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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – There was a movie made in the 1970s called “American Graffiti,” a coming of age story about a bunch of teens cruising around on their last night of freedom before going off to college. It was set in the ‘60s but could have taken place in any age, being one of those rare experiences that occur only once but which provide a lifetime of happy memories. It would truly be a shame if you missed such an incident, but I was lucky enough to have it happen one summer evening in 1954.
A bunch of us were hanging out after dinner on the corner of 60th St. and 20th Ave. in Brooklyn when one of the regulars named Jerry drove up in his 1941 Mercury coupe looking a little wilder than usual. It seems he had just been kicked out of the Naval Reserve for chronic absenteeism and insubordination, and appeared to be just itching for excitement or something to release his anger. He said his girlfriend was at a slumber party, and not knowing its location he was going to drive over to Myer’s Ice Cream Parlor on 13th Ave., a local gathering spot for New Utrecht High School students, hoping to find out where the sleep-over was taking place. Three of us got into his oil burner and off we went like the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece.
Pulling up in front of Myer’s we saw the usual group of boys and girls outside, so Jerry being a well-recognized character, got out of his jalopy to ask the girls if they knew the party’s address. Sure enough the information was quickly obtained, but of course Jerry had to commiserate with some acquaintances who were now leaning against the car. While Jerry sat in the idling auto and talked, he suddenly shifted into gear and tore off, tires screeching, while his friends were still resting on it. Evidently no one got injured but those guys jumped into their own vehicle and took off in hot pursuit… the chase was on.
This all occurred in a quiet neighborhood called Boro Park where all the side streets are one-way and narrow with cars parked on either side. Jerry was crazy but not stupid so we and the car behind weren’t going very fast though they couldn’t pass or catch us. What added to the event’s hilarity was that the vehicle in back carried a carton of light bulbs for some reason, and as they chased they kept throwing the bulbs at our car. Pop pop pop, so to bystanders it must have sounded like gun shots. Jerry drove, they chased, while I and the two others laughed hysterically.
Finally running out of ammunition and obviously tiring of the effort, the others gave up the pursuit leaving Jerry to continue on his original quest. Pulling up in front of the residence, we piled out of the car, entered the 2-family house, and just ran up the stairs without ringing. There were about a dozen girls dressed in baby-dolls who immediately scattered screaming in all directions. The girlfriend was thankfully there so things quieted quickly, but the landlord suddenly came running up armed with a baseball bat. Before anyone could get hurt, the situation was sufficiently explained to calm things down. We were asked to leave which we did, tranquilly ending our adventure with everyone happy and none the worse for wear.
I must have laughed for a solid week afterwards, and though it occurred almost 60 years ago, I still haven’t stopped.