Monday, September 5, 2011

The Stoop - 3530 Decatur Avenue, Bronx, NY

The guys in the five pictures below are, from left to right, Steven Springer (the author of this page), Steve Haimowitz (aka Witz) and Errol Honig. We're sitting on the stoop at Errol's building, 3530 Decatur Avenue. Witz lived across the street at 3525 Decatur, and I was up the block from him at 3539.

August 25, 1971
The stoop was our place. It's where we started our days, it's where we hung out after a day of hoops at the P.S. 94 schoolyard or after playing stickball on the block. It's where we hung out in the evening if we didn't have someone's house to go to. The stoop was IT.

We were usually joined by our friends Mike Bruno, Pete Roche, the brothers Paul and George LoMedico, Jack Brooks, Gene Nocerino and Errol's brother Ken. You'll see shots of most of them later. 

I don't think Witz, Errol or I can explain it all these years later, but on August 25, 1971, the three of us decided that no matter where we were, no matter what we were doing, we would meet again on the stoop at high noon on August 25, 1981. When we made this decision, Witz and I were 17 and Errol had just turned 18.

As the years went by, we would call each other on August 25 and count down to 1981. When '81 rolled around, we started thinking of a way to mark the day. We found out the Yankees would be at the Stadium that night, so we got tickets. Bruno offered to have everyone up to his house for a BBQ before the game. We knew we'd shoot some hoops at P.S. 94. But how should we memorialize the day?

Errol came through in the clutch. Rummaging through his desk, he found a photo of me, him and Witz sitting on the stoop. Based on the length of our hair and what we wearing, we decided that that photo was taken on August 25, 1971...and that on 8/25/81 we would do our best to take the same exact shot.

And now we've celebrated the 40th anniversary reunion, which was our biggest and best yet.  I've posted the "official" photo below; but click on the dates under the '81, '91, '01 and '11 pix to read more...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Stoop - 40 Years (+ 1 Day) - August 26, 2011

So our 40th reunion has come and gone, and it's taken me quite a while to even try to gather all my thoughts because it was a most incredible day.  However, my friend Pete Roche -- who you met in the blog for the 1981 reunion -- sent the "Decatur gang" a note that really says it all, and he's agreed to let me post it here.  Talk about coming from the heart...

My thoughts and feelings are belated but need to be said:

From the very beginning of day one, Steve (Witz) picking me up at the airport; guys I can't express myself enough for you all to know how Steve rolled out the red carpet for me! He went over and beyond to make my reunion memorable! He made me feel as part of his family and his family received my visit with open arms! Amazing people, thank you Joan and Jake!

Witz you are my best friend for so many years but in my heart and soul you are my brother for life! THANK YOU in big capital letters, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making my visit so wonderful........!

Steve (Springer)…my feelings when we were cruising the neighborhood and we parked the cars by the schoolyard, I couldn't get out of the car fast enough! Before I go any further, seeing everyone was fantastic and wonderful and I will never forget that feeling of joy running thru my veins! But Steve, when you came out of your car and we hugged, the chills ran down my spine; I felt this true warmth about you that you were happy to see me and really showed it! The connection of what true friendship and brotherhood should feel like! Even after we played ball and we had to say goodbye, your embrace and in your eyes I knew we too are brothers for life! Steve you’re the best and tell your beautiful wife thank you for being such a great sport in taking the pictures and making those moments so special for us!

Errol and Kenny, it's amazing to me that even if the years pass us by and we don't stay in touch as much as we like to our friendship is as strong as the day we meet when we were kids.  To know that I was stranded for two more days because of the hurricane and you came over to Witz's house to spend the last night with me and go have a few drinks and just share old times made me feel very special!

Mary, Lynn, Tony DeMarco, and oh my God, Scott who looked awesome; Lew and his family; and in spirit and by phone Jack and Mariaelena…love you guys, love the friendship we shared on this fantastic reunion!

Bottom line is: words cannot express the feeling of seeing everyone! I share my experience with new friends about all of us and they can’t believe we are so close in friendship, but I have to correct them and say we are not friends -- we are family and family is forever!

And for the ones that could not make it; Theresa, Tony, Helen and George, Gene, Denise…man so many to mention now.  Just wanted to tell you all that you were there with us because we all missed you all and we all shared all the good times we had when we all were together! The whole entire gang!

Thank you all for making my childhood to manhood into what I have today -- a "Special Friendship" that nobody can compare! Love you all and that you can believe!

Happy 40th reunion!

Now to the fun stuff: why was this year's reunion pushed back by a day? Because time marches on, and on August 25 Errol had to drive his daughter Maggie to Binghamton, NY so that she could start college!  That seemed an awfully good reason to delay things by 24 hours.

As Pete wrote, I hooked up with him and Witz about an hour ahead of the reunion, and we went to the schoolyard where we used to play basketball for hours on end.  Unfortunately, the yard has been built over (as in, "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot"), but there was enough room for us to get in a little stickball practice...this is Pete taking his swings...

 Witz, me and Pete at the schoolyard 
for the first time in 30 years!
(click on the photos to see them full-size)

 Then we got to Decatur Avenue and the fun REALLY started!
 That's my son Jonathan in the jeans with Witz's son Jake in front of The Stoop at 3530 Decatur Avenue. 
And me and Witz, of course.

Jonathan and Errol's son Doug at the far left; Pete saying hello to Ken Honig, who he hadn't seen in 30 years; I'm talking to Errol and Witz is talking with Lynn Goodkin Hamlin.

Pete, Witz's brother Lew and me

Lynn with Mary Brooks Erps

Tony DeMarco, who was the son of the 
superintendent of my building, with Mary

Errol getting ready to play stickball 
the way we used the street!

Errol's brother Ken takes his at bats

 Pete, me, Jake and Doug in the field

Now, a video interlude -- this is the "making of" video of the 40th anniversary Decatur Avenue stoop reunion photo:

If you want to see a larger version of this, go here:

Jonathan, Jake and Doug try in vain to recreate the 
"official" photo. See the 2001 blog for their first attempt.

 Our basketball-playing buddy Scott Vogel arrives; 
none of us had seen Scott in over 35 years

Some, but not all, of the Decatur Avenue gang:
Pete, me, Ken, Errol, Mary, Witz and Lynn

The Decatur Avenue extended family, 
including one wife, four sons and one daughter

This is the T-shirt Witz designed from his original drawing of the stoop as it looked in the early '70s.  And for the sake of accuracy, he included the rear of a 1971 Ford Torino.

So in the end, what can I write about our 40th anniversary reunion?  Well, the fact is that all of us on Decatur Avenue -- those who were there last Friday and those who couldn't be there -- went through a very crucial time in our lives together, and that meant something then and it means even more now. Neither time nor distance can EVER make that fade away. It is as simple as that.