Chester, in Delaware County, PA
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Dave Komarnicki's Recollections of Growing Up in Chester
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By David Komarnicki
Reaching the bus stop, I leaned against the YMCA wall and waited, hoping to spot a friend with wheels. Instead my eye framed Buster Robinson standing across the street, straight-arming a pole and waiting for the light to turn green. This uncharacteristic adherence to traffic etiquette stemmed solely from the presence of Officer Kandravi, who was controlling the flow and who could shatter an eardrum with his lip-clenched whistle if moves were made to cross on the red.
who possessed a face and frame along the lines of Gary Cooper, was two years
my senior and a major force in the enlarging circle of my life. It was he
who had mentored me in the craft of shooting marbles, teaching me how to
knuckle down and how to use a steelie to power-drive marbles out of the
ring. In time I’d gotten so
good I’d welcome all comers anytime, anywhere. One
day Buster brought me a brown cotton work glove, cut off the fingers, and
gave it to me so I could practice all winter on frozen ground. Soon
I was wiping out all the neighborhood kids. I
bested them all: Doodles, Ernie Gatta,
I was still leaning against the Y wall when the light changed and Buster crossed.
“What’s up, Davey?” he asked.
“I’m waitin’ for the bus, don't want to be late for school,” I told him.
“You’ll never make it,” he countered. “Next bus gets you there 10 minutes past bell-time. I should know, after three years.” Buster paused, looked down, then said casually, “I'm thinking of catching Louis Armstrong at the Errol Theatre in Philly. Forget school, Davey. Join me.”
As I considered his proposition, my mind flashed back to a similar offer he’d made six years before.
was nine again, sitting on the granite step fronting my house.
Buster waved me across the street and in a throaty whisper laid out a
temptation I couldn’t resist: “Davey, the State
Theater has its grand opening today. Wanna
go with me?” Then he added the
final lure that got the best of my vulnerable conscience: “I’ll pay your
got so excited I accepted the offer without asking Mom if I could go. I’d
never been to a movie theater, since Pop placed movies just below street
fights in the hierarchy of time-wasters, and I wasn’t going to risk
getting my first theater outing nixed before it started.
Buster and I walked together up Seventh to the
State and took our place in a line snaking past the State House Restaurant,
Henry’s Clothing Store, and into the alley past the entrance to Royal
we entered the lobby, and I inhaled a coolness of air I’d never felt
before. We stormed the carpeted stairs to the balcony, where we were greeted
by an usher decked out in an outfit I wouldn’t wear on a dare. He
led us to seats smack up against the projection room wall, where I sat
squirmless, expecting at any moment to be discovered and hauled out by my
ear. When the projector flashed
the first spectrum of overhead light, a new world unfolded before my eyes.
After the first feature, “Dillinger,” came to a satisfying
crime-doesn’t-pay conclusion, Buster leaned over to me, whispering, “I
gotta go, Davey. See you
later.” I nodded and stayed
on, mesmerized, until two shows later—clueless that five hours had passed.
The sky was dark when I
finally walked out, and it wasn’t until I checked the clock at Smith’s
newsstand that I realized it was
. I flew home in a gulping
panic, belatedly realizing my folly in not asking Mom’s permission.
into the house by way of the kitchen, I discovered Mom crying. Looking up,
overjoyed to see me, she rose to her feet, hugged me with all the strength
love could muster, then sat again drying her eyes on her flour-encrusted
apron. Only then did Mom unfold
the seriousness of my plight, relating how, when Pop had come home and found
that I’d failed to show for supper, deep and abiding worry had struck him.
He knew that eating supper was a deeply ingrained habit with me, and
he’d thought maybe the gypsy wagon had kidnapped me and spirited me away
Mom revealed all this to me, I realized that not only had I missed my supper
but I’d also missed serving my Saturday evening paper route, a loss that
would put a crimp in my lunch money for the week.
All that and the anticipated agony of Pop’s strap created
dry-heaves, so I ran upstairs to hide, thinking maybe he’d grow tired
looking and go to bed before he found me. When Pop finally came home from
his fruitless searching, Mom immediately relieved his worry by telling him
that I was safely in the house but he’d have to seek me out for himself. He
finally spotted me under Mom's bed, lodged in the far corner near the wall,
covered by an old army blanket. A
sneaker that I’d failed to cover was my undoing, and he yanked me out by
my leg. Then in very measured
tones he asked me to account for my whereabouts. Knowing
that movies were not fit for discussion in his hearing, I beat around the
bush until the strap came out and it was Davey that got beaten around.
It was this tender memory that I was focusing on when Buster raised the issue of hookying school for another illicit theater outing. Six years hadn’t dimmed the recall of Pop’s well-placed strap and the serious welts it had raised on my hinder parts.
“I couldn't go if I wanted to, Buster,” I stalled. “I’ve only got a half-a-buck, and besides Mr. Wren is hittin’ us with a math test today.”
While Buster rifled his pockets for the necessary coin inventory to stake me, a guy standing within earshot piped up with a side-mouthed comment, “Hey, kid, do you really wanna hooky school?”
I turned and studied the stranger’s face, measuring his sincerity, and I caught something in his voice-tone and eye-focus that spelled serious. He looked like a weathered sailor who had showered in cold salt water for four years. His eyes challenged me, waiting for an answer. Meeting his gaze, I said, “Yeah, I wanna. I really, really wanna.”
“Okay, follow me.”
left my wall-leaning position immediately, and Buster and I followed two
paces behind the stranger, crossing
He handed Smitty a twenty, and the order was filled pronto. Then Daddy Warbucks clamped the Chester Times under his left arm, peeled the seal off his purchased pack, tapped out a cigarette, lit it with his stainless-steel Ronson, then inhaled with such lung-collapsing force that nicotine was vacuumed down to his toes. With smoke peeling a double shoot through his nostrils, he spread the bucks out at my eye level. They looked like a George Washington fan.
“How many ya need, kid?”
I looked at Buster, then back to the bucks—contemplating my golden moment. Then my inner voice whispered four words from the archive of Pop’s Ponderables, words grooved in memory while the turkey platter reached me in passage around the Thanksgiving table. Pop, in his throat-clearing, Ukrainian-vintage baritone, had cautioned, “Don't be hog, Davey.” Now, as I stood gawking at the fan of bucks spread out by Daddy Warbucks, I took Pop’s recollected pronouncement as an omen and stifled my greed impulse. I slowly tweaked four crisp dollar bills from the handheld offering, taking them one by one and in the process letting him know, by smile and eye, that his gift would be remembered. He patted me on the head with his folded paper and grinned. “Enjoy it, kid, you only live once. And, after all, Life’s a Hooky.”
As I watched my benefactor cross Welsh Street and stride past Saint Michael’s Church, I wondered if his generosity had anything to do with the fact that the war in Europe had just ended and he was grateful to have made it home. I silently vowed that someday some other kid would feel the thrill I was feeling right then and that I’d do it to honor Daddy Warbucks.
Buster checked his wristwatch, then said, “The Philly local leaves at . We can make it if we move it, so let's go.” We hustled down Edgmont to the Pennsy Railroad station, turning at Sixth to cut through the underpass. Buster bought tickets and sent me off to dump my telltale school books in a rentable locker. It was like having an older brother who handled the details.
sprang up the first flight of steps two by two, then paused at the first
landing and took the others as casually as seasoned commuters. The morning
crowd didn’t give us a second glance.
Some had their faces buried in newspapers, others paced the white
marble floor as if late for an appointment, and some of the more laid-back
types relaxed along a contoured mahogany bench that ran the length of the
room. We walked out onto the wide, wood-planked northbound platform, anxious
to be among the first to spring aboard.
This was my first Philly trip without one of my real-life big
brothers, and those pre-war memories were sparse and shadowy. In
a peripheral eye scan I noticed the railroad detective leaning on the wall
near the concession stand, turning pages of a Public
Ledger as a ploy while he
nonchalantly read the crowd. If
I’d been alone I’d have had a tough time explaining my solo trip to the
train coasted in, the conductor swung down and bellowed, “All aboard!”,
and commuters moved forward like tilted sand in an upturned hourglass. Mounting
the steel steps, I entered a half-filled car and plopped into an empty seat
next to the window while Buster slid into one across the aisle. The
clips on my window were jammed and I didn’t have any luck unjamming them,
so I had to listen to the repetitious rhythm of steel on steel
through the open window as we snaked along the track toward
was 11. A gang of us were
playing on the B&O railroad tracks
high above Chester Creek when Paul Lukes dared me to cross the railroad
trestle. Crossing first, he
egged me on to follow. I edged
my way halfway across, then looked down between the railroad ties to the
churning water below. My legs
locked in a stilted freeze, and I stood motionless, struck with paralyzing
vertigo, as far off in the distance I heard the shrill warning of an
advancing train. “If I make a
move and my foot slips between the rails,” I thought, “it will be
Doomsville for me.” Fear rose
like a tidal wave as terminal thoughts took over: “Is this all there is
for you, Davey? What’s this
gonna do to the family? Are you really ready to meet your Maker? If
only brother Mickey or John or Joe or Dan were here to get me out of this
mess I’ll never play on the railroad tracks again. … LORD, HELP ME!”
turned to check how much time I had before my termination and, WHOA, instead
I saw Buster stepping lively in the middle of the tracks.
When he finally reached me, he put his hands out, palms up, and said,
“Easy, Davey. Don’t
panic.” Hoisting me
piggyback, he sprinted across the trestle, touching down on each spaced
railroad tie, then dropped me on the slanted embankment seconds before the
freight train screeched its ominous death wail in passing. I
lay on my belly, stunned and shivering, watching through narrow eye slits as
the boxcars rolled on and on.
the train reached
detraining, I followed Buster as he hustled through the impressive
1920s-vintage station. Most of
the underground shops were still closed, dimly lit and fronted with meshed
steel gates. We finally reached a door that opened to an outside stairwell.
Opening the door, we were greeted with a near knockout blow to the
nose. The steps were impregnated
with urine, sprayed on them by a legion of bladder-loaded unfortunates, who
apparently sought regular nocturnal relief on this particular stairway. I
was no stranger myself to nocturnal emergencies.
I remembered wetting the bed one subzero winter night in our home on
weather was brisk and breezy when Buster and I emerged into the sunlight,
and a steady stream of traffic was circling the
wondered if brother Mickey would plant a kiss like that on his girl,
we exited the courtyard onto Market East, I looked up to the second-floor
windows across the street and noticed a window washer strapped in space,
executing his strokes like a true pro, no wasted motion.
Above his extended squeegee, a major sign was draped.
It extended across two windows and announced, “ALLINGER’S
felt alive to the street life. Pop
had met Mom here, and they’d gotten married in St. Mary’s Church just a
couple of miles away. My sister
Mary had been born on
east on Market, I cataloged everything that moved, almost as if I were a
country boy making my first trip to the
eyes shifted to a pretzel hawker. His
hands were buried in his mustard-stained apron, and he wore an ear-flapped
hat buttoned beneath a receding chin. He
sported an ancient leather jacket, baggy pants, and unlaced combat boots,
and a cigarette dangled from his narrow-lipped mouth.
Just then a marine in parade dress strode by, causing the pretzel
hawker to stop in mid pitch. He
seemed suddenly frozen in thought, as if the sight of the marine conjured up
battle scenes from World War I, perhaps memory snapshots of himself
surviving a mustard gas battle with German troops while standing ankle deep
in trench mud. It seemed ironic
that now he was standing on a
A girl walking five paces ahead of us caught my eye, as she tried to restrain a bulldog on a leash. Her jet-black hair reached to her waist, and it was dancing in the wind. She wore Levi’s, cut above the knees, and moved with a ballerina’s grace. I doubled my stride to catch a glimpse of her face, curious to see if it matched up to the rest of her. Just then two ancient nuns, approaching life’s final curtain, looked my way. They smiled knowingly at me, seeming to read my thoughts, and I tripped over a shoeshine box straddled by a kid snapping a rag on the propped shoe of a Stetson-crowned gentleman. Ah, her face would remain a mystery for life!
light flicked green, a married couple crossed
We arrived at the theatre in time to watch a line form behind us and ultimately snake around the corner. It was when we reached the ticket window. Minutes later we stepped onto the plush red carpet, then headed down the long, sloping aisle toward empty seats waiting for us in the second row. Perfect, perfect, perfect—full view of the stage. I looked around – this was obviously no popcorn crowd, and I wouldn’t be finding any gum planted under the seats.
“That stage is wider than my house and Sonny Lynch’s next door put together,” I observed to Buster.
The lights dimmed, the stage curtains parted, and the brass blasted the packed house. I was reeled in like a hooked fish when Louie walked on and stood center stage, flashing his full-face grin. With a loose handkerchief dangling from his cornet hand, he began tapping his foot to the syncopated rhythm, getting ready to swing his horn from hip to lip and orchestrate the roller coaster rhythm we’d all come to ride. The band opened on an upbeat rendition of “Mack the Knife,” and Louie leaned into the microphone, graveling the lyric with effortless ease.
From my second-row vantage point, I could feel the heat of the overhead stage lights and see the sweat beads already rippling down Louie’s brow as he glided into his second number, his version of “One O’Clock Jump.” His eyes bulged and sparkled with the flush of creative joy as he worked his horn. I saw him scanning the crowd for eye-contact, and then suddenly I felt his eyes catch mine and I was pulled totally into Satchmo’s Sanctum. Without pause he segued into “Ain’t Misbehavin’/I’m Savin’ My Love for You,” which relaxed the crowd from the forward-lean they’d assumed during the last number.
I’d read about Louie in a fan magazine. At 45 he was exactly three times as old as I was. He’d had 30 more years of living, and he’d filled them with endless cycles of improvised jazz. As Louis ran up the scale to a neck-bulging octave that would arouse dog howls if we were outside, he seemed to go off into a detached reverie. I let my mind take off, too, thinking about some of the similarities in our lives.
what I’d read, he’d started out pretty much the same as me—dirt-poor
but inventive. At age 12 our
similarities had converged but had different results.
He’d fired a gun at a New Year’s celebration and had been
rewarded with two years of reform school.
I’d helped my brother George shoot out a streetlight with a Red
Rider BB gun, and had gone to bed. Louis’
two-year stint in reform school gave him the opportunity to learn the
cornet, and then he was released at 14 to pursue
The sentimental journey meandered on to “I’m Gonna Buy a Paper Doll That I Can Call My Own,” and when that was finished Louis paused to hit the spittle-release button, wiping his cornet clean with his dangling handkerchief. He then hypnotized the crowd with “Up the Lazy River by the Old Millstream.” Like a lot of true stars, Louis seemed to take delight in sharing the spotlight with his orchestra. He turned after each number to acknowledge them, and as the numbers unfolded he featured each instrument in solo: clarinet, piano, guitar, drums, and even the trumpet.
the orchestra floated the crowd away with a final exclamation mark –
launching into “Grab your coat and get your hat/Leave your worries on the
doorstep/Life can be so sweet/
that high note the curtain descended. The
audience responded with ear-splitting whistles and raucous catcalls for an
encore, but the curtain stayed down. Louis
was spent, and in truth I was pretty drained myself.
It was an awakening. for a 15-year-old kid old kid from
sat for a while, reflecting on the carnival feeling of the day as the crowd
inched up the aisle. Buster,
always a lead dog, tapped my arm and said, “Let’s go.
I got a surprise for you.” Once
outside, he picked up the pace as we walked back towards City Hall.
We wove an inside-outside pattern
across cobblestone streets,
scanning buildings ,
packed trolleys, trucks spewing diesel
fuel into the face of a mounted policeman, cabs moving at the speed of tips,
and all along the way people—people going places, yakking with
friends, laughing out loud. Two
Italians arguing with hand motions. Shoppers
checking out window displays. Street
hucksters trying to steer people into their store.
Knicker-clad kids; old geezers walking their mile workout; baby
carriages pushed along by nannies.
A man skinny as a flute walking beside a woman the size of a
bass fiddle. A dapper man
wearing spats and holding onto old times; another, no doubt in the heave of
hard times, wearing a sandwich board announcing the best beef and ale in
town. A midget walking along the
curb, seeming wary that someone might fall on
him. A strutter practicing his
moves for the New Year’s Mummer’s Parade.
A crippled man dragging a
leg. A kid sporting brand-new
Joe Lapchick sneakers. A
one-armed soldier with his sleeve pinned to his shoulder. Two sailors with a
360 view of things. A
marine just walking, eyes straight ahead as if on duty guarding the unknown
soldier. (Man, did I love his
uniform!) The whole tossed salad
of humanity was there, walking up and down
worked our way up to
We finally got to the front of the line, where a lady-cashier stood waiting, rubber-tipped fingers poised for action. Buster laid a dollar bill on the marble counter in front of her, and she expertly shot 20 five-cent pieces forward through channeled slots. I dug into my pocket for one of Daddy Warbuck’s remaining bills, put it down on the counter, and scooped up the 20 nickels that came my way. “They call those ladies ‘nickel-throwers,’” Buster whispered to me as we walked away with our coins.
I followed Buster to a wall of shoebox-sized windows, behind which rested choices of the day, ready for inserted nickels to spring them. I opted for a chicken pot pie, a seven-nickel choice. I hit the button, the window tilted up, and my hand went in and snagged my aromatic selection. Next an apple pie, three nickels. The place was packed, but we finally found seats at a table occupied by a gent wearing a frayed Stetson. He was a true isolationist, choosing to remain anonymous behind a vertically creased Inquirer, morning edition. He periodically reached finger and thumb around the printed page and found the handle on his coffee cup. After sipping it lightly, without comment or concern, he returned cup to saucer perfectly. At the table to our left was a lady of more than middle age, pinning her broccoli to her plate with a fork, then cutting the stem three times before lifting it to her quivering lip. I halted my observations long enough to dispense with my victuals while Buster wolfed down his meatloaf, gravy-laden mashed potatoes, side order of noodles, and buttered Kaiser roll.
Despite the heavy foot traffic along the line of cash-hungry windows, the pink marble floor sparkled. Buster grabbed my arm just as I took my last bite of cinnamon-scented apple pie. “Just enough time to catch the Mosconi match,” he said with a grin.
15 I’d already felt the lure of the cue stick, and the name of Willie
Mosconi flashed in my head with neon lights.
Buster and I got to
referee silenced the crowd with a commanding voice, signifying the gravity
of this officially sanctioned match between two of
I leaned forward in silent awe, elbows propped on my knees, chin supported by upturned palms, as Willie moved from shot to called shot without frown or concern until he’d sunk 150 balls without missing. The game ended, 150-0. Willie exchanged a gentlemanly handshake with his Italian counterpart, Mr. Ponzi, unscrewed his two-piece cue, slid it into a black case, and then moved over to greet his line-up of well-wishers. I sat pondering whether I should walk up, stick out my hand, and feel the press of the most talented stroke in the world. But I resisted the urge, sitting in dumbstruck admiration until he finished acknowledging his fans and left with the locals who no doubt knew him. As Buster led the way toward the exit, I let the present historic moment slide into past imperfect, but vowed that someday—don’t know where, don’t know when—Willie and I would meet in a match in a race to 150. Lost in this lofty thought, I tripped on the top step in descent. Once again coming to my rescue, Buster broke my forward fall down two flights by grabbing the rail as I slammed into his leg.
As we waited for the light to change, I glanced up at City Hall and noticed that the clock had clicked to . While Buster checked the train schedule he’d stuffed in his pocket, I transitioned from the glow of watching Mosconi execute total cue ball control to the reality of traffic and street cacophony.
“We’ve got an hour and a half till train time, Dave,” Buster said. “Let’s walk up the Parkway.”
I agreed readily, though I didn't know what he meant, that grand avenue not yet being a part of my limited sophomore experience. As we crossed onto the wide concourse surrounding City Hall, we heard an eerie shrill coming from the east sidewalk. Men decked out in plaid kilts and woolen knee high socks were standing tall and proud, squeezing kidney-shaped bags under their arms. The wailing Gaelic sounds lodged in my psych, a far cry from Louie’s rhythm and blues. The last squeeze of the pipes reached my ears as we moved through the arched inner court.
then angled to the tree-lined parkway, walked to
As I sat in silent respect for the legacy left for us, Buster broke from his own reveries and said, “Gotta go, Davey. The train leaves in 20 minutes.”
loped across 18th, moving with purpose towards
As my sneakered feet touched down on the splintered wooden platform, Buster said, “Thanks for joining me, Davey. Let’s hooky again sometime.”
“Anytime, Buster,” I agreed eagerly. “Maybe next Friday. We’ll call it a field trip and check out everything on the Parkway.”
took off running down Sixth to his shoebox of a house on
I gagged and crossed the street to join the bearer of bad news. Following my brother up the steps and into the lobby, I watched him flash his membership card at Mr. Wilson, who touched a buzzer springing the locker room door. As George disappeared, giving me a last unsympathetic glance, my thoughts shifted from remembered pleasure to anticipated pain. How now to explain the unexplainable to Mom? How now, Davey?
I trudged two flights to the recreation room, where I sat rationalizing my explanation to Mom's unavoidable question. Not finding one, I shot a couple of racks of 8-ball with Fred Parker. Before pocketing the 8-ball, I realized I was behind it – and plumbed the depths of my 15 year-old brain for some kind of answer, any kind of answer. Then it came to me!
I left for home, ready to face the music— although definitely not the kind I’d heard that morning at the Errol. As I hit the street, I saw Officer Kandravi rumbling down Edgmont on a motorcycle. It was approaching when I opened the front door and eased down the hallway through two adjoining rooms to the kitchen, where Mom stood at the kitchen counter busying herself with pots and dishes. I flashed my usual greeting, kissed her left temple (my favorite spot), and waited for the big question. But first came a gentle query as to whether I was hungry and wanted something to eat. “I'll make a meatloaf sandwich, Mom, if it’s still in the fridge.”
She nodded, then looked at me with her penetrating soft brown eyes and asked, “Where did you go today, Davey? The truant officer came by asking why you missed school.”
My answer was clear and I thought convincing: “We took a field trip into Philly today, Mom. Maybe the attendance records got loused up, and the principal's office didn't know.”
gazed at me levelly and then turned to grind the lid off a can of
The evening events flowed as smoothly as Louie Armstrong's rendition of “Blueberry Hill.” After coffee and a slab of Boston cream pie at the Boyd Diner with John Samara, Tony Minetti, and Jimmy Orobona, I headed home happier than Frank Sinatra singing “When I Fall in Love.”
In a flush of love, perhaps tinged with a little hint of bribery, I used some of Daddy Warbuck’s remaining largesse to buy Mom a pint of Breyer’s peach ice cream on the way. After kissing her goodnight, I mounted the shoulder-wide stairwell to my third-floor room. I slid between freshly washed sheets and clicked the light off, inviting dancing shadow patterns on the far wall, random patterns reflected by the mesh-screened streetlight. I listened as trolleys hissed an electrical cackle from the overhead line. Listened as the off-key upright at the Eagle Bar eased the locals into a happy stupor, leading them in raucous, raised-mug songs in praise of the war’s end. All was well again in the Western world. Brother Mickey, brother John, brother Joe, brother Dan, and handsome Richard, courter and winner of the lovely hand of dear sister Victoria, all—Praise The LORD!—would be coming home again soon.
I drowsed, but real sleep would not come. Pasted behind my closed eyelids were Mom's eyes staring into the inner sanctum of my soul—pasted there because I’d looked into those eyes earlier today and fibbed. I’d renamed a hooky a field trip. Mom’s eyes remained long after the Eagle Bar closed and long after the last trolley passed my window into town.
Finally I drifted into a twilight zone and found myself in a sort of celestial night court. There a black-robed judge appeared, high and lifted up. I stood in the docket before the bench, raised my right hand, and touched the Bible with my left. When asked how I pleaded, I loudly stated, “Guilty, Your Honor, guilty with extenuating circumstances. And if I may, Your Honor, I'd like to explain those circumstances.”
“Say on,” said the judge. “Take your time, David. We have all night if need be. This is a serious offense you’ve committed, an offense against God, motherhood, and all that will follow in your lifetime.”
so I told my story of the day, told every detail as it came to me, told it
with all the fervor and passion my narrow-gauged
mental track could muster. Finished,
I sat down—ready to take what was coming.
But then I had an afterthought and sprang back to my feet: “Your
Honor, you were a kid once. I
saw the sparkle in your eye when I talked about Buster saving my life, and
when I told about my walk down
I looked earnestly at the judge and saw that he was listening to me intently. “I learned this, too, Your Honor. I learned that, despite all I enjoyed today, it’s wrong to fib to my mom, especially when she looks into my soul with believing eyes. Yes, Your Honor, I plead guilty and I also plead for forgiveness for fibbin’ into the face of innocence and a mother’s trust. I rest my case.”
I sat focused on the judge’s face. He was staring up at the chalk-white embellishments on the courtroom ceiling, but I had the feeling he was looking into his childhood memory room. In time, the gavel came down heavy. The judge, looking me straight in the eye, said “This court finds you guilty as charged. Your punishment is as follows: You must move the ashes from cellar to curb every Wednesday from now till winter commences and, as earnings permit, buy your Mom a pint of hand-packed peach ice cream on Ash Night, directly after washing your hands. This court is adjourned.”
Yes, yes, yes. I carried out the ashes every Wednesday until the first onslaught of winter, bought the hand-packed pint of peach from newspaper earnings every Wednesday at Charlie Peck’s across the street, and henceforth told Mom the truth in response to all questions tendered. I’ll admit I had a slight lapse in conduct the following Monday when I ice-picked the rear tire of the truant officer’s car parked in front of the post office at Fifth and Edgmont, but I felt this was just retribution for his attempt at forced entry when Mom had struggled to stave him off. Luckily the flat tire inquiry never came to our door, but the truant officer continued to pay regular visits until Paul and Jim graduated.
I did play Willie Mosconi in exhibition years later in
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This page last updated 10/10/07