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One Photo: Many Stories; Father's Day Reunion

As I rode with Dad to bring him to see some old friends from the South Bronx on this Fathers Day Weekend, stories from every one of his 84 years flowed like they happened yesterday.

The time I spend with my Dad these days are filled with stories of a world I’ll never know yet are still a part of who I am. As a young boy, I listened from my bedroom just off of the kitchen, as my aunts and uncles, my parent’s friends, and various strays from the Bronx wove unbelievable stories of life in the South Bronx.

I would drift off to sleep imagining the 3rd Ave. El, Willis Avenue Bridge, the nuns at St. Jerome’s School, and various characters that would appear in stories they would tell.

Their world was only a few city blocks, from 135 street on the south end to 149th street north and from 3rd Ave on the west end to St. Ann’s Ave. to the East. There was no beyond that to these kids in that time.

Their parents struggled and did the best to make a life for their children. The kids my Father knew went on to work hard jobs, ironworkers, railroaders, sand hogs who dug tunnels, Firemen, NYPD, some ended up in jail or sadly, dead.

These families were jammed in the tenements and apartment buildings of the City. The streets were their backyards and they learned life the hard way.

As soon as we got in the car to make our journey, the names my Father recalled were like a roll call from a St. Jerome’s homeroom.

There were the Tierney’s, O’Sullivan’s, Gallagher’s, Lynch’s, O’Carroll’s, Sweeney’s, Fitzpatrick’s, Mullen’s, Cullen’s, Buckley’s,

Fullam’s, and of course the Radziewicz’s.

A few weeks ago Eddie Tierney called to say that there would be a gathering of friends on Father’s Day Weekend. Dad wanted me to be available.

Oh The Stories!

We began at church where Larry Fox smiled when he saw Dad and started with a tale of how he was in a fight on the Ave. and Dad and his brother Frankie saved him from being pummeled. Larry stood taller and straighter as they recalled their street victory.

Tommy Gallagher told a dirty joke, and the stories flowed like fine whiskey.

Larry tried to help Dad with his walker a few times but he was waved off with Dad pointing to me to assume the responsibility.

More stories from my Aunt Patricia about how my Mother’s brother Billy walked miles to my parents wedding in a blizzard to be there for her.

Eddie Tierney’s brother joined the Marine’s at 16, was kicked out and at 18 went back to serve.

The best centerfielder in stickball would run so fast and dodge cars on Willis Ave to catch any thing. They couldn’t remember his name.

They snuck into the theater to watch Primo Carnera wrestle, Dad saw his old friend Neil Dineen as they returned from the service, Dad from Germany, and Neil from Iceland. Neil was angry Dad was a sergeant and he was only a private. They rode the bus back from Ft. Kilmer together and went to celebrate at the pub.

Their neighborhood pub was the Keeper Hill on 140th Street and it got quiet when they all recalled Big Jim. The bartender, manager and bouncer, who kept the bar open all the time. Jim was shot under the 3rd Ave. El by a man who returned from prison to settle a score. Jim paid the price for being a witness.

They all roared with laughter and shook their heads when someone reminded them of the man named McPartland.

McPartland was last seen on Willis Ave. with his gonads hanging out of his pants waving at a passing bus.

Happy Father’s Day Pop, Thank You.

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