“The View from Ocean Hill” is a journey through time. Its’ about the sights, sounds and smells of Ocean Hill, an ethnic Italian neighborhood tucked away in eastern Brooklyn.
Lives were shaped by the streets and alleys of the neighborhood where it was easy to get into trouble with the law, parents and friends. It was cramped and sometimes irritating sharing a railroad flat with a brother and sister but it had its upside. Families shared everything they had, not only among themselves but also with their neighbors. Neighbors responded in kind.
The concrete stoop in front of 88 Hull Street was a gathering place, a clubhouse. We stepped off each day from here to scour our known world never venturing beyond the fringes. Our world was constricted by neighborhood boundaries that were not influenced by distance but by who lived in the adjoining neighborhoods. Callahan and Kelly Park was on the eastern fringe of the neighborhood in the midst of Broadway Junction and was within easy walking distance. It was home to Chops, G-man, Philly Beans, JackJack, BS and Fast Eddie. We played punch ball, stickball and handball until it was too dark to see your own hands. All the school yards, hallways and street corners hold memories of past fights, card games and hours idled away talking and harmonizing the latest Doo Wop songs. None of us were rich in material things but we were rich in family and friends. The transition from High School to College began one journey and ended another. My childhood friends were suddenly gone. One day we were playing together, smoking our first cigarettes and sipping from our first bottle of Thunderbird wine and the next day they had disappeared. They had not changed; maybe I had. Running and hiding from friends, enemies or the police was an art that was acquired. We never bought toys, we made our own. Carpet guns and scooters were made from scrap wood and recycled nails, bottle caps and old skates.
The events are accurate as I remember them. Substituting some characters in events was necessary. In some cases names were changed to protect those who expressed the desire not to be in print or to be quoted.