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Friday, 20 July 2012

Boardwalk Blackout

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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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I'm always a little jealous of boys and all the fun they had as they grew up, while many of us girls had to stay home and help mother do the canning or the plucking of chicken feathers for pillows. But memories are wonderful for they keep us entertained in our old age.

Johna, I was a very mischievous girl. I was worse than Ned. Today I would probably be called, along with my playmates,a juvenile delinquent,although none of us was really one. I grew up in a good Christian, loving family.Back then I believe folks were a little more tolerant of childhood pranks, etc.

Hi Ned,

Nice trip down Memory Lane!

I remember going to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City with my Dad during the war and all the lights along the boardwalk were painted black on the ocean side so submarines couldn't see the city. On the Boardwalk side they were very dim and my brother always said that we should drink a glass of carrot juice before we went out at night.

If I knew then that they were the good old days, I would have enjoyed them more!

You and your cousins were ingenious little fellows. Did you all grow up to be CEO's or at least financiers?

I envy the ambition those young boys had. Today I can't even get my youngest to ride around a pick up pop cans to turn in. I guess it doesn't make enough for the effort, but I sense a lack of ambition to do it. I wonder if this has to do with your generation being so close to the Depression. Thanks for a great piece.

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