Over seven months ago, I introduced a story here as a series of three posts. For whatever reasons, I moved two of them. The third one remained as a post called Sad Songs Make Me Cry.
I have no way of knowing how these things happen, but during the last seven months, Sad Songs has become the most viewed of all my 100 plus posts to date, not including those who simply read the posts on my Home Page.
It is a story of the first time a little girl of eight learns about death. The little girl is not me. She is an amalgom of so many little girls.
Loving her and the music she uses to escape from the reality of her life, I would like to share parts of her stories again.
You turn me on … I’m a radio
Someone who knows me might conclude this is a story about my family. They would be wrong.
There are no names of characters, no complete descriptions, no actual dialogue and the central characters are a little girl and her radio. There are no moral lessons to be learned, no neat conclusions and whatever problems occur, remain unresolved.
It begins in 1951 when the little girl is seven years old and it ends in 1958 when she is fourteen.
To understand you need only imagine your entire world contained within a brown rectangular, table-top Philco radio.
One … 1950
A Treasure For Me
My brother was a tinker, junk collector extraordinaire, who roamed along the docks adjacent to Brooklyn’s Bush Terminal in Sunset Park, and found smashed in a junkyard, a decimated, yet salvageable treasure for me.
It traveled from the junk yard to the kitchen table whereupon it sat for an unknown number of months while my mother lamented on the burdens of being the mother of a junk collector.
Do you have to do that on the kitchen table?
It was like a railroad apartment with a little hook at the end. Three rooms ran through a tunnel separated with two sets of French doors on either side of a long, narrow kitchen.
First room: Our parents bedroom which contained my crib for a time, my father’s old Victrola with crank and large 78 RPM records and my brother’s dark room for a very long time. The place most of the laundry sat until it went on either an outside or inside clothes line. This inside clothes line was a mechanical device of immeasurable value to a crazy Italian housewife.
Second room: The kitchen complete with central heating, a coal-burning stove. No, I don’t remember when the damn thing was converted to gas. I only remember the fires of hell viewed from the heavy iron plates, scared the be-jesus out of me.
Inside the kitchen, a wall of three windows and a door, enclosed a freezing cold bathroom with a pull tank and a claw footed tub where not much hot water flowed. Don’t ask why there were three windows inside the apartment where one could see from the kitchen into the bathroom. Though if anyone dared to look, our mother smacked them with whatever she was holding.
Under the windows, from the back wall to beyond the bathroom door was our long, wooden kitchen table. My father sat at the head of the table and next to him my mother, her back to the deep sink with washboard for scrubbing said clothes to hang on erstwhile lines in or out.
The eldest sat at the other end facing my father, and with his back to the bathroom wall, my middle brother sat, slouched in his seat, making faces at me. I am a lefty and sit to the left of my mother so I should not be in juxtaposition to anyone lest I knock over their drink while I ate.
The kitchen also contained an “ice box,” which overflowed onto the freezing cold linoleum floors. The refrigerator came in the next apartment along with a gas range and steam heat.
In between the sink and the ice box was a small food panty with a glass door in front of which I danced for about seven years while my mother told me to set the table, wash my hands, don’t jump so much or I’ll spit up my food, and her last-ditch effort.
Stop dancing, you’re driving me crazy.
Behind this amazing private stage was the center of the house, our prime means of entertainment other than watching my brother build stuff, the tall stand-up Philco Radio.
Third room: Beyond the kitchen was the front parlor, the room for the television. On this day, still two years away from our first television, in our railroad apartment in Brooklyn, in the middle of a factory district on the cusp of the Golden Age of Radio and Television, my brother gave me my own, personal, private radio.
It was a table top Philco with a wooden finish I would one day paint a sickening turquoise, a horizontal AM dial, a needle which traveled with lightening speed east to west, two large round knobs for changing channels and controlling volume, and soft canvas material died a camel color, behind which were the tubes he could replace and the speaker.
A radio with a great sound and an AM dial that lit up in the dark and went from one end of the world to the other.
And that dear children was where our story began.
In a cold flat, in the fifties, at the beginning of the AM dial.