Reading this oral history as told by some who grew up in the Bronx makes one wish to have been born there. After all, as Mary Higgins Clark said, “There are only three places that have a ‘the’ in front of their name: the Vatican, The Hague and the Bronx.” Alda interviewed more than 60 Bronx natives and each has warm, down-to-earth, happy memories of growing up in those few blocks of New York.. And perhaps even more important than their rags to riches stories is the reminder that in America all things are possible.
This author must be a sincere, sympathetic listener for folks have told her all kinds of stories which she shares with us whether it be Carl Reiner’s father who is described as not being a joiner so they weren’t members of a synagogue yet he talked a rabbi into renting a synagogue in a poor neighborhood for Carl’s bar mitzvah - attended only by his father, mother, brother and a group of old bearded strangers.
The aforementioned Mary Higgins Clark lived on the same block as Jake LaMotta and a fellow down the block who was envied because his son had a “snappy roadster.” Turns out the envied fellow was on the “Ten Most Wanted List.”
Whether it be Regis Philbin, Colin Powell, Al Pacino or a host of others including the enterprising young fellow who made pin money by answering the phone in the neighborhood candy store then running down the block to tell someone they had a phone call. (Most people before the war didn’t have phones.) So, the boy would simply pick up the phone with, “Who do you want to talk to?’ Then ascertain the address and apartment number. He says if he was lucky he only had to run down the block and up two flights. Yes, tipping was hoped for - two pennies was a weak tip, a nickel a good tip and a dime was pure gold!
Don’t miss Just Kids From the Bronx - sheer delight!
- Gail Cooke