to ride my first two-wheeler (with training wheels) along the broken sidewalk. It was a challenge to keep on the broken pavement and not venture onto the dirt and rocks with broken glass.

I met my first love on Old Kingbridge Road. I was in kindergarten and he was in first grade. We played cowboys and he tied me to a tree that was infested with ants on the road. It was love at first sight. Eight years later, we went steady for two years. He "asked me out" for the first time on the road. We would meet every day on the road and hang out with our friends.

My brother was four years my junior. I remember that he always aspired to be a ball player. I think he first had this dream when he threw eggs directly from the carton to the ground on Old Kingsbridge Road. I will never forget the day when he achieved a direct hit by throwing a water balloon on a neighbor's freshly coiffed hairdo. He made sure that I was the unknowing suspect who was looking from the window when the hit was made. My brother's first home run had a price tag of sixty-five dollars attached to it. He hit the ball through a window of a parked car on Old Kingsbridge Road. The parking spots on the road were a best-kept secret to the few who found them. Alternate side of the street parking did not exist on Old Kingsbridge Road.

My pre-teens and early teens were great years. I had many memories associated with Old Kingsbridge during that time span. Every time I look at the ugly oblong scar on my knee, I think of Old Kingsbridge Road. As a young teen I was running to hang out with my friend Lucille. She lived in one of the four two to three family homes that were on the paved side of Old Kingsbridge Road. As I ran along, I fell on a piece of glass that slit my knee. An ugly scar can bring back great memories.

Lucille would call for me as she left the porch of her two family home. As she pulled up her knee socks and walked from her stoop, she would yell DENNEEESSE in one syllable at the top of her lungs. She would arrive by the back door of the building a minute later, and I would be on my way down the four flights of stairs. My girlfriends from Old Kingsbridge and Grote Street and I would have the best of times hanging out. It was always a treat to have a sleep-over at Lucille's. Her house was the first three-family home next to my building. We would wait for her parents to fall asleep and three to five fourteen year olds would go out on her second floor balcony and play Motown on her portable turntable. It was inevitable that the guys would come down the road. They would talk to us for endless hours from twelve feet below while the Best of Motown played on. As we became more daring, we would sneak down the steps and share kisses with our boyfriends on the Bronx road without street lights.

My friend Candy lived in a ground floor apartment on Grote Street and her apartment had a side yard on Old Kingbridge Road. I remember her tree and shrub enclosed enclave. The scent of the flowering trees and the waxy leaves of the shrubs lead me to nostalgic landscaping decisions later in my life. We would hang out on the other side of the fenced-in tropical paradise of her back yard. Our boyfriends would meet us there on summer mornings as we began our treks to the zoo, or Orchard Beach.

The day of my move to New Jersey was a very melancoly day. I was sad to leave my childhood of the Bronx. The fact that my building backed up to the road enabled me to find a comfortable outlet beyond my innermost circle. I felt enabled to take baby steps beyond Garden Street, onto the Road and onward to anywhere I may want to venture.




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