It was a perfect Tuesday afternoon for dribbling down Trimble Avenue. My buddy Mark lived about six doors down. I would stop at his front porch and yell out, “Hey Markie”. As he came down the steps, I would fake a pass to him and sometimes I didn’t. It was just a little thing we did. We both dribbled and passed down the street to Nash Park where I spent most of my time growing up.
At the end of the block sat a very run-down house that appeared to be vacant. We were convinced that it was haunted. The night before Halloween, which we called Goosey night, the four of us - Mark, Kenney Donnie, and myself - got our nerve up and decided to check it out. (But that’s a story for another time).
I grew up outside playing ball. It was stickball in the street and pick-up basketball games at Nash Park. It had four baseball fields. One for the Little league. One for the Babe Ruth league. One for the American Legion and Double-A teams. One for the softball guys who were an adult team. I would stand behind the backstop amazed at how fast they could pitch underhanded.
Inside an eight-foot chain-link fence was all the usual park stuff. Swings, seesaws, monkey bars, slides, that spin around thing, horseshoe pits. But best of all was the basketball court with its metal chain nets. If you sunk one it didn’t go swish it sounded like shaking a chain.
At some point, they would close the fenced-in part of the park for the winter but back in the day hopping an eight-foot fence wasn’t a problem. We brought show shovels a few times. Not a good idea.
There were always at least six of us so we could do 3 on 3 half-court.
We always played 21. The first team to 21 wins. It was sudden death but we never called it that. Then we would change it up by choosing up different sides. I could pass so I was usually at the point guard position. I would always try to get the rock to my best bud, Whitey, who made these crazy shots like he was playing horse.
As a side note Whitey was a little league pitcher and struck me out most of the time I faced him. Walking home after the game He’d say, “Hey man, sorry for striking you out.”
Mark could rebound. He was our jungle Jim Luscutoff but I was no Bob Cousey. Most of the time we would end up playing against Frankie, Ray, and Steve. I had Frankie since we were the same height. Whitey guarded Ray who could shoot and Mark was on Steve who was the biggest. We played the afternoon away. All the way to supper time.
Then in the blink of an eye, the neighborhood was gone. Dylan sang, “The times are a-changing.” They did and so did I.
“We thought those days would never end my friend. Those were the days.” - Eugene Raskin
Matthew Cammaroto is a first-generation Boomer born in 1946. Now at 74, he's reinventing himself for the umpteenth time by starting a blog about being a Senior and how much fun it is. His goal is to make money in his pajamas. He even got the eBook, How to Make Money in Your Pajamas. So naturally, he stays in his PJs all day. When his wife stepped into his office and he told her what he was doing all she said was, “Why does it smell like dirty socks in here?” Matthew hopes you will enjoy what he does half as much as he enjoys doing it. You can visit his website for some laughs: https://smilingjacksfunzone.com
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