I Almost Got Killed by 'Smokey the Bear'...(Life on Steinway Street Pt 3)

in newyorkcity •  2 months ago

Seven can be a very impressionable age, and I was no different in that respect…I believed in fairy tales, superheroes, monsters and a host of other mythical creatures.

I could easily become invincible at will, by putting on a red cape and pretending to be Superman; it didn’t matter that the cape was actually my mother’s Holiday table cloth...it worked.

A simple garbage can lid and wooden sword easily transformed me into a brave, fearless gladiator or adventurist Viking of yesteryear.

Believing in Smokey the Bear and him telling me that, “Only you can prevent forest fires” almost got me killed though…

Ole Smokey used to pop up just about everywhere in the 1950’s, with his big Park Ranger hat, Blue Jeans and cool looking shovel…He would appear on television, movie screens and in comic books, lecturing us about fire safety in the forest.

Where the forests were in New York City was a mystery to me, but I wanted to be in the forest one day, and certainly wanted to know how to not burn it down; so I liked ole Smokey, and listened well.

It all began as a normal day I guess with me and my friends, out doing whatever little boys do. Eventually, we wound up down the street to play in a big empty lot, filled with high weeds, interesting rocks…and buried treasure, hidden by Pirates long ago.

We never found the treasure and probably never will because the big old lot was turned into a graveled Parking Lot, and later became Steinway Street Park/Playground. The name has changed to ‘Ditmars Park’ in recent days.

When my friends and I arrived at the lot that day, we discovered a bunch of older guys trying to start a fire alongside the fence of an old, condemned Public School building (PS-2) The school was later torn down to make more space for the City Park which was to come.

Of course I and my little firefighting crew felt obligated to take action…Smokey the bear told us that it was our duty to fight fires, and we were not about to fail him…

We ran towards the older kids with the matches, yelling for them to “stop” but they ignored us; even laughing. They continued flicking lit matches at the little pile of paper and leaves they assembled, finally getting it to light up.

All I could do was think of Smokey the Bear, and preventing forest fires, so I started kicking dirt onto the flames as fast as I could.One of the older guys tried pushing me away, but I wouldn’t give in…till he picked up a rock.

The kid rose his hand up with a warning that he’d throw it at us if we didn’t get out of there…Then his buddies picked up rocks too, and we ran for our lives as the rocks came hurling towards us…

As I was running, I’d take some quick glances back in order to take evasive action. The older kids were now chasing us too…Then it happened…

I got hit by a car…

The old school had a big driveway remaining in place and just as I reached it, a car shot up in front of me. My head was turned, so I didn’t see the car coming, and of course had no idea what I had hit, sending me tumbling backwards along the sidewalk, crashing into two baby carriages that a couple of ladies were pushing.

While my head was clearing, I could hear ladies screaming in horror…and one of them was the lady who drove the car into me; she lived down the block from me. It was the same mean, old, grouchy lady who ratted me out to my father for being on the roof once, running around with my friend Louie and Nicky.

Anyway…all I could think of, was to get up and ‘runnnnnn’ as fast as I could to get away…which I did…

My child’s mind told me that ‘I’ was gonna get in trouble for getting hit by a car, and it didn’t help ease my mind having the driver now chasing after me telling me to “WAITSTOP…” I was ‘DOOMED’...

The ladies daughter must have seen the whole incident from where they lived, and caught me in her arms as I was looking back, escaping from her wild eyed, screaming mom…

Being carried home, all I could think of was how I’d get whipped on the butt by my father with the belt, for being careless or something stupid like that…Fortunately; I was spared a whipping that day. Phew…

I don’t really remember any police being called and having an accident report taken, or how I got to the doctor…maybe I passed out?

Along with some scrapes and bruises, my ankle swelled up which was enough for the ladies insurance company to pay my parents $300. By today’s standards, that probably would have amounted to $3,000 or more.

That’s enough money for some parents to encourage their kids to run into a few more cars…my parents must have loved me, because they told me to do the opposite…

Because of ‘Smokey the Bear’…I almost croaked as a kid…It’s a good thing that my super powers had been activated before that car hit me; otherwise I would have never been able to write this story; and…you’d never know that old @AngryMan ever existed…

I’m outta here for now…See ya in the next episode of 'Life on Steinway Street'


End of Part #3     'Life on Steinway Street'

    Link to Part #1     Part #2

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