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By FRANK DESORBO
Baby Boomers after WW II in the 1940’s and early 50’s have had a lively and very memorable childhood. I grew up in Albany in the Blessed Sacrament Parish adjacent to a water filled Reservoir and Colby Park. The neighborhood was filled with two family flats rarely held by absentee landlords and most had at least one child. Our home had one TV, one bathroom and one heavy black phone and living there was five children, two parents and a grandmother. It was a blessing even expected that children went outdoors to play.
Baseball cards were a nickel a pack and they made for many hobbies. Pitching them against the wall or putting them on bike spokes far outweighed the thought of future value. We played a card game ‘War’ on the blue stone sidewalks and the cards were the ante.
The Reservoir had a barbed wired fence that enclosed various black cast iron storm pipes. When we played baseball the barbed wire fence was in left field. If you hit the ball over the fence you were out and faced the challenge to climb the fence to get it. We normally had only one baseball, even if it was taped with the black two sided sticky type. There may have been two bats, normally nailed and taped. We played ‘Three Pop and Seven Grounders’ and that helped us to hit. A batter would toss the ball up and hit it to kids to catch them. When you caught 3 Pops and 7 Grounders you would then become the hitter. It was easier to catch fly balls cleanly but 7 grounder cleanly over the rocky and bumpy field was a feat. When a kid could not hit pop flies, we would yell or tell the hitter to give it up. Worse yet was when they hit it over the barbed wired fence. The movie ‘The Sandlot’ really brought us back in time.
Football season and ample kids made it ideal for touch or tackle football. Not many of us owned footballs so without a football we’d play ‘Head on Tackle.’ One person would stand in the middle of the field and maybe 8 to 10 kids would run toward the goal line. If you tackled one kid, they became your teammate. Now the remaining kids would run to the goal but there would be two tacklers. As the tacklers grew, the runners were few. The last one or two remaining runners would be gang tackled with a big ‘pile on.’ You rarely was hurt only if the ‘pile on’ went to long.
Basketball was played on an outdoor court behind the church. The Colby Park had a ‘Uni-Hoop’ so you became a good shooter since that hoop did not have a backboard. As we grew better we played ‘Two on two’ for dimes. Winning 40-60 cents was a bargain when soda only cost a dime and they sold ‘penny candy.’
We played nickel and dime poker on a nice lawn area under the big trees in the park. The police came by rarely to break up the game. Seems they were happy we were not fighting and we were all in the same place.
Are your grandchildren so lucky today? I know my daughter tells her kids go outside and put down the smart phones or I pads. Our days will never return, but going outside is never out of bounds.