I grew up in the Bronx in the 50’s and 60’s. What can I tell you–IT WAS GREAT! How did it influence my writing of “The Priest and The Peaches”? Simple—the setting for the book is the Bronx and it was my world as a kid, a world that never leaves anyone no matter where you grew up.
So, as I write this, what’s the first thing I remember. The candy stores. They seemed to be everywhere. Right down the block from our building was “Harry’s Candy Store”. Two blocks east on Morris Ave. was “Red’s”. Two blocks west up the hill on Sheridan Ave. was “Raines”. Down the block from Raines was “Loddies”. There was another one on 165th St. Can’t remember the name. These were candy stores all within short walking distances from where we lived. And candy stores sold more than candy. Yes sir, they sold all sorts of stuff we kids could not live without. Besides candy there was bubble gum, baseball cards, comic books, candy buttons, model airplanes, school supplies like erasers and pencils and bottles of Waterman’s Ink so we could fill our fountain pens. They had skate keys (yup, we had to tighten clamps onto the soles of our shoes to keep the skates on) and replacement skate wheels (our skates had metal wheels that wore out on the sidewalks). And, of course, candy stores supplied us with the greatest rubber ball ever made, the Spalding. I don’t know if the game of stick-ball would have ever survived without the Spalding. Most of them also had soda fountains where you could get an egg-cream (a NY original) or a vanilla coke or a cherry coke or an ice cream cone or a hamburger. Finally, we cannot forget the newspapers. Many of the neighborhood men would be outside a candy store around 8 p.m. waiting for the one star edition of the NY Daily News or The Daily Mirror. This was the next day’s news an evening early and it never made any sense to me how they knew what was going to happen tomorrow. Hey, what did I know. I was a kid. If you waited until morning the three or four star edition would be available.
We kids would get home from school around 3 p.m. and within ten minutes we were changed into our “play” clothes and back outside. Stickball, curb-ball, stoop-ball, roller skating, ring-a-leevio, Johnny-on-the-pony, we played something all the time. We also wandered all around the neighborhood and I guess our folks did not worry about where we were unless we did not arrive home at 5:30 for supper. It was amazing how the street always seemed to empty around that time. We all knew better.
You know, I could really “run” with this. It is conjuring up memories from “back in the day”. So I had better stop. To answer the question, How did growing up in the Bronx influence my writing of the book? , well, all I can say is—“Whut, are you kiddin me? Fuhgedabotit.”