It's Summertime, Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime,Summertime,
Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime, Summertime, Summertime, Sum Sum
Summertime, Summertime, Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime......
SUMMER TYYYYYY IME!
Remember that one by the Jamies from 1961? Well ten years before it was all over the airwaves, Butchie was already humming it in spirit I'm sure 'cause School Was Out! As for me it had not started yet, but it was neat to have someone to play with during the weekdays. There was no one around at all in the winter and as I think back on it, I probably never wondered then why all the houses on our block were empty. Some were even shuttered. We lived on the corner of Elm and McKinley and every house near us in every direction was empty. The Yodice's who's fence was in our backyard, The Jordan's who were next door, the Dugo's who were across the corner on Elm and the Denning's who were the first house across McKinley just up the street from our driveway.
The pedal car fire engine had made the journey with us and was getting kind of rusty from being outside from the winter. Still Butch pushed me around in it as he could make it go twice as fast as I could ever hope to pedal it. He always had powerful legs and was unbeatable by anyone on any bike. He used to match race guys with English racers with his little 24" balloon tire bomber and dust them off. I recall one time when he was a teenager we watched him actually beat Willy Conklin's Studebaker with a bike for the first 50 feet or so.
Playing cars and trucks was always a great pastime for Butchie and me 'cept we never called it that. That is until we met the Denning's. They were cousins Donald and Paddy. Paddy's actual name was Donny too but we all called him Paddy to tell them apart. The first day we met them, they were out in front of their house, playing in the sand on the side of the road with a couple of dump trucks. Just the sight of seeing anyone around was startling, seeing kids your own age was something else again. Donald was around Butch's age and Paddy was the same age as me. Their grandmother owned the house and would take care of them during the week and their parents would come out from Brooklyn on the weekends.
"Hi ...what are you doing?", Butch asked. "Playing cars and trucks" came Donald's reply. "Where's the cars?" I asked. Without another word Donald got up off his hands and knees and ran in the house. He came back out with a couple of rusty metal cars one with 3 wheels on it and said, "Here want to play with us?" Without another word there were four boys industriously working in the roadside sand, building roads and testing them out with cars and trucks. Donald showed us how the palm of your hand made a great road grader. The only thing bugging me was the scale of the cars didn't match their trucks so it was run home and get some of our toys to add to the mix. Before long we had Auburn hard rubber motorcycles and racing cars along side of Marx, and Structo,tin trucks, a piece or two from Hubley , some sand excavating toys and perhaps even Butchie's Zeppelin that had wheels and spent more time on the ground than it ever did in the air.
In the course of playing we learned all about each others short history naturally. My mothers voice called out for us to come to lunch and not wanting to interrupt his new found fun Butch invited them along. They asked their Grandmother if they could, who wisely came along to meet our Mom. Mom was surprised but eager to make a few more bologna sandwiches and there was a picnic in our backyard under the pine trees.
While we were eating, Donald mentioned that
the Yodice's would probably be out in a week or two. " Who
are the Yodice's?", Butch asked.
Donald seemed as amused that we didn't know who lived on the other side of the white picket fence in the big house with the huge yard that went clear to the next block. " Sally Ann, Mary Ann and Anthony" he replied, neglecting to tell us about the 40 some odd others who made up this huge extended Italian family. The three he mentioned were the kids that were our age and would become part of our gang that would experience just about everything life can offer a kid over the next 10 years or so. Collectively the Denning's, The Yodice's, and later on lots more would become known as the "Summer Kids" and for years they became a part of a life Butchie and I would look forward to all winter long.
FREE FOR ALL
Consider if you will some of Websters definitions for the word FREE. Many of them apply to this short little hair raiser.
adj. fre·er, fre·est.
1.Not imprisoned or enslaved; being at liberty.
2.Not controlled by obligation or the will of another: felt free to go.
3.Not affected or restricted by a given condition or circumstance:
4.Not subject to a given condition; exempt: income free of all taxes.
5.Not subject to external restraint:
6.Not literal or exact: a free translation.
7. a.Costing nothing; gratuitous: a free meal.
b.Publicly supported: free education.
8.Unobstructed; clear: a free lane.
9.Taking undue liberties; forward or overfamiliar.
10.Liberal or lavish: tourists who are free with their money.
11.Given, made, or done of one's own accord; voluntary or spontaneous: a free act of the will; free choices.
There are quite a few more that could apply,11 will do for now. God only needed 10 right? Numbers 9 & 11 seem to have the greatest effect though on this story.
Summer haircuts were a big thing with our mother. She had a one style fits both philosophy for Butchie and me that she enforced well past the time she had any moral, ethical and by todays standards probably legal right to. When school was out, it was march to Joe Orlando's barber shop for crew cuts. Even after Joe had retired she would march us into his son's shop and have Vinny Orlando prepare us for what looked like boot camp.
I recall one time in 1959 we were going to
be on the 6:00 o'clock Channel 4 News out of NYC . This was a
big, big deal. It all started when Pop saved a kid's life in an
automobile accident and never told anyone. Well the kid's family
found out he worked for the New York Telephone Company and tracked
him down. Seeing the PR in it for them, they made a big deal out
of it, gave Pop a medal a $1000.00 and paraded him on the evening
news because they sponsored it.
Well it was near the end of August and my hair
was growing back in nicely to the point where I would not be too
embarrassed returning to school in a few weeks. Mom dropped us
off at Vinny's and Butch went first. Good soldier that he was
he got the regulation crew cut. When it was my turn I said to,
"Give me a Detroit Vinny" 'Sure thing Cosmo, one Detroit
Special coming up" For those who might not of ever seen a
Detroit it was a flatop with long sides combed into a DA. For
those who don't recall or never heard of a DA...it had nothing
to do with Perry Mason, it was short and polite for how it looked
at the rear end of duck.
Vinny did a stellar job and just the right
amount of Vitalis had me looking sharp in no time flat. Not a
minute too soon either as Mom was just pulling up to the curb
from her trip down the block to Fischer's Market our neighborhood
grocery store. As I walked out to the car her mouth fell open
and she said, "What the hell do you call that?" 'Call
what ?', I tried to ask innocently. "You are NOT going on
television looking like a juvenile delinquent!" and with
that she literally grabbed me by the collar and marched me back
inside. It was a major embarrassment, that Butchie probably knew
was going to happen to me but played dumb about. After she left
Vinny said , "Sorry Cosmo... I've got my order's", as
I heard his clippers coming in for the kill.
So there we all were a few days later in Rockefeller
Center, probably the same newsroom that Tom Brokaw uses today.
Watching as Gabe Pressman's lead off story was all about juvenile
delinquency. In fact he was talking about the trial of The Capeman
who was turned into a short lived musical by Paul Simon 40 years
later. When they called for us to go on the stage manager said,
"The kids can wait in the control room." I immediately
thought about my neat Detroit swept up on Vinny's floor. The anger
I felt soon turned to laughter as I watched my Mom and Pop FREEZE
UP on camera before millions. We all laughed about it for years.
I mentioned Vinny's dad Joe Orlando, who's tiny barber shop was just down the street. I know I got the first haircut I ever remember having there. Joe had a penny gum ball machine and this one summer of probably 1951 or 2 it got stuck. I think it was Butch that discovered it. Free gum....just slide the lever. We both filled our pockets and Joe didn't seem to mind. Well we told Donald and Paddy about it and they wanted to go get haircuts too, just so they could tap into Joe's rapidly diminishing supply of tooth trouble. Their grandmother said no. So when the typical bored what do you want to play today question came up ,the bright idea answer was... Lets Play Barber!!! Free Gum and Free Haircuts Today Only.
Butch and I had a good supply of gum to share and Donald and Paddy were keen on getting a haircut so we all marched over to our yard. I don't recall who supplied the scissors but both Butchie and me wound up with a pair of blunt kiddie scissors in our hands and went to work on our customers. Well the end results were startling.....sort of a combination of the Moe Howard, and Larry Fine look with just a touch of Johnny Rotten neo punk thrown in. But hey after all they were free haircuts right? Not to mention free gum. It must of been a Friday because Donald's mother had arrived from the city and was soon knocking on our door wanting to talk to our mother. Our very embarrassed mother wound up driving them to Joe's to try and salvage what was left of their hair. Joe sighed and said he would give it his best try, and Donald and Paddy who weren't that upset initially got sore at Butchie and me 'cause Joe got his gum machine fixed.