October 11, 2010

Part 4: Memories of Mousy, Bumpy and other Levittown hoods

Pat Stanley Smith Share, class of 1962, added the following to her comments that constituted our previous blog entry:

As if Al's dying wasn't bad enough, to I had to go through all the details of a funeral, what's acceptable and such back then. I think he had an insurance policy where he worked valued at $10,000, as he was pretty new on the job, just a few years. I think the cost of the funeral was about that much. Guess what, the cemetery workers went on strike and no one was being buried. He died on January 10, 1970 and wasn't buried until March 17.

I no longer support the funeral parlors, they are worse than vultures Instead, I believe in ashes into the sea in environmentally correct packages that become part of the sea. And no viewings.

I also didn't mention that we had a dog, Gigi, a huge bullmastiff that was diagnosed with cancer in her front hip the day after Al died. The vet wanted a mere $5,000 to remove her leg and put her on a walker. I chose not to do this, much to the dislike of many who thought I should, she died March 17.

Arnie Galeota, 1961
The rocks were part of my world during high school. Fortunately, I survived. I lived on Mistletoe Lane which was less than a half mile from Mousy's house on Cornflower Road. Fortunately, there were five or six of us who lived on that same block, the Albaum twins being two of them. We were all everyday friends playing sports until dark, not including Mousy, who name was Joe Lulenski.

Ron and Don Albaum were in the same class in school as Mousy, so they knew him well enough to say hello without running the risk of getting their legs broken. One morning we were walking to school and we came upon Mousy's house and we was coming out to make his trek to Division Avenue, one of the rare days he decided to attend. We were about 15-years old and he was 28. Just kidding.

As we were walking behind him, Don Albaum, in all his playful antics yells out, "Mousy is not a faggot, Arnie!" Well, Mousy turns around and looks at us and sees it's Don and smiles. I returned home to put on a clear pair of underwear.

Warren Zaretsky, 1960
One quiet afternoon at Whalen's, Bumpy came and sat next to me at the counter. He said, "You're a smart guy and I need your advice, but if you tell anyone about it I'll beat the shit outta ya." He looked around to make sure no one was listening and said, "I want to learn to read better. Can you pick a good book for me to read that's not too hard." Unfortunately Whalen's book rack was out of Sartre's "Being and Nothingness," so I chose "Moby Dick" for him. I never heard back from him (or got a harpoon in my back) when he ran into Queequeg, Tashtego or Fedallah, but he always gave me a little smile and a wave.

Jack Jacobsen, 1962
On a cold and windy day in early November I was helping Richie Alexander sell pretzels outside of Mays department store. As were shivering and just trying to keep warm from the heat of the pretzel cart, Bugsy comes strolling out of Pergaments. The day before he and his brother harassed us about giving them free pretzels. We gave both of them a pretzel and they kindly thanked us. It was our security blanket!

Bugsy was wearing a denim jacket, which had seen better days. He stopped at the cart, asked us how the pretzel business was going and preceded to take the jacket off. We weren't sure what was going on but figured either Richie or me was in for a hard time. He tossed the jacket to me and said, "Jacobsen, hold my jacket, but if I'm not back in 10 minutes throw it in the trash." He turned and entered Mays.

About 10 minutes went by and I decided to toss the jacket. About 5 minutes after out comes Bugsy with a nice leather jacket on and smiling. He waved, said hello, and kept on walking. Just another routine day in the Rocks' life.

Ann Crescenzo, 1961
I remember when I was in 7th and 8th grade Bumpy went to Division Avenue. I once spoke to him and realized that he was very shy. I believe that's why he was a rock, to put on a persona to hide behind. The only thing different about Bumpy that I witnessed was the black clothes that he wore and his put-on tough guy attitude to mask his true identity..

Tony Moors, Levittown Memorial 1960
The mention of Bumpy brought back some memories. I heard he got that nickname after being hit by a 2 by 4 and not being phased. I remember driving a 1950 Hudson by the drug store at the corner of Division and Hempstead Turnpike.

As we passed, someone mentioned they knew or talked with Bumpy's girlfriend. Bumpy wasn't pleased and recognized the culprit in my car. Next thing I knew we were being chased by a car full of maniacs. We went down the Turnpike into East Meadow and someone said "make a left." It was a dead end!

Around the corner came Bumpy and his crew but drove past me before they got out with their hardware (bats and such). Lucky for me I was able to put it in reverse and blast out of there. I guess they had enough fun for the night because they didn't follow. That was another fun night driving with a junior license in Levittown. I did have a great time as a kid.

Sue Chasin Ross, 1962
I remember all the names but Bumpy mentioned in a previous blog posts....I remember almost being in "awe" of them...wanting to emulate one thing they did....wear my collar up. (Obviously, not something deep or thoughtful) Who knew that would be considered "preppy" years later? They all wore there cigarettes rolled in their T-shirt sleeves...they had DA's...for haircuts...and plenty of Brylcream...or whatever....to put in it to keep it slicked back. Looking back, they are almost a caricature of what the movies and TV have come to characterize over the years of that type of kid.

I doubt I ever exchanged one word with them....but sure knew who they were. Was I scared...they all had reputations...so maybe I was.

I thought most of them went to Memorial instead of DAHS. I also wonder what happened to them and what they would have been like, if in school today? Were they the Levittown equivalent of NYC gangs....being first generation Levittowners? I wonder what they remember of those days and if they realize what an impact they had on so many kids then.

It's funny how there are lines drawn in high schools...groups, crowds, whatever you want to call them...that attract kids of the same thinking. Having taught high school on Long Island for 20 years... they are easy to spot. Not so different from all those years ago...just different names and different styles. There are no longer "rocks or hoods", but jocks, Goths, preps, geeks, and the equivalent of them would probably be the ones some refer to as "dirtbags". We always want to find someone or some group to fit in with, especially in high school.

"Dirtbags" is a term I never used...the kids actually used it about themselves...and other kids would use it as a reference. I always enjoyed having them in class and they never gave me a problem. My chairperson often made note of the fact that I got along so well with them. Maybe I was a "latent rock" in my earlier life...who knows?

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