Living Across From The Brooklyn Parks

In Memory Of  The Man  Carmine Carro President Of Marine Park Civic Association Brooklyn New York! Carmine dedicated his life to Family, Friends, the Community!

I was born at home 23 North Elliott Place in 1935.   Less then 25 yards from the entrance of “City Park”.  I know that the official name is “Commander Barry Park”,But everyone I knew called it “City Park”.   It was not a very large park.  Bounded by Flushing Avenue to Park Avenue on the east and west, and Navy Street to North Elliott Place (North and South).   The area of the park nearest to North Elliott Place was enclosed by a 6ft. fence with no gates.   If my memory serves me there were seven entrances on Park Avenue, Flushing Avenue, , and North Elliott Place.   This area consisted of two rectangle patches of grass and benches around the perimeter black top and several trees. The rest of the area was enclosed with a twenty foot high cyclone fence with two heavy  gates that were locked each night at dusk.   The fenced in area contained two  large baseball fields with bleachers, eight hand ball courts, one black top softball field, four black top tennis courts, basketball courts, a wading pool and sprinklers sand boxes, swings, monkey bars, slides and sea saws.  The park staff was lead by a large Irish man named Dan.. Hehad six “parkies” of different races and nationalities , a recreatin director, and a matron. They were all housed in the field house that also contained the bathrooms. Big Dan ran the park with an Iron Fist and to a ten year old his six foot four inch height might as well been ten foot tall, when he screamed down at them,”Get off that damn bike” orDon’t roller skate in my park”. I can just see a park foreman talking  like that to kids today. He would wind up being sued. But City Park under and his crew had no Graffiti, no Vandalism, and was a sake haven for all kids alone or in a group. Your worst fear was Dan catching you doing something wrong and telling you “your not allowed in my park for a month”. God help you if you showed up twenty eight days later. You would be banned for another week. We never saw him write anthing down. (But he knew!)Unlike today there were very few organize sport back then for kids.  If you wanted to play touch football you rolled up newspaper and taped it with block electrical tape.     No one I knew owned a football or basketball.   So what you did was go to the field house an leave the recreational director or the matron your library card, a chain, or a key and they would give you a basketball, knock hockey, tennis racket, or other pieces of equipment.   When you returned what you borrowed you got your deposit back.   I spent many hours sitting on a branch of the tree between home plate and third base near the blacktop softball field.   I had my own skybox watching the older guys playing softball.   It amazed me how the outfielders played “The Tree”.   The Tree was a forty foot or more high oak  right in the middle of center field.   When a ball was hit into the tree the outfielders would circle under the tree waiting for the ball.   The runners had to wait to see if the ball was caught before they could advance.   As the older guys got to know me and the vantage point I had,I could see the whole field they would ask, “Hay Kid was that guy safe or out” Depending on how they like your call they would either give me a soda or throw their glove at me.

Now! The ground crew at Yankee Stadium could have learned from Big Dan and his crew how to maintain a baseball field.   The grass baseball field were manicured every Sunday.  Teams would come from everywhere to play.  The Brown Bombers, from the Bronx, the Blue Birds from Williamsberg, the Cadets from Queens.  Players like “Buck Wingo” who had one arm and fielded and hit with the best of them.  The pitcher “Mukie”, who showed up with hats for all teams and pitched   2 or 3 games in one day for whatever team paid him the most.  The guy for the Brown Bombers who hit a shot one Sunday to straight away center that cleared the twenty foot fence, the flag pole and the field house and landed in the blacktop softball field.  That ball started on Park Avenue and came to rest on Flushing Avenue.   All  other games were played in season.  There was no calender, but all the kids started and seem to change at the same time.    There was a time for Punch ball, stick ball, touch football.  Stoop ball, Ring a Leve Oh, Johnny on the Pony, Giant
Step, Corks, carpet guns, and scooters.  Scooters were made with one old roll skate, a two by four, awooden produce box, some nails, a hammer, and a lot of imagination.  Decorations included Bottle Caps, tin cans, and reflectors which you borrowed from trucks parked in the neighborhood.

Hours were spent listening to the radio shows like Jack  Armstrong the All American Boy, Sgt. Preston, the Green Hornet.  I spent more hours with my moms clothes pin bag.  The clothes pins became a standing armies catapults, tanks traps, cars, trucks, and connons.  My sister Jean would listen for the Announcers last word from My programs and switch radio channels to Martin Block and the Make Believe Ballroom.  It never failed as soon as she tuned in Martin Block would say, ” and that concludes fifteen minutes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, or whoever and she screamed for fifteen minutes more.

During World War II the center of the park was taken over by the army.  They had dug in gun emplacement for anti-aircraft guns to protect the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  They also had guns on the roof of the Navy building up the block.  Tanks, army trucks, anti-aircraft guns, and the tents all across the street from my house.  My clothes pin army had turned into the real thing.  We felt very adult as we collected scrap metal for the war effort or walk the block with my uncle who was an Air Raid Warden.  During blackout if the windows were not covered right Uncle Carmine would blow his whistle and yell, ” don’t you know there’s a war on”.   One Sunday mom cooked a big meal for my fathers brother and his large family.  For some reason they called to canceled at the last minute.  Mom told me to go across the park and invite eight soldiers to have Sunday dinner with us.  Between mom’s homemade pasta, ( we called it macaroni back then) and the two gallons of homemade red wine my dad brought home.  Those guys had a meal to remember.  As I remember on G.I. said, ” I feel like I died and went to hog heaven”.  I forgot to mention my older brother Angelo was in the Navy serving in the Pacific.  I guess this was mom and dad’s way to say thank you, to my brothers comrades in arms.

As a kid my life revolved within the points of a triangle that covered less then 1/2 a mile.  At one point was home at 23 North Elliott Place.  Across the street to City park and up the block to P.S. 67.  Also inside my triangle was RoseMarie Gerbasio who lived at 35 North Elliott Place.  On June 2, 1956 RoseMarie, I, and our families went to St. Michael St. Edwards Church  inside then triangle and were married.  That was over forty years ago.  Right after we were married I started a small meat market at 33 North Elliott Place called Park Side Meat Market.  (What else)  Both our children Michael and Maria were born inside the triangle at Brooklyn Hospital.  They were christened at St. Michael St. Edwards Church.  I watched from my meat market as RoseMarie pushed the carriage into City Park.  I watched my son run the same bases I had earlier.  Unfortunately Michael and Maria never got to meet Big Dan or the parkies Fred, Bill, and Joe who had all retired.  But they both got to meet the recreation director Paul Morabito who became an attorney.

After twenty-nine years we decided to move.  After looking at many houses in different areas we chose a house on Avenue S “Across from the park”.  Paul Morabito acted as our attorney at our house closing.  A few years before me moved in I was coaching a sandlot football team called the Baron’s in City Park.  We traveled to Marine Park to play the Titans at their home field.  It was a cold winter’s day in November.  As we stood on the sidelines with the wind blowing in off the creek on Avenue U I lookeed around the perimeter of the park and said, “anyone who buys a house here has to be crazy”.  A year later we moved in and have been there for over thirty years.  So you know where I am coming from.

When our neighbors from downtown came to visit us, my father-in-law Jim would ask “How is everything in the city?”  And when our daughter married and became our attached neighbor, we had the best of both worlds we could walk to work, but lived in “the country.”  The first time my grandson’s Charles and Carmine asked me, “Grandpa can you cross us, to play in the park?”, I had a flashback of over fiftyr years and saw myself at 5 or 6 years old saying, “Ma! can you cross me I want to play in the park!”, I would only add one more word to the bumper sticker on my car which says, “I love Marine Park.”  That word is Truly.  “I Truly Love Marine Park.”

Written by Carmine Carro


Marine Park Civic Association



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