Saturdays

To a ten-year-old, Saturday is the prize at the end of the week, a day teeming with anticipation and beckoning adventures.

Dad gave me my allowance on Friday night after he had checked my chores and approved the grades on my tests and homework. Kindhearted man that he was, he would rarely dock any funds, even if I failed this rigorous inspection. So, Saturday morning with 25 cents jingling in my pocket, I’d take off for downtown Garden City, Long Island, and the local Five and Dime where most of the items really cost only five or ten cents. It was the route I followed that I fondly remember rather than the comics and candy I might purchase.

No kid goes by the road when on foot. The hypotenuse, a concept I learned in the eighth grade, was the only way to travel. My friend, Joan Olsen, lived on the corner of Tenth Street and Cherry Valley Road. Her property, like ours on Eleventh Street backed on to the Garden City Golf Course. So, after breakfast I’d slam out the door, wearing my beat-up Keds, my older brother’s discarded jeans, a white shirt (never tucked in), maybe an old favorite sweater and gallop over the yard to the golf course and through the cut in the privet hedge into the Olsen’s yard. By now my Keds were wet from the dew and my toes would tingle, but I’d continue along the side of their yard avoiding discovery and Mrs. Olsen’s flower beds. Of course if Joan were about we’d go together, but I was just as happy having my weekly adventure alone.

Their front yard took a steep pitch down to busy cherry Valley Road and I fling myself pell-mell down the slope, glancing left and right to see if I’d have to stop for interfering traffic. On the other side, my momentum would carry me up the hill. There I would enter the Bartlett’s less trimmed, but more intriguing back yard of neatly piled discarded garden tools and old car parts. I don’t think Mr. Barlett put anything in the garbage.

“Someday,” he would say, “we’re gonna need that thing.”

He was a champion yeller and had a degree in Grouchy, so I avoided him whenever possible. Getting through his yard without detection was always a challenge.
By now I had reached Ninth Street and had to decide if I would sneak through the Garden City Hotel. At the west end of the hotel was an exit door, usually unlocked. Peeking in I would slide through the opening, making up a story in case one of the staff stopped me. That part was easy as our family doctor had an office in the basement and I could say I was looking for him. Or I could be searching for my dad in the barber shop, also located in the hotel.

I can still see the worn, red carpet that beckoned me down the narrow hallway, with wainscot panelling half way up to the ten-foot ceiling. Sauntering down the hall as if I belonged there, at the news stand, I pretended to read the headlines on the many daily papers we had in the Forties. Sometimes I might even part with a nickel to by a pack of Wrigley’s spearmint gum. Nodding to the uniformed doorman I would enter the revolving door for him to push me out. Or, if it was raining, I’d walk past the Polo Bar and the huge dining room to an unused exit. Today, I’m sure all sorts of bells would clang announcing my trespass.

Finally, I would cross Hilton Avenue and stroll down Seventh Street and examine the windows of the Pinafore Playshop, Best & Company, as well as the Five and Dime for my weekly perusal and purchases. It was a slower paced time; a time to delight in the seasonal changes and the vitality of childhood – a good time to remember.

Lois K. Learned
Southbury, CT 2011

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