Monday, January 11, 2010

Rant #169: Where Have All the Years Gone?

I often talk about my years growing up in Queens, New York, as if I was living in some fairy-tale place in my own personal fable.

Of course, this wasn't so, but we all have a habit of making our childhoods appear to be some type of storybook, "the best years of our lives."

My childhood was wonderful. From birth through the age of 14, I lived in three places that were great places to grow up in: Brooklyn (I only lived there a few months after I was born, but was there anything wrong with Brooklyn in the 1950s?), Kew Gardens Hills (where I spent my early childhood and school years), and a mythical place called Rochdale Village, in South Jamaica, Queens (where I went in as a little boy but where I turned into an early teenager, a young man).

The Rochdale Village part of my existence I have talked about ad infinitum over the past 40 years or so. It was an experimental development built on the old Jamaica Racetrack, in the heart of the one of the most solid, yet somehow chipped, black communities in the U.S.A. Our development, at least at the beginning, was probably about 70 percent white, and of those white residents, probably 85 percent were Jewish.

For the first few years of the development, blacks and whites, at least within the development, lived in pretty much harmony. The people living on the outside were not always as nice to us as they could be, but generally, things were pretty placid. Even the New York Times wrote a major article about the place - "Where Blacks and Whites Live Together"--as if this was a utopia that all areas could aspire to.

And for a few years, it was.

Then the late 1960s erupted. So many things were happening in our country and throughout the world starting in 1968 or so, but the straw that I feel broke the development's back--and I believe Rochdale Village lost its soul--is when Martin Luther King was assassinated. This mixed race development, in the heart of a long-standing black area, became a focal point of what was going wrong with our country back then. The place became unsafe to live in, the schools disintegrated even with dedicated teachers, and although it took several years, by about 1976 or 1977, most of the white residents--and many of the original black residents--had left.

My family left in 1971, moved to the New York suburbs, and that is where we have been for the past 40 years.

Why I bring this up is the picture attached to this post. That is me, circa 1966 or 1967 or so, when I was nine or 10 years old. I often yearn for 1967, because that was probably the best time in my young life. I didn't have a care in the world, and the only thing I had to worry about was if I would do well on my next test in school.

I had seemingly hundreds of friends, and the only things that were important to me were my comic books and the New York Yankees and New York Knicks. Sure, my family was important, but mom and dad were always there, so, what, me worry?

Like I said, I often yearn for that innocence today. I am not knocking today--I have a great family, a great wife and super kids. But look at me in that picture--was this bald, overweight 52-year-old that I am today in this kid's future?

I guess so.

My sister just turned 50 at the end of December, so my parents, both in their late 70s, have two kids in their 50s. I am sure that they can't believe this, any more than I can't believe that this little kid you see here is this big kid you are reading about now.

Where have the years gone? Who knows!


  1. '67 was a good year. I had that same haircut.

  2. It was an excellent year for any 10 year old. The music and the TV shows were geared to us. Although we were in Vietnam, I don't think we were really impacted by this, unless we had an older brother who was over there, or a parent or a close relative. But that next year--1968--made us all grow up a bit, what with the King and Kennedy assassinations, and everything else going on at the time. We, even as kids, were never the same again. I know I wasn't.

    And as for the hair, man, I wish I had that hair today, I really, really do.

  3. Don't want to make you feel bad but i still have the hair, just grayer. Yes 1967 was a special and it's funny i was watching an episode of Dragnet '67 today by chance.
    I still remember the dark cloud that hung over 1968.

  4. For me, 1968 was the end of the innocence kids like me had through 1967. Sure, we were around for the JFK assassination, but although we were there, we were too young to really understand that horrible incident. I just remember that when MLK was murdered, my mother said, "Uh Oh," and with those utterances, she was spot on; things were never the same for me where I lived.

    And as for the hair, I kind of knew that I would be this way. My dad and all of my uncles are bald, so I guess with me, it was just a matter of time. I wonder if my son and my nephews will keep their hair. I sure hope so.



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