After the War Was Finished (Part 1)

[Seeing as how he don’t have any new photos to post, though he did manage to get out and walk around with the camera, and how he didn’t find anything worth shooting, and how it was a beautiful spring day – finally – the blogger decides to post another installment of his so-called memoirs.  And how he calls ’em memoirs, but they’re just clips snapped of things that had meaning to him, both as a kid and later and  in no particular chronology.  ]

Me with my sister
The imp with me is middle sister who did nothing but get me into trouble.

We were raised to be brave. Our fathers had returned from winning World War Roman Numerals One Twice That, as far as we kids were concerned, was the best use of Roman Numerals which they were still forcing us to learn in public school at the time.  World War II.  That, I can tell you, had a ring to it for us kids born after it was finished.  World War I – that didn’t even get a numeral without World War II.  We discussed these things with dead seriousness between class.  We did, grow up in it’s shadow.  And our parents became parents in it’s shadow.

We still made model planes of Mustangs and Corvairs and the British Spitfires. When they were stuck together properly, we held mock dog fights. We knew the climbing rate of these planes; where the machine guns were located.  We had our favorites, mine was the Mustang because of that unusual shape at the front.  We made enemy planes as well, like the Zero.

We had our non-WWII heroes as well: Davey Crockett was a real person for us. He killed Grizzley bears (b’ars) with his bare hands. Our fathers had been through a lot. Whatever they could do – we could do as well, though we did turn out to be the Peace Generation. That makes sense now as a rebellion against the previous generation which had almost destroyed the world, and did manage to get pretty close.

As the oldest boy in my household with two younger sisters, I was treated by my father, not as a boy, but as a small man. Although, looking back on myself – I see a quiet, and timid boy – we were taught by our dads to never back down from a fight. And by fight, I mean a physical fist-fight.

There was a kid: Fat Junior. He wasn’t fat, not like the Cosby character – but supersized for his age. Just plain big. Big bones. A head like a block of granite. And Fat Junior all through the second and into the third grades had only one thing on his wee-small mind, and that was to launch himself onto me and knock me to the sidewalk.

And of course, the fates, just to make it all interesting – decided that I would be the shortest boy in my second  grade class. Maybe they sit up there uhm – actually musing. Ah, you know what would be good? Let’s setup Fat Junior to prey on that David kid – yeah, like in the old days. Remember?.  I think it’s in the bible.

Fat Junior lived in the building across the alley from me. A good Irish Catholic family. I knew all of them: Fat-Junior, Fat-Linda (his fat sister), and Mickie (the oldest boy). At night, from my kitchen window, you could look across the alley into their window and see Mickie hunched over his books for Catholic School.

I don’t remember the parents. Fat-Linda, it was said, had been hit by a bus, and not even knocked down. I didn’t see that. But everyone had heard about it.

Junior’s idea of fun was to simply run, full-tilt at me, whenever he saw me, and knock me to the sidewalk, sit on me, and while slapping me around, giggle and ask: D’ya give? D’ya give? Or other variations: had ’nuff? Had’nuff?

All of which were along the lines of: “surrender?” a lot of us even knew at that age, the famous General’s reply of “Nuts” – though we may not have known where that happened until later.

If I said that I did give – he would usually slap me in the face again and then get up, and go after someone else. He didn’t have it out for me in particular. Just any boy his own age who was smaller, and that meant any boy on the block.

Sometimes – if he was really mad – I might end up with a bloody nose. I didn’t fight back very hard because he would just squeeze the wind out of me if I did. And once, I did run back into our house crying to my father and hugging his legs.  He immediately turned me around and forced me to go back out to confront Junior.  This was the main thing to learn as a boy kid.  To be brave.

It never occurred to dad (as I suspect it does today) that maybe he could chat with the parents of the launch-weapon and put an end to my daily tribulation. You simply did not reward cowardice. You didn’t run from a fight.

I found ways around Junior. You could go down to the basement and leave the building from the supers exit and he might see you but you had a start on him, and his fatal weakness was that he couldn’t run very fast. I was much faster.

* * *

EXCERPT FROM MY INTERVIEW WITH DR. NOITAWL

Q: Isn’t there some “fight or flight” reflex they talk about.

A: Yes.

Q: So to flee from danger – is a built in reflex.

A: Part of what kept us alive, as a species.

Q: And it doesn’t mean that I was a coward to run away?

A: Of course not.. Learn how to run. Any popular sport is made of the two survival reflexes: flight and fight. Hit and run. Slap and Tumble…

* * *

You had to show yourself on the street eventually and the longest struggle went from the University Avenue  sidewalk -> up the courtyard steps -> to the courtyard <- back down the courtyard steps -> up the steps -> into the lobby -> through two doors.  Somehow at the end of it I had put the death grip on him with my legs (the scissor lock) and he had passed out and peed on himself to boot (I found out later that was common when you were knocked out).

And there I was atop the monster, at the foot of our front door since we lived in apartment 1A.

As I was jotting down these memories it struck me that bravery was so much simpler when you were ten years old.  It got way more complex later.

Postscript: years later, I met Junior, though I never knew his real name.  And he was going to Fordham Law School.  The same school his older brother had graduated from.  Junior was still big as a house, but now he was in a suit outside of Alexanders.  How we recognized each other, I can’t fathom since I only knew him as an object hurtling towards me, but I do remember that he said something with that giggle that brought me back to the old days, though I didn’t mention them. )

(to be continued)

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Dave

My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.

6 thoughts on “After the War Was Finished (Part 1)”

  1. When I was in I.S. 44 back in ’69 the black power movement was going full steam and the black kids wore red , black and green bandannas, sweat bands and tube socks. It seemed like every day, they’d just punch me in the chest once or twice, on general principle and then walk away laughing. I never got hit in the face cause that would leave a mark and then explanations would be necessary. I didn’t grow up to be a racist from this. I understood that history was to blame, and I just laughed whenever they’d come up on me. If I had cried, well then I would have gotten it worse and would’ve had to hear a lot of shit on top of it.

    Back in those days, being mugged for your lunch money was also a constant nuisance. If you were walking down a side street and a few tough looking guys crossed over to your side, you would immediately cross to the other side. Then, if they crossed the street again, well their intention’s were obvious, and you (meaning me) would just have to run, or give up your cash and risk a beating. I guess running fast, and laughing while being hit were the best strategies I could come up with as a skinny kid who couldn’t fight to save my life…

  2. If only we could have bought shares as kids. I would have invested in Revell. Everyone I knew had whole airforces of 1/72 scale fighter planes form WWII, and a few had a few squadrons of WWI planes, which I also preferred to make. Revell must have been a really profitable company back then.

    As for the parents’ generation nearly destroying the world, well I don’t think our generation has done much better.

    Everywhere you go there’s bl**dy cr*p and human deuteris, even in the foothills of Mt. Everest where there’s a dump comprised of old oxygen cylinders, pitons, and other climbing stuff.

    True, with a good light, an open heart, and a steady hand even junk can be made to look beautiful when printed on Silver Rag.

    But I’m sure you get the point.

    Stephen

  3. I don’t have many pictures of myself as a kid. My parents didn’t believe in documenting anything we kids did with pictures or home movies.

    Yes, a photographer came and did baby pictures. And I have a lot of posed pictures, also done by a photographer of my parents, and a few of my grandparents – you don’t get a lot of pictures until I took over the operation when I was about 13. Found their Kodak (pictured below in scanner post) and then there was a sudden influx of tons of pictures.

    Of course, since I’m always behind the camera – not a lot of me.

    * * *

    Stephen
    Humanity, starting with myself, people that I know, and as a species – a flawed creation at best. Various generations are confronted with greater or lesser obstacles to overcome, ranging from extermination to having too much wealth and power. If you told me that n years from now, we had managed to make the earth inhabitable I wouldn’t be shocked. Whether it would happen by environmental decay, or nuclear winter, who could say. Yes, we have managed to even desecrate Everest – why – because it’s there.

    It seems, that even those that do study history are doomed to repeat it. And that is my cheerful note for the day.

  4. Interestingly, I never felt that by being opposed to war we were rebelling against our fathers. Both of our fathers engaged in war only because they felt there was no choice. Both of them engaged in war only reluctantly. You may remember that my father (a) refused to accept his medals, because he felt there was no honor in killing people, and (b) refused to serve in the Korean War when called up.

    Cousin Ray

  5. Hi Ray.
    Of course we protested the Vietnam war, and not our fathers. But the peace generation, or flower-power, or whatever you called it was American, and European, and I don’t know where else.

    And if you step back and look at history as rings on a tree, I thought it was more than just ironic, but that it was a generational phenomena as well – that the generation of kids born during and say within ten years after World War II became the Peace generation.

    I guess I’m saying – suppose that the Vietnam War broke out before World War II – say instead of Korea. What would’ve happened? I don’t have the answer; but I think that our generation – American and European – were more inclined to be anti-war.

    In other words – when I was 17 – and wondering what I would do if drafted – I said to myself: This isn’t World War II. The necessity of that war was clear to me.

    Can you see what I’m trying to get at? If not – not. Just an idea.

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