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December 26, 1986 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-12-26

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hy I
even entered into that world of
dreams and make believe never
crossed my mind. It began as a stroll
through the mall and I then found
myself, of all places, in a toy store.
Youngsters wandered amongst the
glitz and glitter of exotic dolls, fig-
ures programmed to move in all di-
rections, assorted games and a
three-wheel bike marked down to
$79. Everything seemed to be theirs
for the asking, the begging, or even
the demanding.
The glare of the lights made me
dizzy. I left and sat on the nearest
bench. •
My mind traveled backward six
decades. I was seven once again, It
was summertime, and, as Momma
always put it, time to go out and
play. "But not in the alley," she
Now to me the alley was where
the excitement took place. After all,
bouncing the ball against wood or
stone steps, or playing catch with
my friend Sammy almost always be-
came a bore.
Our house was on a long block
and behind it was the alley, a dirt
road that covered several hundred
yards. That was our playground and
treasure ground. There were dis-
carded pots and pans, books, a
broken doll, even a baseball with the
stuffing hanging loose. Black tape
tightly wound around the ball made
it not only useable again, but a de-
fensive weapon. With the ball in our
hands, the older boys thought twice
about bullying us. After Sammy was
forced to part with a scarce candy
bar we were never again without our
heavy, black-taped ball.
A rusted pair of roller skates
found in the alley became the wheels
for a home-made scooter, nailed to-
gether from two pieces of wood. •A
clumsy contraption at best, I some-
times wondered if the scrapes and
bruises it brought were worthwhile
since it could only be used on a
sidewalk. And so it was back to the
forbidden alley.
Momma looked upon my horde
of alley treasures with something
less than pleasure. "Do you know,"
she asked in an ominous tone, "the
germs you can get from such
things?" Momma had a microscopic
eye that located the invisible critterr
and out would come the container of
Dutch Cleanser and Fels-Naphta


I viewed her concerns as
further proof that adults didn't know
valuable. objects when they saw
them. Since Sammy and I were
partners, we stored these treasures
in his basement. His mother, busy

Nathan Rubenstein, best known for his
B'nai B'rith activities, has written a
number of articles for area newspapers
and magazines.

with seven children, found little
time to worry about any pesky
On any summer day, our alley
was alive with kids, dogs, cats and
an occasional rat. Almost everyone
on our block had a pet except for
Sammy and myself. He took the
matter lightly, but to me it was a
bitter void. The time came when I
decided, in a diabolical flash of
genius, to create a pet of my own un-
like any that the other kids had. Not
only would it' obey my every com-
mand, it also would strike fear into
the ever present bullies.
The idea of a stuffed, live-
looking rat with an attached string,
became an obsession I could not
withhold from Sammy. I explained
that a dried-out pelt, properly filled
with cloth and cotton, would make
an ideal pet. The add
ition of two
small wheels would give it mobility.
Sammy, once the initial shock
wore off, became my enthusiastic
partner. We worked with conspirito-
rial enthusiasm, and in a few days
our project was completed.
It was a bright and sunny day.
As usual the alley was populated
with boys, girls and assorted ani-
mals. We entered into the middle of
the activity dangling the still un-
identified creation from a sturdy
string. The girls were the first to
react and their shrieks were music
to our ears. As Sammy and I took
turns wheeling our "pet" back and
forth their screams proved we had
made a major' breakthrough in the
world of our alley. Among the boys
we achieved instant approval
touched by a tinge of envy. We were
satisfied, very satisfied.
While still basking in the glory
of newly-found status, I made the
bitter mistake of wheeling my pet to
the front of our house. Along came
Momma and Poppa, and the
fireworks began.
Momma took one look at my
now identified object, almost toppled
off the curb, uttered an agonizing
shriek and rushed, pale and shaken,
up the stairs. Poppa threw my pet as
far as he could, narrowly missing a
startled dog who took off as if the
devil were at his tail.
I was hustled into the house,
where my tearful , complaint about
not having toys or a dog fell upon
deaf ears.
No, my parents did not take me
to what then passed as a toy store;
nor did they offer to buy me a cat or
dog. They plunged me into a bathtub
filled with the hottest, soapiest
water I had ever felt and they tried
to scrub the very skin off my body.
Today, browsing through a busy,
crowded toy-filled store, I look at the
youngsters scurrying past with toys
running on real wheels and toys
powered by batteries, and I wonder
if my alley is still there. •Perhaps
tomorrow I will look for it. ❑


of In
e Alley!

The neighborhood "playgrounds"
of yesteryear had a certain
allure for kids


Special to The Jewish News


• •


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