#3 HOME BASE

April 16,2016

Our bungalow was located on Myers Street, otherwise known as “ The Green “, a dead end circle off Tremont Avenue with no traffic , lots of grass, towering horse chestnut trees and children to play with.

The Green was at  the epicenter of Throggs Neck in that it opened on the  Tremont Avenue trolley tracks , about 25 yards from the  trolley track turnaround at Eastern  Boulevard  ( Now Bruckner Boulevard )…  a short walk across Bruckner Blvd  to either St Benedict Church and  Grammar School or  the Interboro Movie theater which would later become my Saturday home….then, just around the corner to the 45th  Precinct of NYPD and my Aunt Lilly’s house, on Revere Avenue,  just opposite the police station..

Across Tremont Avenue from the Green opening was Saint Raymond Cemetery annex which was about a thousand times larger than the small cemetery in front of St Raymond Church, about 3 miles away, where my grandmother and her father are buried.

I have no information relating to how my maternal grandparents ,Lillian Springstead and her husband , Philip Joseph Tenety ( orphan )  crossed paths  and married..  At this very moment I am looking at my wall photo gallery and can see them  standing in my aunt Lilly’s backyard ,  in their sixties,  with his arm around her.  I know she had a very difficult time raising her family while he binge drank his life away, and I know as she was being carried out  ( by hand ) for her final trip to the hospital ( stroke ) my grandmother  told my mother , “ be good to your father “.  Classy lady.

Two years earlier, 1939,   my   grandmother,  moved out of the three room bungalow she had built for herself, so that I ( age 3 ) could have a back and side yard to play in.  She moved back into her husband’s  dark,  tiny  basement apartment where he slept off his binges,  into the  two family rental house , making it a three  family house.  Her  back yard connected to our backyard yard, so I saw her just about every day.  Its strange, because mostly I just remember her happy chatter with my mother at our kitchen table, and  the pranks  she pulled, such as  sabotaging my Lincoln Log Cabin and laughing all the way to the door. She loved to tease me. She died in 1941 when I was five.

As for my grandfather Philip Joseph Tenety,  I now recollect having  had more personal experiences with him than I realized.  I know he respected my mother, his baby of ten, Ruth Margaret, and I know he was grandfatherly to me.  My most vivid memories of him relate to his trips through our connected yards to visit my mother carrying the Daily News and The Daily Mirror ( both 2 cents ).  But I especially remember one Sunday dinner  visit with him carrying a lemon meringue pie.  My father was on a ladder painting the window trim and my grandfather stopped to chat with him. Evidently, my father said something to him which he took  as an insult. He put the pie down and was exiting the yard, when the window my father was painting flew open. Think of Maureen O Hara in the  “Quiet Man” .  The red paint my father had been using was now deposited on my father, the ladder, and the concrete walk below.  Scenes like this didn’t threaten me because I knew before sundown, or at least by tomorrow, my parents would be measuring for drapes, a rug, or whatever.

My grandfather  enjoyed explaining things to me. He would utter “old sayings” and I catalogued them mentally and I would use them again and again at management meetings  when I became President of Majestech, and add a few I came across on my own..

I can also remember him teaching me how to plant a “ Victory Garden “ in our side yard.

And, I  remember the day he died at the corner of the Green and Tremont Avenue.  I was playing four corner tag with my friends and he was on his way to work ( on trolley cars ) ,  walking toward the trolley turnaround when suddenly he stumbled forward, dropped his lunchbox and grabbed onto the street pole with both hands and gradually sunk to his knees, and then the ground.  He was unconscious and the only thing I could think to do was run home ( fifty yards ) to get my mother. She arrived about the same time as a priest, Father Jordan from St Benedict.  Father Jordan must have said something my mother didn’t like ( ” is he drunk ?” ) because my mother  tore into him verbally .  I don’t know any of the details and never asked my mother.  But, I can tell you with my mother, when defending one of her own, or an underdog, or any animal,   there never, ever was a choice between fight or flight.

And, also about my grandfather.  I can remember the day I was chased by some older boys because I made the mistake of telling them I was half Jewish.  I didn’t realize it, but there were a lot of Germans living in Throggs Neck by that time ( we even had German Stadium ), and I can even  remember talk on the checkout line at the A&P that Germany had the world’s best army and would win the war.

Anyway,  when I told these boys I was half  Jewish I wish I had been a little closer to home.  They chased me in and out backyards for about five blocks and right up to the front door of our  bungalow.  My grandfather was sitting on our front porch, but I was in full flight and ran right past him.  Once I was inside, heart pounding, I doubled back to where I could hear what was going on and I remember my grandfather talking to  the boys.  I can remember him saying to them “ Jesus was a Jew, just like this little boy.  Would you chase Jesus ?”  End of story. but I can remember thinking “ Hey, I’m a Jew just like Jesus” . And, I felt special ! . But  I also felt I needed to be a lot more  careful going forward because I didn’t like being the fox in a Throggs Neck fox hunt.  Especially since there were so few ” foxes” living in the area.

 

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