As I stated in the Water Water Everywhere chapter , one of the main reasons we moved out of the city onto Long Island was rising crime. Having someone invade your home and steal your belongings is an awful feeling even though Butchie and me were way too young to be aware of it. In the '50's Mastic Beach was almost beyond safe as a community. When the Schulz's went away for the weekend, I'd feed their pets and they never even locked their doors. They didn't have to. But as these next stories will prove out, Trouble is like the titles of one of my songs....
"TROUBLE STILL KNOWS WHERE YOU LIVE"
It had to be the summer of '51 or 2. I know it was summer because we were eating on the porch and watching the cars go by. Not that there were very many cars going by, but they were easy to watch because back then the porch was all windows. There was no stop sign at the corner of Elm and McKinley, but if you were cautious there wasn't a real need for one. However in the summer a lot of folks invaded the community and lots of them had cars. McKinley drive curved around over to Jefferson just south of Elm and was a short cut for some to Beach 10. One particular car went that way a lot and was real noticeable because of not only what kind of car it was, but the manner in which it was driven. It was a Crosley, that tiny post war car put out by the refrigerator and radio manufacturer. Smaller than a Volkswagen which really had not turned up in any numbers in America yet, The Crosley was reminiscent of circus clowns car and many were used for that. Crosley engines also turned up in a lot of 3/4 midget racers in the '50's for one reason. They were fast. Well this little robins egg blue sedan that scooted up and down McKinley seemed fast too, because it never slowed down as it crossed Elm Rd. Our father used to say "She's gonna wrap somebody someday, mark my words"
Butchie and me were always the first to finish supper and that meant a couple more hours of playtime for us. Mom usually called us in by 8 and had us in bed by 8:30 back then. So we had just stepped outside to go play when it happened. BANG a loud sound , the screaming of engines and next thing you know there's a HUGE post war Chrysler flying through the air across our front lawn heading right for the south east corner of our porch. Butchie and me saw it all from our back driveway. (We had two driveways, one along side the Yodice's fence and on semi horseshoe shaped on McKinley. We would make dirt roads and play with our cars and trucks in the back one a lot. ) The Chrysler landed on its roof along side of our our flagpole just a few feet from the house. I heard little kids screaming and it was chilling to me, but nearly gave my mother a stroke as she not only saw this huge Chrysler coming directly at the house, the voices of children crying with Butchie and me absent from the table could only mean one thing in her mind. Our Dad came flying out of the house and immediately crawled in the window of the Chrysler to render aid. He was an ace at it, probably from WWII. He was also on the emergency squad of The MBFD, who soon showed up with the emergency wagon and ambulance. There was a family of five in the Chrysler, which was heading west on Elm when it got nailed. And the Nailer was...You Guessed it... The Blue Crosley which came to a stop on McKinley near the north entrances to our driveways about 100 feet past Elm.
I think one or two of the kids were transported to the hospital (probably Bayview) and I recall my dad bandaging up one of the parents. Our mother was just overwhelmed by it all but also so thankful it wasn't Butchie or me lying under that 5000 pound Chrysler. Pat Messinette of Pat & Mike's showed up with their wrecker and took the Chrysler away. Unlike Mike & Walter, (Water Water Everywhere) we really had a Pat & Mike (DiPiero) brother in laws who had the Texaco station on the 5 corners for many years. They were both in the MBFD too. I never learned the outcome of the people in the Chrysler, but plan to look and see if there's a newspaper account of it next time I'm on Long Island. As for the Crosley driver, I'm sure she got a ticket before she drove away in it.
Like the Denning's, the relationship Butchie and me had with the Yodice's was a long and colorful one and could probably fill a book. Like the Denning's they were a large family, but they often would host everyone in the family at once. I think Mary Ann told me one Fourth of July weekend they had 50 people staying there. This was in the three buildings, the main house, guest cottage, and garage that had living quarters above it. The actual nuclear Yodice clan wasn't that big. There was Mr. and Mrs. and Connie, Theresa, Sally Ann, Mary Ann and Anthony. The last three being our ages. Theresa, Mary Ann and Anthony were brother and sisters but they were adopted from a deceased sister of Mrs. Yodice I think. But add in all the cousins uncles and aunts and in laws and you had a crowd...and a lively one at that. Mr. Yodice worked on the docks in New York city and was rumored to be in the shhhh.... mafia. He used to get a new black Caddy every year and we actually saw the fin develop on it up close. I remember Anthony showing us the hidden gas tank in the fin on the their '52 model. Mr. Yodice was a very large man, with a large voice and he sure lived that way.
One day a big flatbed truck carrying a bulldozer pulled up to their house. All the neighbors came out to watch as a man proceeded to level the woods on McKinley, across from their house. Several of them were upset as all the trees came down. For us kids though it was a lot of excitement. What he was doing was making a parking lot for the family. He also put down a slab of cement and erected an above ground swimming pool that was the talk of the neighborhood. Swimming there was short lived though because Sally Ann poked a hole in it and the parking lot was soon flooded. Mr. Yodice took it down after one season and the empty lot became a great place to play baseball though during the spring and fall.
I had a crush on Mary Ann since before I knew
what it even was. We were pretty close as real young kids. I remember
her riding on the crossbar of my first two wheeler when I was
around 7 or 8. It felt great for some reason to be that close
to a girl. I took her to Mike & Walter's fishing station (see
map) They had a small three stool lunch counter and I bought
her a brand new drink that had just come out called Yoo-Hoo. They
served them extra cold with a straw to boot. At 15 cents a bottle
it didn't take long to go through a weekly allowance of 50 cents.
We all got along pretty great and the summers just seemed to be the greatest times of our lives back then. On rainy days we could use the Yodice's cottage as our own private clubhouse. Once we built a fort on top of an old rowboat in the sandpile in the Denning's yard. We took the lumber from "the shack" that was next door. The shack was actually a two story house someone started building but abandoned. Most of the frame was still standing and lots of miscellaneous boards filled the foundation. We built quite a structure on top of the rowboat , with several cabins. It was pretty top heavy though and unsafe with lots of rusty nails sticking out everywhere and the Denning adults made us rip it down. But for a day or two we were pirates and navy guys and who knows what else. Anthony even found a pirate flag to fly on her not to mention he and Butch made a plank that us younger ones had to walk, diving off it into the sandpile. Big doings for little kids. And of course it was Anthony who dared us all to go into " The Mansion"
Sally Ann was the oldest and the tomboy of the three Yodice kids She was very tall and quite athletic. She could do cartwheels better than anyone I ever saw. Anthony was always the wise guy and cut up. He kept us all laughing though. Mary Ann seemed to be thinking creatively a lot (she would dream up some great games) and like I said she was very pretty. If her older teenage sister Theresa was any indication of what Mary Ann was going turn out looking like, the world was in for a treat.
One Sunday summer day Butchie and me were playing alone in our backyard. I don't recall where the other kids were as it was past Sunday mass time. Next door Mr. Yodice was playing cards outdoors with some of his friends and family. All of a sudden it sounded like firecrackers and they all dived under the table as a car sped off. From that point on there were no new Caddy's for the Yodice family and it's said Mr. Yodice retired from his job on the docks. In retrospect and knowing how the mob operates when they want you out of the way, it was probably only a warning, otherwise Butchie and Me would probably be living somewhere with new identities