For displaced, misplaced, and nostalgic ex-Bronxites

The Concourse


by Susan Smith

I

t was the Park Avenue of the Bronx. My parents always told me how lucky we were to liveon the Grand Concourse. Suffice it say that our huge pre-war, three-bedroom, one-bath apartment needed to be shared with my grandparents who helped pay the $97 a month rent.

Born in 1941, I remember having one small windowless room designated as the 'take cover room' when the air raid sirens would sound. I remember my grandmother wetting the end pieces of Wonder Bread and putting them on the fire escape for the birds. Nothing went to waste. More than once we had birds flying through the open window. I remember our neighbor being locked out of her apartment and my grandfather climbing on the fire escape to enter her apartment and open the door for her. We had screen doors as well as the steel apartment doors. All summer we slept with the steel doors open and just an unlocked screen door. We never gave safety a thought.

My building stretched from the Concourse to Walton Avenue on 166th Street. Our windows faced the big hill on 166th Street where I often watched the older boys playing stickball. This was a wonderful sleigh-riding hill and kids came from all over to do just that.

Our big family outing was every Sunday night to the 167th Street Cafeteria. This was the most wonderful place in the world for me. I loved taking the ticket from the machine as we entered. My mom would take us to a large grocery/butcher on 167th Street where the chickens were walking around the sawdusted floor. My mother would choose her chicken and that would be our dinner. There was a store for cheese and eggs; a store for everything. Our pharmacy was Crossroads Drugs on 167th Street and Walton Avenue.

On Friday afternoons we would take the 167th Street Trolley to Metcalf Avenue where my grandparents prepared shabbos dinner for us and my cousins and aunts and uncles. Every Friday night for years and years this ritual continued. We were always sent home with the leftovers.

I remember sitting in the Concourse Park on a Sunday afternoon with my parents and grandparents. We saw a young, lanky boy running away from the police. He was carrying a shoeshine box which was common in the park for boys to shine shoes but the police did not permit it.

My grandmother said, "Look at that poor boy...trying to earn some pennies and the police chasing him.."

As he got closer to us my grandmother screamed,"Oh my goodness, that's Addie."

Addie was my grandmother's son. We all had to go to the police station get him out.

My mother died in 1954 when I was 12. I went to Mott and would have gone to Taft but my father packed us up and moved us to Queens with his soon-to-be next wife. I never saw my grandmother or grandfather again. Tomorrow I am going to the cemetery for the first time to tell them about this story and how much I miss them.

I still cry thinking of those days. They were wonderful days with wonderful people and family. Last August, I went back to 1075 Grand Concourse and knocked on the door to my old apartment. A kind lady let me in and as I looked around I showed her the 'take cover room'. She had no clue what I was talking about. Just as well...it's MY memory.




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