Remembering ‘Back Then’

By Arnie Klein

This near-perfect condition 1952 Mickey Mantle card sold in 2022 for a record $12 million

I was born in 1943 in The Bronx. This story is about growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment where my older brother and I shared a bedroom. We didn’t have much, but we had our radio and listened to our favorite shows in the evening. The Shadow with Lamont Cranston was one of the better shows we listened to, using our imagination to visualize what he was up to. We also had The Lone Ranger, Dick Tracy, Amos ‘n’ Andy, Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy and Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour, to name a few.

When TV came around, my parents bought a Philco set, which had a nine-inch (diagonal) screen. There were no color sets back then, but there was a filter which went over the screen to give a color effect. There were no remotes back then, so we had to get up and change the channel to watch a different show.

There was TV Guide, which listed what shows were on, which included Mitch Miller, Liberace, Guy Lombardo and The Ed Sullivan Show. My favorites were Gene Autry, Howdy Doody and American Bandstand with Dick Clark.


The neighborhoods were safe back then, and during the warmer nights, our parents would sit outside while we took to the streets to play. I had a lot of friends and we didn’t need much to start an outside game. We played stickball using a broom stick minus the broom and a Spaldeen pink ball. A guy would pitch the ball to the batter and see if he could hit the ball and run the bases, which were parked cars.

A variation was seeing who could hit the Spaldeen the farthest. There were some guys who could hit it as long as three or more sewer caps. Other games we played were Punchball, Stoopball, Curb Ball, All Across, Skull Zee, Box Ball, Hit the Penny, and Hide and Seek.

When it got too late we’d have fun by leaving the guy who was “it” searching for us while we were safely home. We also played Johnny on the Pony. There were two teams of five or six persons each, with one guy standing and his teammates holding each other around the waist. The opposing team would jump on their backs and would try to break them. The heaviest kid would be last and he would be the breaker.


Girls in the 1940s and ‘50s loved Hopscotch

Most of these games were for the guys but the girls would play Jump Rope or Hopscotch, which had a grid numbered 1 to 8 or 10. The girl would toss a key to each numbered box and hop to that box to pick up the key. This would continue until the girl would retrieve the key from all 8 or 10 boxes.

We also would skate in the street on roller skates with clamps that were put on our sneakers. When we had some money, we would buy baseball cards from the local candy store. We would flip the cards or pitch them up to a wall and the card closest to the wall wins the opponent’s card.

In the flipping version, one guy flipped his card to the ground and the other guy would have to match the picture side of the card or the back of the card. Most of us who had cards back then wish we had them today. Some are worth millions.

Arnie Klein, who loves being a Senior Citizen, is a resident of Cortlandt Manor.

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