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Over 60...and Getting Younger: May 7, 2010

My Proudest Moment

It was Halloween. The year was 1953.

I was studying calculus in my apartment in the East Bronx on the high ground floor. It was above Sid’s Candy Store. Sid’s was a noisy neighborhood hangout for the unemployed and the indigent.

The streets were gripped in Halloween fever. Kids ran back and forth decorating each other with multicolored shades of chalk. I was trying to study, but the street sounds captured my weak attention span. My sister Sandy, (8 years my junior) was the most flagrant offender and her voice and screams carried above all the others. She was the loudest.

My father’s dry goods store was around the corner. Every weekday he would come upstairs for his lunch at 12 p.m. He would listen to Helen Trent and My Gal Sal and Douglas Edwards on the world news. It was a routine.

On this particular day as he rounded the corner of Bryant Avenue and 174th Street, he heard my sister’s screams and he saw her discolored arm being twisted by a boy. He rushed to her side and pushed the boy away from his daughter.

From out of Sid’s Candy Store came Block, an unemployed truck driver. He was a broad-backed bully and powerfully built, with a potbelly to finish the picture. He lashed out at my father saying, “Why did you push that boy? Leave him alone!” My father tried to explain, but Block just pushed himself further into my father’s face. He was being intrusive and aggressive.

I saw and heard everything from my window. I was wearing dungarees, a T-shirt and sneakers. I sprang downstairs and positioned myself between Block and my father. “Don’t push my father!” were my first words.

Block was not impressed with this skinny, college kid who was now standing in front of him. “Don’t push my father!” I repeated. Block smirked and spoke toughly but no blows were thrown. In a moment the confrontation was defused. My father and I went upstairs and he turned the Emerson Radio to CBS, his favorite station.

The incident was all over, but my sister was chastised for screaming and over-reacting. As for me, it was a knee-jerk reaction and I was proud of my reaction.

Our parents give us so much and we rarely have a chance to repay them. This event comes back to me from time to time. It was and is one of my proudest moments.