I watch TV from time to time to catch up on the news of the world. Recently I have lost interest in television for a variety of reason I not particularly interested in discussing. 80% of channels on cable are useless and boring. Having no TV is mostly ok but at times I miss it. One day while watching TV, a commercial promoting teaching a child to be honest. The boy, at the age of 6, ripped off a model airplane from a local store. The father had the boy, rightfully, return the airplane back and apologize to the owner. The owner greeted the incident with a smile for the boy who was being honest. This is the proper way to teach a child rather than becoming mad and yelling at the child for something that he wanted but apparently afraid to ask for. Maybe the boy was petrified to ask for the toy as history may indicate. The parent was dressed to appear to be able to afford such a small gift. These small gifts can and will leave a memory that will last a life time, think of your memories of minor yet rewarding incidents.
At the age of 6 I was living in the Prospect Hill Projects located in Waltham Massachusetts. At that time the projects were all I knew and I knew more than most kids twice my age, some good some bad. On occasion we (the group that I hung with all project kids) would venture out side the walls of the project fence to a local store (I forget the name but it was located next to A&P Supermarket). Bernie who is approximately 3 years older than most of us, led the group by default (his age gave him seniority). “Hay lets head for the store to pick up some things.” The things were always the same, candy, cigarettes, rubber bands and (yes) hairpins. Keeping in mind we were only 6 years of age. Those of you who have children in this age bracket try to in vision them doing this, I have a son and could never imagine him doing what I have done (the enviourement in which you live in can and will have a dramatic affect on you). We did not devise a plan on who would be located where when we entered the store or positions. We simply knew what to do. Bernie would normally be the “pick” but on occasion this would change by direction of a clerk who would start to ask questions to some one else. When Bernie was the “pick” he would fire up a conversation with the closest clerk in order to distract her from our positions. It work each and every time. In the sixties and early seventies cigarettes were located out in front of the counter and not behind the counter. They were easy pickings. Candy, always on the list, was second to be heisted the prime targets were root bear barrels and hot balls. Yes hairpins and rubber bands were third. This is referred to as the Old lady style. The u shaped hairpin made of thin steel. The hairpins fit nicely around the rubber bands and we used them as projectiles against cars. All this thieving was accomplished inside three minuets, we were that good. With pockets full of dividable goods we would head out of the store and back to common ground. Cigarettes use to be located in front of the counter and were easy for the taking if you had a good story to tell the clerk. One to two packs each, which totaled a large number. Candy removed by the hand full later to be divided up somewhat equally. Bernie always managed to end up with more than the rest of us. The strong arm of the group, we never complained. We never giggled and act like it was a big deal like we have never done it before. Back in those days when you were poor you had nothing but one pair of cheap sneaks and the privileged had a bicycle. Cigarettes are now located behind the counter, starting with this store which was most likely one of the first to move the cigs for we removed them illegally in large numbers. The tally at the end of the night was far from where it should have been. Between us under 10 year olds and the teenage crowd heisted the A&P (which is long gone bankrupted) for steaks and other goodies used for barbeques later in the evening fueled by alcohol and lord knows what else. The store we heisted later required (with a posted sign) that children under the age of 15 be accompanied by adults. This ruined some of our weekends for a short time there after.
Back to the hairpins. Hairpins and rubber bands are a volatile combination. Dividing these up somewhat equally we would head for the local bushes. When cars would pass we opened fired…dink dink dink of the steel panels of cars and trucks. On occasion brakes would lock up and screeching of tires rang out. Followed by reverse lights coming on. The folks in the cars never got out to chase us for we were long gone by that time. This was one of our greatest adventures on weekends.
As far as cigarettes go we never really inhaled them and at the time cigarettes were in vogue (I wish I never started smoking). Simple puffs on them, sell them or trade them off for firecrackers. I don’t believe we knew how to inhale them. I look at my son today and can never picture him even remotely doing this in any way, remember the enviourment in which we live in can have a dramatic affect on you. My mother to this day doesn’t like the idea of the fact that my 2 brothers and me grew up in the projects but interestingly some the funniest stories she tells come directly from the project error of our life. This story telling would normally come around chrismess time after 2 glasses of wine. One that is told from year to year is the one of the stolen radio from her car. A 1973 Chevy Nova. The radio was stolen the night before and my mother phoned the local police to assist the desk Sargent in the investigation of the stolen radio. After explaining the situation the desk Sargent responded “can’t you people handle this” referring to neighbors. Ask any retired cop from this era and they will confirm that the police never went inside the projects with out massive back ups. Apparently it was a rough place to venture, I never seen it. Living there was no concern about safety or walking around the projects as long as you were from there. If you weren’t from there you better have a good reason to be there and if it was trouble you were looking for it was trouble you found. Many were sent home with there tail between their legs. Looking back I do not recall ever seeing some one who was not from there.
Back to Brandeis. Going to Brandeis was a blast. The students took us everywhere by bus car or by foot. We rarely stayed put at the school we simple were too much to handle. At one time in my life I knew just about every corner of that Campus. Hanging out around students was interesting yet we were probably a pain in the butt to them for we had plenty of questions to ask of them. Makes it difficult to study when you have a runny nose kid 2 feet from you asking non-stop questions. The Gold fishpond located at near the entrance to the school has plenty of Gold fish. They are trapped in a small man made circle of stone and always hungry. You could cast to one side of the pond with a good cast of the fishing rod. The fish were easy pickings. A large in circumference security guard would chase us from time to time but never made it past 20 yards in foot pursuit. He received plenty of heckling while attempting to chase us. One of the most memorable things of Bradeis is the over night camping we did on rear occasions.
One of the and probably the most biggest tree forts you would have come across we built. Located a good 30 feet in the air with plenty of head room between the fort and the ground to cause serious damage if one fell. It was 3 stories high and took a week for the maintenance department of Waltham to disassemble it. It was amazing that we were left alone to build it in the first place.
My friends and me backed each other up in the project right or wrong the details of any conflict would be worked out later. We were project kids and viewed by many as being out castes because we never had money. In those days being poor was a crime and we were felons. If you picked on one us you picked on all of us. We surrounded you and made you very aware that you were not going to win. We were left alone most of the time by using this tactic and very rarely got in a fight.
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