Editor’s Note: Are you ready for another trip down Memory Lane? Those of you who grew up in the boroughs of NYC, will identify with this trip!
Arnold Fine, a”h, passed away on Sept. 5, 2014 at the age of 90. The Jewish Press continues to feature his timeless columns that have warmed the hearts of readers for more than fifty years.
Some of us old timers were children of the Depression years. We knew how to live without many of the luxuries kids have today. We collected things that didn’t cost us a cent.
The bottle caps we saved became our checkers. If you pried the cork center out of the bottle cap and then pressed it into another cap, that cap became our “shooter” when we played Skelly in the street. To play Skelly all you needed was a piece of chalk to draw a box with a certain pattern and you were in business.
Saving cheese boxes was also a big thing. You could get a cheese box from the grocer; it was always clean white wood. You could save marbles in them – or keep them for old pencils. They made wonderful planters we kept on the fire escape.
Some of us also saved rubber bands. Whenever we found one we would twist it along with many others into a rubber ball. Remember those rubber-band balls? The big trick, of course, was to see how big a rubber-band ball we could make. It wasn’t easy! The wide rubber bands were the best and the easiest – the little skinny ones would always manage to slip off the edge of the ball.
Some of the kids made rubber-band balls that were the size of a baseball. When you bounced it, it would go up almost three or four stories. But who played in the street with a rubber-band ball? You kept it in the house to impress friends. It was like a paperweight.
Saving matchbook covers was also a big thing in those years. We would walk along the street looking for discarded matchbook covers. In those years so many different companies advertised on matchbooks, and if you ever got a matchbook from out of state, you were almost a celebrity in our neighborhood.
Another thing saved in those years, especially as we grew older, – were Playbills. You know, the pro- grams you get when you see a show. If my sisters went to a show they would come back with a dozen Playbills. They would save them and give the extras to their friends. who did the same for them.
A big item in those years was a song sheet. They sold for 10 cents. Most of them were the size of today’s pennysavers and the front cover would proclaim, “500 of the Top Songs of Today!” True, those sheets did have the words to the top tunes of the day, but they never had 500 songs in them. To fill out the sheets they included the words to the national anthem, some old dance numbers, and a few of the songs we learned in school.
Another item we saved in those years were empty Prince Albert tobacco cans. They were great for storing nails, nuts, and dozens of other items.
Chocolate tins were always saved, for stationary. Mama and my sisters’ always kept stamps in purple chocolate boxes.
Ice cream sticks were also a big thing in those years. We would walk around the street and look in the gutter for discarded sticks. They were great for weaving little fans during hot summer nights, and every so often if we found a stick that said “Free Good Humor” on it, we could get a free ice cream from the Good Humor man, when he came around the neighborhood.
We also saved Bungalow Bar ice cream wrappers. The company had a promotion in those years where if you saved enough wrappers you could get a baseball or a doll or even a bat. I remember saving 75 wrappers to get a bat. I had ice cream coming out of my ears but I was so determined to get the bat that I just ate and ate and became a blimp that summer. But I got a bat!