The Bronx Riviera
here were the occasional weekend trips with my parents and sister out to Jones Beachor a day at Rye Playland via a school outing, but Orchard Beach will always be my first love, from grade school days in the fifties right up to the early eighties. I really enjoyed it in the mid-sixties, as a teen having friends with older family members. I had a little more freedom. Hey, how could I play "beach blanket bingo" with my parents in the proximity?
Back in those days neighborhoods and nationalities had sections. Sections 10 through13 were populated predominately by teenagers and people in their early twenties . In Section 9 were the wannabe Sopranos, mid-twenties and oily, muscular tattooed guys and some of the finest looking ladies around. Sections 5 through 8 had a well balanced, diversified plot of sand, and the remaining Sections (1 through 4) were mostly Hispanic. That end had bays and a jetty for fishing, and a large picnic area for some of the best pig roasts to date. But oh! Perfect harmony and brotherhood can last only so long. Let me give you the ingredients. Heat, drugs, jealousy, rage and scantily clad women add to problems, throw in a dash of nationality or neighborhood differences and voila, The Big Bang.
I loved this place so much that in 1975 I went to work there. I was now one of New York's Finest, living in Throgs Neck, and married to my childhood sweetheart, who was expecting our first child . I had an eight-minute commute to a job I loved at a place I loved equally. My Lieutenant decided that being I was an expectant Dad and the new kid in town, my assignment was the Lost Children's Area around Section 7. I can't begin to tell you how I turned this assignment to the positive. All those years of hanging out paid off. I became a pro at returning children to their lost parents, as was quoted in The Amsterdam News along with my picture holding a 2 year old boy. If they cried, it was momentary and I went to the Mister Softee truck . My second and third years there I said goodbye uniform, and spent the days in shorts and a tank top doing a bang-up job on the unlicensed beer salesmen. You may be aware of the amount of gear a police officer carries. I tried to stuff a nap sack with my essentials: handball paddle, cuffs, first aid kit, communications and handgun.
I was in the main cafeteria on Section 9 when a call came over of a man taking pictures from the wall of the ladies' lockers and open shower area. As I responded to the call, talking into my bag, I had delusions of every female member of my family in the locker room.. I responded in a flash, knowing every shortcut, but with negative results. I started walking back to the boardwalk and got a second call that he was still there and I made a U-turn, catching sight of him. He was like one of the Flying Wallendas, running along this eight-foot wall, swinging in and out of trees as he saw me giving chase with my police shield dangling around my neck. Picture two squirrels chasing one another and this was the scene. Slick as he was from his joy and the chase, I couldn't grab him and he began hitting me with the camera. Boy did my handball paddle come in handy for freeing up his clenched talons. The camera turned out to be filmless. I came out of the tree being called Officer Tarzan as I cuffed him to the delight of the crowd that had gathered. . Within the hour he was back in the confines of Bronx State Hospital where he had wandered from.
Another day at the Riviera. Having been a known face at Orchard Beach and being fair made me and the job likable.