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Growing Up in Frankford Part 8

Continuation of Lyle (Corky) Larson remembers:


You couldn’t buy one at the store because all of them were hand made by us kids. The materials needed to build one of these beauties consisted of a three or four-foot  piece of 2X4 lumber and a discarded orange crate. Add one, old steel wheeled street skate taken apart, which now gives you two sets of wheels. Nail a set of wheels to  each end of the 2X4 and turn it over and nail the orange create to one end of it with the open part facing toward the other end. Next, make yourself a set of handlebars.  Take two short pieces of lumber and nail them to the top of the create forming a “V” with the pointed end facing toward the closed end of the create, tack  some plastic streamers at each end of the bars. Next step was to decorate the sides of the box with bottle- caps. You can spell out your name or make different  designs. Take two empty soup cans and nail them to the front and you now have a set of headlights. We used these to get all over the neighborhood, whizzing down  hills and leaning into the turns to keep from turning over. If your buddy didn’t have a scooter, that was OK because he could sit inside the crate while you did the  scooting. Each one of these scooters was unique as they portrayed the individual who constructed it. Some kids even made “Low-Riders” by using a longer 2X4 and it would sag in the middle almost touching the ground. We were more than happy to oblige when mom asked us to go to the store for her, for we now had “CARGO” for  our scooter. It was not an unusual sight to see a band of kids each with one of their legs “pumping” the street with a “Keds” sneaker at the end of that leg burning up  the street in a big rush to go nowhere. Some Saturdays you could find us at the top of the Wakeling St. hill getting ready for the big race of the day.

Bottle Caps

This is kind of like the boy with a stick and a hoop; it just takes a little imagination to make a game out of anything. We would take the cap from a soda bottle and fill it  with melted wax. Most times this was from mom‟s candles when she wasn‟t looking. We had games both with and without wax. We also spent a lot of time smoothing  the bottom of the caps against the concrete to make them slide better. We then met on the street or sidewalk with a piece of chalk and drew our playing field. A large  square was drawn, with numbered boxes at the corners and the middle of each side. In the middle of the square a skull and cross bones was drawn. The object of the  game was to flick the bottle cap from one end of the square into each of the numbered boxes. The first person to do so was declared the winner. If a bottle cap  happened to land on any part of the skull and cross bones, that person was out of the game. Some of the grown-ups used them as chips while playing cards, they had a value of one penny each. Games played around the neighborhood in the streets and alleys were some strange derivatives of Baseball called Stickball, Hose-ball,  Wallball, Half-ball, Step-ball and Wire-ball. Ya just gotta live in the city to experience these games. Bats, when required for a game, were old broomsticks. Believe me, hitting anything as small as a tennis ball with a broomstick is no easy task. In those days, one of the types of balls that could be purchased in stores was called a  „pimple ball‟. This was probably an unofficial name but its the only one I recall. It was a white rubber ball with bumps of about 1/8″ diameter all around it. Hence, the  name „pimple-ball‟. These were the balls eventually used for Half-ball; once they developed a hole in them and lost their air, they were cut in half at the middle to  make two half-balls. We started recycling a long time before it became fashionable. To celebrate the 4th of July holiday, all of the kids in the neighborhood used to decorate our wagons, scooters and bikes with red, white and blue crepe paper, and ride them around the block in a mock parade. Another thing we did to our bikes  was to tie balloons in a position near the wheels so the spokes would rub against them and make a noise similar to a motorcycle. We would also tape small American  Flags to our handlebars.

Shine for a Dime

One year for Christmas I got my very own shoeshine box. It was an oblong  wooden box with four small legs and piece of wood on top slanted upward and shaped like  a shoe with an indentation for the heal of a shoe to rest on. I was so proud, I couldn‟t wait to start practicing. I got some black paint and on the side of the box, I  carefully painted “SHINE 10 CENTS”. I got an old belt from who knows where and tacked it to the front and back of the box so I could sling it over my shoulder to  carry it. I was instantly “In Business”. Can you believe it? A shine for ten cents, and I knew all the best places to look for customers. I would go to the “El” Stops at  Frankford Ave. and Pratt St. If business was slow there I would go to the Margaret St. El stop and wait at the bottom of the steps for the people who were coming home  rom work. I would call out “Shine, only a dime”. And sure enough someone would take me up on it. The result would always be the same; they would always give me a tip afterward. This meant “Movie Money for the next Saturday.

To be continued…