Friday, April 14, 2017

"Gang Way!"

You know you’re old when you remember being stuck inside a discarded locked refrigerator.

In 1963, the thrown-out fridge with an intact door and functional handle was on the sidewalk in front of the Sullivan McNamara house on 83rd Street. We wanted to see how many kids could get in there and still lock it. After we took the metal trays out, four guys did fit inside when everyone pulled their stomachs in. You only played this game with close friends.

Everyone understood this was fun only if the door reopened quickly. We knew that a few years back on 80th Street, kids were locked in a fridge and when the guys on the outside tried to open it, the door handle broke off and the kids were trapped (Parents like to repeat horror stories). A Con Ed worker was watching the action from his hole in the street. He grabbed a sledge hammer and gave the side of the refrigerator a few good whacks. The door popped open, the kids got out but spent the rest of the day with the shakes.

Old refrigerators provided hours of pleasure, but new ones did too, or at least the boxes they came in did. The fridge box was huge, taller than any kid and made of sturdy heavy-duty cardboard. There were three games.

When the box was intact, a guy would get in and the guys on the outside would rattle the box and knock it over a few times, then each guy would take a turn getting in and slammed around. It was preferable not to go last, since you probably pissed someone off for playing too rough and they were looking to get even. This game would eventually knock out the bottom of the box.

When the bottom fell out, the box became a tank. We turned it on its side, and as many kids as possible would crawl in it and we’d begin to roll down the street, screaming, “Gang way! Gang way! Coming Through!” No one could see what was in front of them. Most of the time, people cleared the sidewalk and gave us room. We rolled over my brother Rory once, but he had on double winter clothes and hardly felt a thing. After a few trips up and down the block the tank would blow a gasket and tear.

We no longer had a cylinder, just a long wide strip of cardboard that was perfect for a sliding pond down the longer stoops in the neighborhood. The closest tall stoops were on the east side of York Avenue between 85th Street and 86th Street. We dragged the box over to one of those babies and played until the box blew its last breath.

If you like my work check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." Available at Logos Book Store or online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

art by Joe Dettmore

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