Bronx Days With Me and My Dad
e lived at 1060 Sherman Avenue, between 165th and 166th Streets. The corner candystore was in our building and was a hangout place for the local teens. Across the street was the Italian shoe repair man, a Chinese laundry, a beauty parlor, and Mr. Schwartz's grocery store. I still remember the "butter tubs" and pickle barrels, and of course, Mr. Schwartz. He was a friendly, pleasant man who always had a smile for me. The year was 1936 and I was seven years old.
In the wintertime, kids would bring out their sleds and belly whop down the two hills beginning at Sheridan Avenue, past Sherman and on to Grant Avenue. Oh, how I wanted a Flexible Flyer sled, but my Mom and Dad deemed it too dangerous.
My father worked for Sheffield Farms, the dairy company on 165th Street and Webster Avenue with the enormous milk bottle towering above its roof. He delivered milk by horse and wagon, and in the winter my mother would stand by the window waiting for my father to come home. There were many accidents where horses slid and wagons overturned and my mother was constantly worried when it snowed.
I was always tortured between wanting the snow with all the fun involved, and praying it wouldn't snow so that my father would be safe. One Saturday morning, my Dad gave me ten dollars and sent me to the bakery around the corner for bread and rolls. On the way home I passed a hardware store, and there in the window was a Flexible Flyer. I stood there for a long time and, summoning up all the courage I possessed, walked in and purchased that coveted sled for the grand sum of three dollars and change. The snow was covering the sidewalk and I had no trouble pulling the sled to our building, where I immediately took it to the basement and hid it in the carriage room. In those days all the baby prams were kept in that room.
When I came upstairs and gave my father the change from the ten dollars, he asked, "Where is the rest of the money, sweetheart?". I told him I didn't know but that was all I had. My father, who always held a second job and worked so hard, got dressed and said for me to come with him to the bakery as he thought they had given me the wrong change by mistake.
They assured him that the correct change was given and my father said I must have dropped some of the money on the way home. He took me by the hand and we retraced my steps, looking in the snow for the hard-earned money I knew we would never find. A feeling of such infinite sadness came over me. Here was my wonderful, tired, hardworking father looking for the money his daughter had deviously spent. I was so ashamed and miserable. I remember wishing I could just disappear.
Many years went by, and each time I thought of that experience, I almost cried. It wasn't until I was a grown woman with a child of my own that I finally told my father what I had done.
"Sweetheart," he said quietly, "I saw you pulling that sled from the window, and I knew what you had done."
"Oh Dad," I replied, "why didn't you punish me?"
He answered that the remorse I felt was punishment enough and the lesson learned was of great importance. He was correct. Following that incident, I never in all my life did anything dishonest again. My father was wise and smart, and though he is gone for many years, I think of him every day, with love.