Growing Up with Billy (cont.)
by G.A. Cribari
The next day the older boy from the toboggan accident the day before came by and invited me to a snowball war with some of the other kids in the neighborhood.
The first “soldier” recruited was his cousin from across the street from me who was the same age as him. His name was Mike and his mom and my neighbor’s mom were sisters. We started up the street passing the next house on our left. The mom who lived there had two pretty daughters, one of whom used to babysit me when I was younger. We called her “The Christian Lady” because she used to drink a lot and one day when she was home alone while the girls were in school and her husband was at work she looked out her kitchen window into her backyard and she saw Jesus Christ standing 10 feet tall and smiling at her. She threw out the rest of the wine she was drinking and started going to church regularly.
We walked up the street to the next house for two more fighters who were brothers, one and two years younger than me. The older boy was nicknamed “Scotty”, probably because his Dad was of Scottish descent. Their mom was of Italian heritage and related to their next door neighbors whose ancestors must have been from the Italian city of Naples. We made our way up the snowy street and soon arrived at the first house on the street. The kid who lived there was named Mark and was also of Italian lineage. His Dad worked as a landscaper and their yard was full or ornamental trees and elaborately sculpted bushes. With Mark was Dick from three doors down. Dick and his family had things tough as his father had abandoned them. He started building his house but had not finished it, causing Dick’s older sisters to use the garage for their bedroom. Before he disappeared for good he would drive around our street while honking the horn.
As we prepared to cross Vosburg Road to our battlefield we attempted to decide the makeup of the opposing armies. The two older boys were the logical choice for team leaders. That left five solders but before we could decide who get the extra fighter, Mike’s younger brother Steve showed up.
We crossed the street and passed two recently built houses and proceeded up the un-plowed driveway of our battlefield, the soon to close Thursam Park. The two houses adjacent to the Park were to be followed by a subdivision of suburban houses on a new side street. We checked the packing quality of the snow as we approached the Party House with its elevated dance floor. It had gained some notoriety with the boys in the vicinity after they crashed a clams and beer dance party on a Saturday night.
When they heard laughing and loud music a couple guys climbed on the others’ shoulders and saw some women dancing on tables without their tops on. Before I got my turn some adults came out and chased us away. As we stood next to the Dance Hall we practiced shooting some snowballs at the building. It was very cold and the dry snow had to be worked and reformed to become solid. We tried to see who could throw the farthest and soon almost everyone had gotten one over the roof. Sufficiently warmed-up we turned to our left towards the picnic and grill area of the park. There was stark beauty in the pristine white landscape, it being completely devoid of footprints or even animal tracks. That was to change soon, as we neared the large pavilion to our left and the men’s and ladies restrooms to the right. The older cousins, Bill and Mike, flipped a quarter for the right to pick team members. Mike won the toss and picke3d his brother Steve and his neighbors Scott and Jimmy. Bill got me, Mark and Dick and the choice of either the Pavilion or the Restrooms as our “Fort”. Bill chose the latter because it had a wall to hide behind. The entrances also had a maze-like walkway from which you couldn’t see the door without walking to the end and turning left.
The war got off to a slow start. The time it took to make a snowball slowed the battle. All four of us would get ready to attack and charge the Pavilion, score some hits and retreat. This went back and forth until Bill got the idea to stockpile ammunition. He had Mark and I duck behind the partition wall…
to be continued
Professor G.A. Cribari is a science fiction writer, raconteur, cosmologist, sommelier, and independent historian. He lives in Center City.