School’s out for summer!
I can’t think of a better high than leaving your last class of the day and getting out of school for summer vacation. Especially if you didn’t have to go to summer school! As an adult, you forget that sense of jubilation knowing you have a full two months of summer ahead of you with nothing to do but play with your friends. As you get older and responsibilities grow, and you get a job, summer is just another season with a two week vacation thrown in there somewhere. But as a child, the freedom of summer vacation put a little extra “kick” in your step as you dumped your school notebook in the trash on your way home.
No early bedtime hours, no homework, no school. Just a summer of stick ball, Good Humor ice cream and staying out till dark catching lightning bugs in jars. The block came alive during the summer. The street that I lived on, 77 Street, was a one way street and just wide enough to play a good game of stick ball. The only time you had to stop playing was when a member of the opposing team, who was facing traffic, would call, “CAR” or “TIME OUT”, the signal that a car was coming down the block and to get out of the way. Except on the few occasions when my grandfather would drive his ’53 Hudson Wasp up the wrong way of the street, then the batter would warn everyone that “Mr Pete” is coming….get out of the way!!!” And if you were in the middle of a swing, well, the driver had just better slow down ’cause you weren’t going to “do over” a perfect hit. It was a symbiotic relationship.
Same thing when we opened the hydrants. We heard somewhere that you had to go to the local police precinct to get a sprinkler cap or something. We were kids, how were we going to get there? I would go down in my father’s workshop and come out with a plumbers wrench. We would dig through the neighbor’s garbage pails till we came up with the perfect can, usually a good steel tomato sauce can. That was our sprinkler cap. One side of the can was usually cut out already so we just had to open the other end of the can. My friend Mike Rizzo was a master at holding the can in front of the open hydrant. It was not an easy thing to do. He would interlock his fingers around the can, and press both his palms around it. Then, Mike would position himself behind the Johnny pump and squat down, pushing his body against it and holding onto the can for dear life. When he gave the signal I would turn the nut on top of the hydrant to full open. Man oh man! Mike could direct that torrent of water in any direction he wanted without loosing the can.
Old lady Julia was sitting by her open window that day enjoying her cigarette about two houses down and across the street from where the hydrant was. I could still remember her screaming, “G-d damn kids!!!” as she jumped up from her seat and quickly closed the window. Mike made that flow of water go two stories high, over the roofs of the houses across the street. And if you were brave enough to run in front of him…let’s just say you got a little wet. Which was the whole idea! Our sneakers would squish for hours after we got drenched by the hydrant. But it sure felt good. It sure beat running along side the street cleaning water trucks, another way we kept cool on those hot summer days. And when I said we had a symbiotic relationship with the cars that came by, you could see them slowing down to shut their window before they passed by. We weren’t stopping for anyone. They are lucky we didn’t charge them two bucks for a car wash! Every once in a while we would get the dude who just washed and waxed his car and wouldn’t pass until we shut off the water. We were respectful.
Sooner or later Mike’s hand would get tired and the can would go flying across the street with the pressure of the water. I couldn’t keep that can in my hand for 10 seconds before it came flying out. Mike just had the touch, and the grip. The streets had a certain fresh smell after we opened the hydrant. Everything was washed clean.
We did something different every day during the summer. Fads came and went. One week everyone was buying tops from the local candy store. By the time I learned how to spin the darn things something else came along. Duncan Yo-Yo’s was another toy everyone had. The following week we were taking out our skates and attaching them to our sneakers. I can’t tell you the scabs I had on my knees from those things. City sidewalks weren’t the best surface to go skating on. I don’t remember seeing disclaimers on those metal skates that warned users “beware of cracked sidewalks, may cause bleeding knees”.
Skully (a.k.a. skelsies) was one of the most popular street games we played. We played it on the street using bottle caps filled with wax on a board drawn with chalk. This was before twist off caps on soda bottles. We were very careful to pry open the bottle cap so not to bend the little metal disk. It needed to be flat. Anywhere from 2 to 6 (or more) players can play. The basic theme is to use your fingers to shoot your piece, your favorite bottle cap, through the numbered course drawn on the street, then “kill” all the other players that were in the box you landed in, similar to marbles, leaving you the winner.
If we had a ball or a stoop, a street or a wall, we had everything we needed to spend countless hours playing and having fun. When I came in the house for dinner I would gulp down my food and head back out to play some night games, like Werewolf A.K.A. Ringoleavio. Werewolf was like a game of hide and seek. We played with two teams. The process of choosing teams was also a time honored process. Each team captain would “choose up” with a game of “odds, even”, using their fingers and the best out of three would pick first. One team was the hunters and the other team was the hunted. The city streets were perfect for this game, with cars and fences and alleyways to hide in.
The goal of the hunters would be to catch all the members of the other team. A stoop would be the hunters base, or jail. The team being hunted would try to avoid capture and if possible, free their jailed compatriots. Not rocket science, but we did have coordinated strategy and deception. It also helped to have a few fast runners on your team. I had lead feet so I was usually the “jail keeper”. The game would go on for hours.
I tell you, I had a good night sleep every night. And forget about ring around the colar. When I took off my sneakers at night I had more dirt around my toes than you could imagine and we always took a bath at night. That way, as soon as the sun was up, we were back in the streets playing our hearts out.
Roasted Pepper and Cheese Frittata
- 1 cup roasted peppers , see earlier blog for recipe
- 2 eggs per serving
- 1/4 cup sharp provolone cheese, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
In a medium non stick oven proof frying pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium flame. Add the roasted peppers. Cook peppers for 2 minutes until warmed through.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add a dash of salt and pepper.
Pour the eggs over the peppers.
Add cheese, and chopped herbs. Tilt the pan around so the egg covers the entire bottom of pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the edges start to firm.
Remove the pan from the oven and run a spatula around the edges of the frittata to loosen it. Place a plate, larger than the pan over the pan and carefully flip the pan over so the pan is on top and the plate is on the bottom releasing the frittata from the pan onto the plate.
Cut the fritatta into serving pieces and place on a fresh slice of Italian bread to make a sandwich.