It was the ice on the truck that beckoned to me when I was five-years-old and playing on the one-way street near my home in North Philadelphia.
At one time, delivery men hauled large blocks of ice in trucks for you to deposit them in the “ice box,’ which was the forerunner of the refrigerator. Ask your grandparents about. Every family had one, or they used cold storage areas cut out of the ground or a hill.
As a city boy, I grew up in working class area called Brewerytown, I wanted to be just like the older kids who got chunks of ice from the trucks. They’d hold them for what seems like hours, slurping away at the cool refreshment a nice chunk of ice could offer them on a hot day!
I remember climbing onto the back of a truck that day. Reaching in, I tried to grab some of that cold nourishment, when, to my surprise, I next woke up in a hospital bed miles away where someone told me I was being treated for a concussion.
They told me and my family that the ice truck, which had been stationery with its motor running, started moving forward with a jolt as it pulled away, shifting gears.
I must have fallen backwards, striking my head on the street below where some ambulance attendant found me, placed me in his vehicle, and rushed me to St. Joseph’s Hospital near Broad Street and Girard Avenue.
I don’t remember anything beside that moment clinging to the back of the truck on little Marston Street. I spoke to no one who would admit they had been with me when I tried such a foolish trick. My parents and their parents would have chewed them out for letting someone as young as I was then do such a crazy thing.
I often wonder today whether my later growth might have been stunted or perhaps altered somehow by the ice-run accident. We’re finding out more and more about concussions and their effect on the brain. I recall getting treatment years later for “anger management” and one of the questions raised by psychologists was whether you ever had a concussion or other blows to the head. I readily admitted it, having had my fair share of street fights in the neighborhood. I didn’t know the hits to the head would have such lasting effects however.
Maybe that explains why I suffered from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) years after serving in combat while in Vietnam. I never got hit by any enemy rounds, but I did suffer mentally, and perhaps emotionally, when artillery shells fell near me and around the platoon I had led. You don’t know how shattering the noise can be when something built to kill people crashes onto the ground where you are walking or sleeping.
It can have a chilling effect on any one at any age.