Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Bobby walked under the green shady trees along Arlington Avenue. It was April 7, 1945, the president was dead. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been president of the United Statessince 1933. Bobby was two years old then and now he was 14. On a dark rainy day in January, Bobby’s dad had taken him to the Navy Yard in Brooklyn. They saw the president in a black cape and gray fedora hat riding in the back seat alone in an open topped limousine coming out of the Navy Yard. It was dark and drizzly.

He looked so old and sad but Bobby was thrilled to see him. What’s it like to be dead, to be president, to leading a gigantic war? A couple of the president’s sons were soldiers. Bobby wanted to be a soldier too. All day long the radio played Home on the Range, the president’s favorite song.

Public School 108, Brooklyn was three blocks away. First he walked by the East New York Pubic Library. It was set back from the street above  a green grassy terrace. He had a library card and went there sometimes to get or return a book. The librarian stamped the date to be returned on his yellow library card.

The school was a four story red brick structure. The rooms were spacious with high windows with lots of light air and sunshine when there was some. The rooms held thirty desks, a teacher’s podium and desk. Giant blackboards, yellow and blue maps loomed over the front of the room. There was an American flag, bright colored prints of flowers and scenery. The ethnic mix of kids was mostly Italian. My friends were Felix Santella, Frankie Scornienchi and Carlo Di Gennaro, all Roman Catholics. Morty Goldblatt and Judith Lorber were Jews. Hannah Hartnet was Irish. Bobby was an Episcopalian

On May 8, 1945, Bobby walked along Arlington Avenue to school. He was a bit choked up. The war was over. The Germans had surrendered. The black headlines in the Daily News shouted victory for the Americans and the Allies. Bobby wanted to skip. The president did not live to see that day of victory.

The school held an assembly. The boys wore white shirts and blue ties. The girls wore white blouses and blue neckerchiefs. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America. The principal gave us a talk about the importance of winning the war and that we should be proud to be Americans.  Bobby loved all that stuff and felt warmly patriotic.

Another month later Bobby walked along Arlington Avenue to P.S. 108. It was his last day at the school. He and his class graduated from the eighth grade. Most of the kids went off to public high schools. He was going to St. Paul’s School, an Episcopal school in Garden City, New York out on Long Island. The assembly was much the same as before. There were speeches and singing. No parents were there. It was a workday for the working class parents whose children were graduating.

(So different from today where parents and grandparents are expected to show up for nursery school graduations)

We marched out with the piano rendering Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March #2

After the ceremonies the graduates milled around on the sidewalk on Arlington Avenue. Tearing, hugging, kissing and saying good byes delayed scattering the kids back home. Rita Viglarolo came up to Bobby, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately, lips and then slipping tongues too. She had black wiry hair, black eyes and olive skin. . She wore a tight white sweater not hiding her large pointed mounds of breasts. Shocked at first, sweetly tumescent, Bobby tightened her body to him and kissed back all the harder.

He loved the feeling of lust in him. He felt confused. What do I do next? I want to go, I want to stay. Are people watching? I don’t care. I want more and more. Rita did too. She kept right at him.

She was in his class but he had not paid much attention to her except to stare at her lovely protruding breasts. I guess she caught me looking, he mused. Finally they broke apart. Rita said, “We are having a victory block party to celebrate the end of the war on our block. You could come.”

Bobby walked home along Arlington Avenue in the late bright afternoon. His mind and loins were full of Rita. He returned home to 53 Jerome Street, where he lived with his mother, father and younger brother. He looked forward to the summer and going to St. Paul’s in September.

He went to the block party a few days later, but Rita was dancing with another boy. He never saw her again. P.S 108 was behind him. High School and college loomed delightfully ahead.