Corner Lounging. Police picked us up more times than I can remember simply for hanging out and making a little too much noise, perhaps, with a little too much profanity.
I didn’t. Use profanity. Not much. And when I did, I think it meant something. Not like today, when the “F” word is bantered around too freely. And way too often. And, that’s in so-called “polite society.”
We were young kids drawn to older kids who had little to occupy their time except hang out in our geographic circles, aka, the street corner. The “coolest” ones, the teenagers with the nice outfits and a quip for anything anti-establishment, got the most attention and adulation. I looked up to those “old heads” who could cuss up a storm and strut their stuff in walking down a street. And those were just the girls!
Like Midge Connerton. I think she was the first of the opposite sex that I noticed was more of a woman than a girl. Seem to always wear oversized sweat shirts (probably belonged to “Beanie” her brother) and jeans that rolled up at the end. Smoked cigarettes. And caused kids like me, two to three years younger than her, to look up to her as both a “roll” model, and a model you wouldn’t mind “rolling” around with.
She was cute. And had breasts. At the age of 12 and 13, they stood out. They got attention, is what I mean. You put them in the mix with corner-lounging, cursing and smoking, and you got yourself a one-way ticket to juvenile delinquency and teenage pregnancy, is what our parents thought. We viewed it as juvenile delicacies and teenage prep for adulthood.
Good kids for the most part, cops would label all as trouble-makers, running us in, based on some flimsy complaint with the hope of scaring us off the corners. We’d go right back after our parents would “bail us out” of the police precincts, lecturing us, as we’d swear before the Almighty we’d never do again whatever it was we were accused of doing in the first place.
My mother learned about this “police work” the hard way. Four or five of us barely into our teens were “pitching” pennies outside of our house at 31st Street and Girard Avenue in Brewerytown, Philadelphia. My brother, John, and I were using pennies we got from a jar my mother was saving them in. Charlie Dell A’Casa, our next door neighbor, used his own pennies as did the other kids, all ranging from twelve to 14. (I was the youngest.)
A “red car” drove up the wrong way of 31st Street and pulled onto the pavement as two police officers jumped out of police car — all in red at that time — and rounded us up, grabbing the pennies lying on the pavement as evidence of our crimes. None would listen to what any of us had to say. Got threatened by one of the cops to shut up “or else,” as he indicated with body language what he would do with th club he carried on him.
Mom heard the racket inside the house, came out, and the last I seen her, she was holding open the screen door, shouting at the cops “They were my pennies. I gave them to ’em to play!“
Did no good. The law is the law. And a complaint is a complaint, no matter what or where it may have originated. Or whether it was ever founded or not.
We got released. But got no lecture from our folks this time. Never did “pitch” pennies again. The object was to get as close to the wall with your penny to win. We played the game with a deck of cards instead of money from then on. Learned to move our “Corner-Lounging” away from those corners that gathered the most complaints too. It was all part of the learning process in growing up in the city. Tough but educational. Just like Life.