The Pushcarts of Brooklyn
by Julie Odell
Columbus, OH 43213
Shopping with Grandma was always an adventure. I don’t mean going to the corner grocery or the department stores; I mean: going to the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn on Saturday mornings.
Grandma prepared her list on Friday evenings, counted out her money, got her shopping bag and early Saturday morning, off we’d go. I loved riding the trolley car, but was a bit afraid of Grandma – she was a stern, unsmiling, rigidly erect lady always dressed in black. I had to sit still, act like a lady and be sure to hold to her skirts when we got off the trolley. Once there, she sailed through the crowds like a ship cutting through the channel as I trailed along in her wake. Her black umbrella bounced off the head or shoulders of anyone foolish enough to delay her. She had no time to waste on conversation – business was all she cared about. Her aim was to buy the most in the shortest time for the least money.
Williamsburgh was a sea of carts as far as your eyes could look. They sprawled across the streets – an ocean of huge wooden boats moored to the sidewalks. Some seemed ready to sink, held together only by hope. Others glistened with bright paint. Big or little, painted or unpainted, patched or repaired – I loved the sounds, the clutter, the smells – it was so alive.
Those pushcarts held anything you could possibly want. Fruits and vegetables next to piles of underwear; stacks of shoes, crazily teetering tin mountains of pots and pans. Bolts of bright cloth, books, tools, coats, dresses, hats stacked one atop another. Soap, pickles – a melange of smells, sights and sounds.
Vendors shouted: “Hey, Lady! I got fresh vegetables!” “Over here! Fresh home-made bread!” “Carrots, 5¢ a bunch!” Each shouted how much better his items were, the price just right. No one spoke softly – the sound was unbelievable, a combination of broken English, German, Italian, Yiddish, and a few others. Yet each understood what was being said.
Grandma would survey the merchandise quickly, estimating prices, but giving no sign of wanting to buy. A vendor would hold a head of lettuce, some carrots, and yell out a price. She’d stop, look it over, then shake her head. He’d give the price again, she’d yell, “Nein, züviel (too much), abfälle (garbage)!”
He’d grab his hair as if trying to tear it out by the roots, smite his chest with a strong blow,
“Abfälle? Lady, voud I sell you garbage? You vant mine kinder should starve? On their heads I swear I voudn’t cheat you!”
“Lügner! (liar). You’d cheat your own mütter (mother).” She’d start to walk away, but not too quickly. He’d run after her. “Vait, vait! I gif you some apples.” Grandma would turn, look them over and shake her head. He’d plead, she’d yell “Raüber, Dieb! (robber, thief),” Then, “Ach some soup greens, yah?”
“Oi, Gott! This voman’s verrückt (crazy). Here, take – take, soup greens, carrots, apples – 15¢.”
Grandma would pay, they’d smile at each other – he’d say, “See you next veek?” They were both satisfied since an agreement had been reached somewhere between his price and what she wanted to pay. It was a game played at every pushcart. The yelling, screaming would sometimes sound as if they’d come to blows, but they always parted friends. It was a long time before I realized that bickering was normal and expected.
If Grandma were alive today I know she’d say to me “Ach, du bist ein dumkopf. (You’re a blockhead).” Never, never would SHE pay the asking price. Only a fool would pay full price and grandma was no fool.
The Great American Game
by Ruby E. Neese
Liberty, NC 27298
September, October, November – Falling leaves and cooler breezes, school buses and subdued children. All this is a reminder that summer is over and winter soon will be here. It is also a reminder of football. That’s one of the sports that I have never been able to understand. I have gone to two games. One when my nephew played for a Mite Team, and more recently an Appalachian game, when we were in Boone for a family weekend.
I’d like to share with you my impressions of this Great American Game. First, we had to sit on cement benches. Very uncomfortable and very, very cold! Like sitting on a block of ice, so that was the first count against the game for me.
A man yelled some, and the band played so loudly my ears rang for ten minutes after they stopped, so that I didn’t hear much that went on for a while.
Then a group of men ran out on this marked-off field and bent over. I thought they were playing leap frog until they all started running in different directions. I noticed one had the ball and they were all trying to take it from him. No sharing, or taking turns, just a scrambling bunch of men.
The ball flew away from them as if it didn’t enjoy all this, and several were actually on the ground and I wondered where their mothers were that they didn’t check to see if they were hurt. When they finally got up, they were hobbling around, and then one kicked the ball away from all of the rest and I’ve never seen so many people happy over such a thing.
Well, later another one took the ball and ran away and they cheered even louder. I guess, like me, no one really enjoyed all that fighting and jerking feet from under each other. They played around and messed in the mud for more than an hour.
I yelled at them a few times and told them they were too big to act like that, and people just stared at me. What is this world coming to that they don’t try to correct their kids any more than that?
Finally, Jeff just insisted that I go back to the dorm and get warm. All his friends have always been nice to me, but they were even friendlier from then on, actually laughed every time I saw them.
Jeff never liked me to come to his school much after that. I wonder if he was jealous ‘cause I got such a friendly response from all his friends.
An Interesting Game
by Chester A. Larson
Griswold, Iowa 51535
On an Autumn Sunday when I was sixteen years old, I went with my parents into the next county east to visit some of my Dad’s relatives and eat a big Sunday dinner. Perhaps twice a year his family got together.
While the other folks sat around after eating a big meal, we young folks found more lively things to do. There were eight or ten of us, boys and girls of varying ages, and all cousins. After kicking and throwing a football around for awhile, we decided to play a game of touch football. Two captains were selected to choose up sides for a fast game. None of us had ever played much football, and even if we couldn’t do much accurate passing, we could run for the goal line. We boys may have tried the tackling type, but we needed the girls in order to have enough for two teams.
The Daggett girls were good-looking, and good sports, just like their dad. One of them really took my eye. I have long since forgotten her first name but I never forgot her. I think I picked on her to chase every time she carried the ball. Even though she was a good runner, I was better. I must say that was a very interesting game of football, and before we were ready to quit, our folks came out to the car.
I never saw that girl again, but I could not get her out of my mind for days, weeks and months. Sport Daggett’s darling daughter was my ‘dream girl.’ For a while I was really ‘shook up.’ I think if I had had an automobile at my disposal I would have camped on her doorstep every chance I got.
Such was life for a sixteen year-old boy without ‘wheels,’ and without his girl.
A co-operative display of talents of members of United Amateur Press, Shared with BAPA.
Financed by Chester A. Larson, Betty Millar and Willametta
Edited at Shady Acre, Roanoke, VA 24014