Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: A day with my father

June 17, 2016 By Tom Coca Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photos courtesy of Tom Coca
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Someone once asked me, “If you could relive any day, what would it be?”  Well, I can’t pinpoint the exact date, but it would have been a summer day in 1964 or thereabouts.     

I’m around twelve years old and still exist in a time of innocence.  Comic books, stickball, and homework dominate my thoughts.  The first week in July my father begins his two week vacation and the first day of his time-off is devoted to me.  We wake early, I dressed in chinos, short sleeve shirt, and sneakers – he dressed similarly although with shoes and an omnipresent pack of camels in his breast pocket.  

It’s a short walk to the subway station.  The train arrives and we board the first car so I can look out the front window while dad sits nearby and reads his paper.  We are on the N train in Brooklyn and after the stop on 8th Avenue we enter the underground tunnel.  I enjoy the roar along the express track watching the signal lights turn from red, to yellow, to green.  After DeKalb Avenue we emerge into bright sunlight once again as the train travels over the Manhattan Bridge.  To the left are the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.  To the right are the Williamsburg Bridge, Empire State Building, and skyscrapers of midtown.  Down we go, back into the tunnel until we reach Union Square where we exit.

In Union Square Park men gather near a flagpole and argue about politics and other matters.  Dad mentions that he likes to eat his lunch here and listen to the differences of opinion.  We enter a nondescript building and take the elevator to a clothing factory. Here, approximately fifteen stories up, are row upon row of sewing machines where dad makes pockets for men’s suits.  The men and women he works with make a big fuss over me.  One woman takes me to a window that looks out onto and alley where a pigeon has made its nest.  Dad collects his pay and then we head down to the exciting city below.    

This is my special day and we can do whatever I’d like.  Of course I’m just a kid and am not aware of the many treasures New York City holds so I leave it up to dad.  First stop is Central Park where we explore the zoo.  The sea lions are the highlight and at feeding time the zoo worker would toss fish which they’d catch in their mouths.   

I get a bag of popcorn and we walk along the lengthy path near Bethesda Fountain.  We begin to feed the pigeons and once we are out of popcorn the flock disperses and we head to the boathouse where we rent a rowboat.  Dad rowed and we would have wonderful conversations.  We talked about baseball, Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, pride, confidence, and respect.  We talked about space exploration, World War II, and the Twilight Zone.  Then I’d row for awhile and try to get the hang of it.  

After returning the boat we would walk by series of trails called The Ramble.  At one point there is a narrow stone archway that we needed to pass under.  I run ahead when Dad whistles sharply, stopping me in my tracks.  He looks on both ends to be sure there isn’t a mugger on the other side.  “You need to be careful,” he tells me.  “There are some people that will hurt you.  They can hide on the side here and rob you, or hit you over the head.  You need to be careful.”

On Central Park West we leave the park and head to the American Museum of Natural History.  We spend hours here and have a fantastic time viewing the nature dioramas, the giant tortoise, the Komodo dragon, the dinosaurs, the blue whale, the precious stones, and everything else on display in this great building.  

Upon leaving we walk to Times Square and the Automat.  Behind little glass doors sit sandwiches.  You deposit a few coins, open the door, and take the sandwiches. The automats were a New York tradition, now long gone.  Once we’ve eaten we walk a little longer along Times Square, then back down to the subway and the ride home to Brooklyn.

Yes, if I could relive any day this would be it, a time of pure innocence with my dad in the Big City.  What day would you choose?


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