Joe Roche Contact Joe 180-01G
July 2000
We all were in the same boat

Having read Dex's recent reminiscences of his childhood experience during WWll, stirred my dusty memories of a time in my almost forgotten past from the same period. Having been born in the wilds of NYC, in a neighborhood called Yorkville, in August of 1941 the oldest of what would be three.

Yorkville was at that time a working class neighborhood of German, Irish and Italian people who got along with each other as well as gasoline and water mix. My father was Irish and mom was Italian. Lots of heated discussions of the ethnic variety. Ethnicity aside we all were in the same boat.

Mom & Dad were concerned about putting food on the table, and keeping the landlord from evicting us. We lived in a cold water tenement building on First Avenue. All the apartments were railroad room types. I used to hear people later in life refer to Shotgun houses. Enter the front door and you can see straight through to the rear of the house. That is a railroad flat. We did have hot water, but we provided our own heat, of the kerosene-stove variety. One in the kitchen and a double burner in the parlor.

There are only two instances of WWll that I vividly remember. The first is when my uncle Jim was drafted into the Navy. Uncle Jim and Aunt Kate, (my moms older sister) lived on the first floor of our building, we lived on the fourth floor. The day he left everyone was in our apartment, Uncle Jim was in uniform and all the adults were very sad and Aunt Kate was crying as were his two kids, my older cousins Jim, who was about 12 and Joan about 8. My mom was comforting Aunt Kate and my dad must have felt guilty because he never served during the war. He called me his deferment. This was in 1944. My Uncle served as a storekeeper on a supply ship. 

My second memory was of a happier time. I was to find out later it was VJ Day.

I had gone to the grocery store with my mom, which was right across the avenue from my building and when we came out I saw a couple of men on our roof hanging red, white and blue bunting in the shape of a "V" from the two outer edges of our roof down to the first floor sign of Cohen's candy store. When I asked mom why they were hanging the bunting my mom answered, "the war is over and all the boys can come home now". I thought that was great because somehow I knew all boys belonged at home with their mom and dads.

Great block parties followed.

Wooden kegs of beer being tapped. Music, singing and dancing in the streets which were closed off to traffic.

That is all I can remember of that time. I know all my uncles came home. We have a picture from the Daily News of my fathers' younger brother at the rail of a troop ship tying up at a New York pier.

Growing up in NYC was a great place to let ones imagination flow. What we didn't know about real life cowboys and Indians we made up. On a Saturday afternoon I got 25 cents from my mom to go to the Annex Theater. We saw two cowboy movies, 10 cartoons, a serial of some sort and I had money left over to buy a bag of popcorn. I think my favorite cowboy was Lash LaRue, or maybe it was Hoppy. Nah it was Gene or Roy. Hell, I loved em all.

It was a different time then. Simpler, less hectic to be sure. Times have changed, I have changed. We all have changed. I'm no longer the skinny kid with the mop of hair. I'll be 59 years old soon. The hair is long gone. The body refuses to do things I took for granted, or never concerned myself with.

But one thing I hope never changes -- My refusal to grow up.