Friday, 20 July 2012
By Ned Smith
Office buildings and apartment houses throughout the city were required to veil windows. Stores, restaurants and bars toned down exterior lighting. Streetlights and traffic signals had their wattage reduced and automobile headlights were hooded.
Sometimes our apartment was completely dark - no lights at until the sun rose in the morning. I thought it was a blackout because of the war but maybe my mom hadn't paid the electric bill.
As soon as the school term ended, we went to Rockaway Beach for the summer. Most evenings, my cousins and I would buy The Daily News and The Daily Mirror for two cents a copy at the newsstand at the Long Island Railroad station as soon as the delivery trucks dropped off the evening papers.
Then we'd sell them for a nickel or usually more to the soldiers and sailors in the bars that lined 116th St. and the Boardwalk.
We were around nine years old but nobody was worried about us "working the bars.” Sometimes we'd do a little exhibition jitterbug dancing and the servicemen and their girls would throw small change on the floor while we danced. The Irish bartenders would chase us out around 10:00PM and we'd go home - tired but with pockets full of nickels, dimes and sometimes even quarters.
We usually slept in our bathing suits and in the morning, we'd have some corn flakes before we headed to the beach to pick up "deposit bottles" that we'd take to the supermarket (usually Safeway). We'd get two cents for the small bottles of Coke, Pepsi and other brands of soda and a nickel each for the quart sizes.
My cousin Billy, who lived with us in two-story bungalow that my mother and her two sisters shared for the summer, had a "sieve" he'd made with screening wire and orange crates. He'd spend the mornings sifting sand on the beaches of 116th Street. He rarely quit at lunch time without at least four or five dollars in change and often a watch or ring or other miscellaneous items that fell out of bathers' pockets when they dressed or undressed.
Almost every morning when we got to the beach, it was littered with hundreds of white "rubbers" that were officially referred to as "prophylactics" at that time or by the most popular brand,name: Trojans.
There weren't many hotels at that time in Rockaway so the beach was the most popular spot for "making out.” I knew that making out was fun but I wasn't quite sure how it was done except that involved a soldier or sailor, a girl and a rubber.
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