My first home was an apartment over the garage of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. Across the street was the bakery where my dad worked. I remember nothing about the apartment; but, I have two vivid memories of the neighborhood.
My earliest memory is being trapped against a brick wall in an empty space between fifty-five gallon industrial drums on the sidewalk in front of the bakery.
Teddy, my fifteen-year old cousin, lifted me up and put me on top of the drums, probably because he thought I would think it fun to be taller than he was. There were 20 or 30 drums. I scampered across the tops of the drums, hopping from one drum to the next. Finding an empty space between the drums closest to the wall, I lowered myself into it, thinking I would surprise Teddy with a disappearing act. When my trick did not attract Teddy’s attention, I tried a different tactic. “Hey, Teddy,” I yelled, jumping up like Jack-in-the-box. Teddy looked at me. I laughed with great glee thinking I was funny and very clever.
“Come on, Champ,” he said. “Get over here. It’s time to go home.” I tried to climb out of the hole, but I could not. I tried several times to pull myself up and to get on top of the drums. There was nothing to climb on, nowhere to get a foothold to boost myself up.
“I can’t, Teddy,” I yelled. “I’m trapped.” I tried again. Only by holding my breath and straining with teeth-grinding exertion did I pull myself on top of a drum. I did it. Teddy did not help me. No one helped me. I walked across the tops of the drums to the place where Teddy was standing. He lifted me up and set me on the sidewalk. “Let’s go,” he said.
A fruit and vegetable vendor came through the neighborhood once a week. Everything about the fruit and vegetable man was silver. He had silver hair, a big silver mustache, and wore striped bib overalls. He had an old silver truck he started with a hand-crank. The truck had a flat bed covered with a silver canopy. A platform on the truck bed with sides that slanted up toward the center of the truck bed allowed the contents of the boxes of fruits and vegetables to be displayed.
A scale hung from the right hand corner of the canopy at the rear of the truck bed. I can see the old man now, placing big red beefsteak tomatoes in a bucket hanging from the scale then placing them in a basket held out to him. There were green bell peppers, golden peaches, plump watermelons, and cantaloupes. After filling everyone’s orders, the old man walked to the front of his silver truck. Bending down, he’d give the crank a quick turn. The engine would make chugging sounds. He’d climb into the cab behind the steering wheel and drive slowly down the street.