I remember growing up in…
I remember growing up in the Fort Greene projects.
I was born 1953, had two older sisters, so I grew up knowing oldies but goodies. In fact, so much that I today sing with an acapella group, The Valentinos. I remember how beautiful Fort Greene was in those days. There were all races and all lived in harmony. I am Puerto Rican, but I grew up with White, Black, Korean, Jewish… it didn’t matter. We were kids and just wanted to have fun.
I was born in Cumberland Hospital, lived in 24 Monument Walk and went to PS67. I remember we would be playing all day in Fort Greene and just around my building, they used to have sort of a playground. The kids I hung out with were always older than me I guess because my sisters had no choice and their friends had no choice too. They had to take care of their brothers or sisters. So we also played together. We played so many games in one day from morning till sometimes 1:00 in the morning because in those days the parents would go outside and sit on the benches to talk so we kept playing. The girls sometimes played jump rope, hopscotch, box ball, then we would get tired of that and start playing tag on the monkey bars. Sometimes the guys would join in and, in no time, there would be about ten or more playing tag. Then we would play either punch ball or, “Three Feet Off To Germany.” We also had sort of a small maze (we called it the puzzle) about 3 1/2 feet high and you could stand on this, or walk though it.
We also used to play tag on the top and everyone would be on top running from the guy who was “it.” Sometimes we broke our butts because either you went too fast when they were chasing you–you know how guys are, tough and rough. Between the puzzle to the right was this big sort of thing, what we called “the barrel.” It was shaped like a barrel and it was hollow, and sometimes we would get inside–maybe four to five, or as many as we could fit. And then we would have one person–or two at the most–on the top and they would try to tap anyone who tried to get out or in. If you were tagged, you would have to go on top and be it, and so on. As kids, we could go all day.
To the left of the puzzle were some logs–oh, about four big log across, and on top were three and so on until there was one on top. Then right next to the logs were three sets of benches. So sometimes we would play tag on all of them. We would make one of the benches home base and another one sort of a holding cage where the others can free you. Sometimes the barrel and the logs would be home base with the puzzle in the middle. It started with one team being “it.” Then, if they got tagged by someone from the other team, they would get put into a holding cage and be guarded. Someone in your team would try to free you by tagging the cage. The rules were: you can only use the barrel which was home base, step to the puzzle (where you better run through and not get caught), to logs which was another home base. Oh… you could only use three steps in either direction, except the puzzle. And oh… over the fence which the guys used a lot was the running area. That was a great game.
Also in that area was another object we called the boat. It was long with an opening and, on both the pointed area of the boat and the wide part, were seats. All these objects were made of concrete and painted in colors. Sometimes the guys would sit in there and start singing. And we would all sit on the edges of the boat. It was great. I remember too, some long logs were about 20 feet and at one end it started from the floor and got higher until you could walk it straight and then at the other end it went down again. We use to walk that or play tag on it without falling.
Come to think of it, man, we played a lot of diffent tag games. We also played ringoleavio, that was an all day game. And we would have maybe 20 to 40 of us playing and the rule was, “use all of Fort Greene.” Fort Greene had three parts to it, so you could spend all day looking to find someone.
If I go on I’ll be here all day. To make a long story short, we played handball, basketball, scullys, Johnny On The Pony, stickball, skating (when they put tar in the play areas). It was great. Great. I wish every kid in the world could have my childhood.