REMARKS FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DESK
By: Michael A. Scafiddi, Esq.
Summer Is Here – Looking Forward and Thinking Back
Charles Dickens once wrote in a Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Often when I think about great times in my life, I think about when I was a child growing up on President Street between Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York, in an area that was then called South Brooklyn. As it later became gentrified in the past thirty years, the area became known as Park Slope, and the homes that were purchased back in the 70’s for three thousand to six thousand now sell for more than one million dollars.
I was twelve years old in 1969, and President Street in South Brooklyn was a working-class Irish and Italian neighborhood. Within one block from Fourth and Fifth Avenues, which was approximately one thousand feet, there were at least four different groups of kids, based upon age, where they would hang out on the block. In my group, consisting of the twelve- and thirteen-year-olds, our hang out place was about two-thirds down the street. Nearest to Fifth Avenue were the seventeen- and eighteen-year-old group, below them were the fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, then there were the twelve- to fourteen-year-olds, and then the younger kids played a little bit closer to Fourth Avenue.
Summer always meant getting up early, running outside, and staying outside playing until the sunset which was well after 9:00 p.m. We played games like Stick Ball, and I was a two-sewer guy. You have to be from back East to understand what “two-sewer” means. (Anyone who would like to know, e-mail me at email@example.com). We played marbles and Off the Point (also e-mail me if you don’t know what Off the Point is), involving a pensie pinkie ball. We would also go to Third Street Park and play softball or basketball. We also played games like Buck Buck or Hot Beans and Butter. Maybe all of you played games like that or similar games when you were growing up.
On extremely hot and humid summer days, we would take a can, cut open the top and bottom of the can, open up the fire hydrant, put the can on it, and you could spray the water up to one hundred feet away. It was fun trying to get some of the older folks wet as they were coming home for the day walking from the train station. Then you would need to run because they would chase after you.
My childhood summers were the best times. My favorite memories included block parties, which in South Brooklyn were really special. The police would allow you to close off the street, and they would open up the fire hydrants to clean off the sidewalks and the street areas, and then you and all of your neighbors would put out picnic tables and everyone would cook, and you would go from table to table enjoying company, food, and drinks with your neighbors. For myself, what I remember the most from the block parties, was having a chance to eat great sausage, pepper, and onion sandwiches at Mario Lanzo’s table. I remember being able to sip a little bit of Mario’s father’s homemade Italian wine, of course, with a little 7-UP in it (my mom didn’t know about that).
You could also go around the corner to Carroll Street, where my now mother-in-law, Grace Daly, would be cooking bar-b-que chicken, homemade potato salad, and corn on the cob, and maybe while there, you could steal a little taste of Guinness. Another favorite stop would be at Anna Cespuglio’s house where she would be preparing homemade Italian desserts like cannolis and sfogliatelle.
You were surrounded by the wonderful smells of the delicious food, and the laughter and happiness of everyone enjoying themselves and taking a break from the hot New York summers.
The most memorable summer of my youth was in 1969. That summer, I remember life in general was simple, and I was starting to really enjoy listening to music. The number one hit from July to August in 1969 was, “In the Year 2525″ by Zager and Evans. I didn’t really understand the song back then, but I liked the lyrics, and as I grew up, I realized it was an apocalyptic song, which I heard not only on the radio, but at the free summer concerts at the local parks.
The most significant event in the summer of 1969 was an event that made it the most amazing and memorable summer ever and also drew our nation together. On July 20, 1969, in full acknowledgment of President Kennedy’s speech where he said that the United States would land a man on the moon within ten years, came to fruition. On this day, like most Americans, we were transfixed watching our black and white television as Neil Armstrong took the first step on the moon. Neil Armstrong’s famous statement at that time was, “One small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind.” It was a moment of honor, pride, and respect for our country’s accomplishment, and quite frankly for the human race as well. I remember that moment to this day, the memory of which still makes me smile and feel pride for a country that had a vision and fortitude, despite all obstacles that were encountered in the Apollo program, to land a person on the moon. Even in my poor neighborhood where, we had little distraction except what we created ourselves, we walked a little bit taller that summer, everyone seemed more friendly, and everyone felt that they were a small part of the greater good for mankind.
I bring up those memories of my most memorable summer, and I would ask you all to reflect on your best summer memories. With everything we have all been through with the COVID-19 pandemic, think ahead as to what plans you have with your loved ones, family members, and friends. Perhaps you will go camping, enjoy the scenery and nature, and maybe shut down the cul-de-sac in your own neighborhood to have a neighborhood bar-b-que. Take a moment to reflect back on all of the accomplishments you have done, along with the accomplishments of our country and the things we can still do in the future as a family, as a legal community, as a state or as a nation.
I hope that each of you enjoy your summer and make the most of it, so that sometime in the future, you can think back on the fond memories with your family and friends and recall what a great summer 2021 was for yourself and hopefully the rest of us.
Next month, I will talk about Part Two, “It was the worst of times.” Until then, as always, stay safe and healthy, and work well and care.
Michael A. Scafiddi, Esq.