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Ms. Millie and Friends

Ms. Millie, the sassy so called senior that some call a motivational force, cordially invites you to join her quest to stay youthful and feel better, inside & out.

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Nov '07

Growing Up in the Bronx, NY

They say as you get older it’s our memories of yesteryear that give us pleasure. I imagine it is our history, how we came to be from where we are today. The girl with the everyday smile and cute ways is the senior lady helping little ones in school and the elderly in nursing homes today. I truly love being positive about life and people. My story began way back in the fifties living in the Bronx with buildings six stories high with tarred roofs that connected and fire escapes that we would sit outside on its steps on a warm summer night hoping to catch a breeze. Air conditioning or even a fan of any kind did not exist in our neighborhood and it was probably not affordable. We would sleep with windows wide open and somehow the traffic never interfered with our sleep. Today in my current surroundings in the suburbs the hum of the refrigerator startles me awake.

Going back to the tarred roofs, that is where myself and a few friends would go and bring a blanket. We considered this our private beach to get a sunburn. We didn’t use the word tan.. The song “Up on the Roof” is a reminder of those days in the Bronx, Brooklyn area I believe. At night we all would meet around 7 or 7:30 a few blocks away from where I lived near the grocery store and just hang out till around 9:30 as we all had school the next day. The guys and girls would just get a Pepsi in a 60z bottle or Bungalow Bar ice cream from the passing truck. If we bought the creamsicles or fudgsicles we would save the stick with the name on it and we could turn it in for prizes. The guys would sing do wop and on the weekends they would choose up sides and get a broom stick and a 15cent Spalding rubber ball (pink) and we would play stick ball. So many times the ball would hit a window and the police would come and ask who had the ball? No one would ever fess up and they would just warn us.

We had respect for each other and our families. I don’t recall any prejudice and I don’t believe my Dad would allow it. Some of my friends had Dad’s with good jobs, others were poor like me. My Dad worked for WPA and I remember standing on line with my Mom to get food and hand me downs. I recall rations and sugar was a luxury item.

I remember being so excited getting a new pair of blue and white saddle shoes. We had to polish the white part without getting it on the blue. We wore full skirts and if you were lucky you had a crinoline (petticoat) to make it stand out. The girls always wore skirts and blouses or dresses. Never slacks or pants. If some of the gals wanted to be tough looking they would buy guys Levis at the army- navy store and wear those with the legs rolled up. Mothers in those days didn’t have washers and dryer and so I recall my Mom washing our clothes in the double kitchen sink on a washboard and wrung out by hand and carried to the living room window that faced another apt building a clothes line. In the window the clothes would freeze up but the clean smell was so wonderful and the sheets were always crisp. The apartment building itself had 5 floors and 4 apts on each including the lobby had 2 and then a row of letterboxes that had a master key for the postman. We had stairs to climb and we did it carrying children, packages, strollers, carriages. In retrospect obesity was not prevalent. Must be all the walking and climbing stairs that kept everyone in tip top shape.

There were all different nationalities and the building always had aromas of ethnic cooking. Right next to our apt building was a Chinese laundry and a candy store (Schafer’s) was the owners name. I worked there one summer learning how to make egg creams and ice cream sodas. You could buy a 2 or 3 cent seltzer. Egg creams were a nickel. Malteds were the best. You could dip your pretzel rod in the foam of the milk and ice cream mix… Yummmm I tell you those were the good old days!

Mom washed our clothes on a washboard and hung them on the line right out of the living room window. In the winter, the clothes would be stiff from the cold but them smelled so clean. I miss that smell here in Florida but not the cold. Entertainment wise, we would listen to the radio as only the rich could afford the little TV’s about 11 inches in black and white. There were so many interesting stories and series on the radio. On Sunday at 5pm we had “The Shadow”. One night during the week, I think Thursday we had the creaking door “Inner Sanctum” and then we had Lux Presents Hollywood. We had the Hit Parade on Saturday where they would do the countdown of the top songs of the week down to the number 1. My Dad and I would have a contest to see if we picked the winner. Joke books were the in reading material….Superman, Marvel, Thin Man, Archie, Blondie. Newspapers costs 2cents. Subways and buses were like a nickel and you could ride for miles and get a transfer from one to the other.

That’s it for now. Share your nostalgic memories with me.

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