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MARCO POLO DISCOVERS THE WEST BRONX (standard:Creative non-fiction, 1450 words)
Author: AnonymousAdded: Jul 17 2005Views/Reads: 1948/1035Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)


Sid heard about a subway being built on the Grand Concourse, a mile from
our house.  I adored his ability for risk-taking, initiative, 
improvisation and "chutzpah."  He suggested that he and I go with to 
see this wonder and I agreed. I was 7 years old. 

I stayed downstairs while he bounded up to our fourth floor front-facing
tenement apartment to tell Momma that we were going "to play in the 
park".  He got her approval and we moved out. 

We came to Park Avenue; it carried the channel coming and going from
downtown New York City to upstate New York. We were fascinated by the 
comings and goings of trains; the climax came when a long freight train 
slowly approached; the engineer leaned the upper part of his body out 
of the cab and we waved to him and he waved back! 

The next block was Webster Avenue; this major thoroughfare was three
times wider than the street where our elevated ran.  He led us into the 
street and we zigzagged through the traffic until we were safely 
standing on the island sidewalk.  A streetcar was just leaving and Sid 
told me to stay put. He nimbly stepped on a metal strip on the outside 
rear of this accelerating trolley. 

I became frightened as I thought Sid was leaving me stranded.  When he
was half a block away he turned his head and waved a hand in a smiling 
greeting. The trolley slowed down at the next corner and Sid jumped 
off.  He waved again, crossed to the opposite side of the tracks and in 
no time was riding the back of a trolley to our station. 

The Grand Concourse was the widest street I had ever seen. There were no
streetcar tracks, no overhead electric wires.  There were buses, bigger 
than trucks, and one was coming into the station near where I was 
standing.  When it stopped there was a loud hissing sound that I 
recoiled from, and then the doors folded in and opened up.  Magic. 

A few people got on and off and I approached the open doorway,  but then
there was the loud hissing and folding and the doors closed.  With a 
rumbling roar the bus was on its way, leaving behind it a trail of sour 
black smoke. 

In 1931 there was not much vehicular traffic on this boulevard yet it
had ten traffic lanes. There was general agreement in the East Bronx 
that the Concourse was the unofficial dividing line between the poorer 
east and the richer west Bronx. A half a block from where we were there 
was a huge hole in the ground that was fenced in by wooden horses and 
extended almost to the center of the Boulevard.  There was a focused 
flurry of action in that area: trucks were being loaded with dirt and 
rubble; there was a wide assortment of machinery, equipment and men 
around the construction site. 

We ran to the edge of the wooden barrier and ducked under it. The size
of the hole filled me with awe; then I stared in fascination at an 
elevator cage rising from the depths.  When its floor was on the street 
level it stopped with a rattling shudder.  Wire mesh gates opened in 
the middle, one half rising and the other descending. 

Several men got off, pushing in front of them a large metal wagon that
was filled with earth and rocks. Then several others pushed an empty 
wagon onto the metal-screened elevator. The doors clanged shut and it 
was only then that I saw the operator sitting on a high stool. He 
turned down a big lever and the elevator began to descend and the men 
and machines disappeared into the hole. Sid told me to wait and he 
approached the next elevator.  He asked the operator if we could ride 
with him. His brazen request brought forth a cursed response from the 
operator: "Scram, you rotten kid.  If you don't beat it I'll have a cop 
run you in".  Sid retreated back to where I was. 

We walked north on the Concourse until we reached the Lowe's Paradise
movie house.  This theater was the best the Bronx had to offer: a 
carpeted lobby, marble stairways and a balcony that was so high you 
could almost touch the sky.  The ceiling of this huge hall showed a 
starry sky and the stars moved!  It was the only theater in the Bronx 
that had a combination of a first-run movie and a vaudeville show, all 
for the price of one. 

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