Time and Again in Middle Village
by John Delach
(All of this happened between 1970 and 1977.)
One hot, steamy Saturday morning found me vacuuming the orange shag-rug that covered our first-floor living room and dining room. Mary Ann had left me alone taking Beth and Michael with her. A fortuitous glance out of our front window revealed my cousin, Bob, exiting his car…a dream come true. At that time, Bob was a Seventies swinging single and it was within the bounds of reason to believe he’d fantasize knocking at a door answered by a bored housewife wearing only her panties and bra. Close but no cigar; In fact, I was the one smoking the cigar and dressed only in a tenement tee shirt and Jockey shorts. I didn’t even give him the chance to ring the bell … I threw open the front door, vacuum cleaner in hand, cigar in the other to exclaim: “What can I do for you good looking?”
Our house at 65-33 77th Place had been the childhood home of Aunt Helen. Mary Ann and I had moved into a one-bedroom garden apartment in Kew Garden Hills next to Flushing-Meadows Park when we were first married in 1967. Beth was born in 1969 and we soon began outgrowing our apartment. As if by magic, my Aunt Helen arrived in the nick of time offering to rent us the Middle Village house for an astounding amount of $150. Trust me, even in 1970, a monthly rent for a house of only $150 was unheard of!
We moved in February of 1970. My cousin Helen, her husband Don and their family lived four houses away from us in 65-25. In April 1972, they moved to Ramsey, NJ but first sold the place to her brother and his wife, Bill and Del, and their family.
In those early years, we had an active social life with neighbors like Angela and Harold, Vinnie and Lillian, Bob and Connie and Michael and Carol*. Gatherings were mostly house parties but also the occasional church or fraternal order racket. I’m not sure how widely known the term “racket” was outside of Queens but it defined dining and dancing dress-up affairs that included various fund-raising events like 50/50, baskets of cheer, raffles and auctions. We’d take a table of ten. Our tickets included set-ups but it was always BYOB, (Bring Your Own Bottle.)
*Michael and Carol didn’t socialize with us that often. Michael seemed too busy with work and attending NY Knick games. Michael was often late coming home. Two times at Saturday night house parties, he explained ice on the bridge delayed his coming home from Knick games. Of course, this was met with disbelief among the guys especially since he couldn’t tell us the final score. As it turned out, he was full of shit and had a thing going on with a squeeze in his office…goodbye Michael and Carol.
Fred and Huguette arrived from Viet Nam in 1975. They moved into 65-31, a heretofore vacant house next to us. Fred first served in Viet Nam as an army electronics technician while the army was still advisers. After returning home and completing his service he took a job with Decca and returned in country where he met and married Huguette. Fred was a pragmatist with a terrific sense of humor. One Saturday afternoon witnessed the two of us consciously deciding not to prevent an accident. It was one of those Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the Long Island weather gods produce a mild day perfect for installing outdoor Christmas lights. We were both outside, each working on our own displays, when Bill came out lights, ladder and staple gun in hand. Bill erected his ladder, plugged his string in and climbed up to begin fixing it to the house.
“Should we tell him to unplug them first,” Fred asked?
“Naw”, I replied, “Let’s watch the show.”
Bill’s second or third staple hit the wire. Fred and I watched as the spark, shock and sound took him off the ladder and onto the grass. Unhurt but flustered, Bill didn’t appreciate our uncontrolled laugher and our now useless advice to unplug the lights first.
One of our favorite Friday night pass time was stoop sitting around the front walkway leading to the door. Bill and Del, Fred and Huguette and we Delaches lived within five attached houses of each other. We’d leave the widows fronting the street from our kids’ rooms open allowing these organic baby monitors to sound the alert by way of crying if one awoke.
The gals smoked cigarettes, guys cigars; we drank beer or wine and a few exotic drinks, mostly for the ladies like whiskey sours, sloe gin fizz or whatever else was trendy. Eventually, the need for pizza would strike our collective stomachs and a couple of the men would make a pizza run to Tudor Tavern Pizzeria on nearby Eliot Avenue and 80th Street. The later it was, the better the pizza tasted.
One Friday night, Mary Ann and I joined the stoop-sitting festivities already in progress. We had dined at her mother’s house in Flushing before coming home to put our kids to bed before joining the group. Bill reminded me of a story long lost to me:
“One of my favorite stories, you came over to our front lawn and in short order, Mary Ann announced: ‘John, I have a bone to pick with you.’
“Apparently, while at her mother Dorothy’s house that afternoon. The kids were in the living room and Michael was trying to turn on the TV. Mary Ann and Dorothy were in the kitchen but could hear their conversation. Beth to Michael: ‘You can’t watch that TV, it’s too f***ing dark.’
“Mary Ann told you there was a lull in her conversation with her mother so they both clearly heard what Beth had said. Dorothy feigned being unsure and asked, ‘What did she say.?’
“Mary Ann gave the only reply she could think of, ‘I don’t know.’
“Mary Ann asked if you had an explanation why Beth would have said something like that?
“You thought for a moment and replied: ‘Well, that tv is too f***ing dark.”