More Memories

More Childhood Memories of Bridgeport, Connecticut

Provided by John Babina
(Edison 1955, Hall 1956, Notre Dame 1961; and Success Park)


Picking up Popsicle sticks out of the gutter and weaving those wooden rafts. Buying fake wax mustaches, false teeth and lips at the candy store, candy cigarettes with real advertising logos on the "pack". Getting the toy out of the bottom of  Cracker Jacks. Mary Jane's pulling out a tooth filing. The dentist had the old slow speed drills - ugh! Novocain was a separately priced option - administered only if it really hurt! Remember the vegetable dye transfer "tattoos" that were all the rage. Buying authentic looking rubber spiders (some kids put them on the bananas at the TipTop grocery store.) The sky covered with kites in the Success Park ball field in the early days of spring. Some strings got caught in the TV antennas and would fly the kite by themselves for hours in a steady breeze. Milk freezing in the bottles on the porch and pushing the cardboard lid up out of the bottle. Clothes frozen stiff on the line (they had to be carefully thawed!) Mom's sheer curtains being dried on these big wooden frame curtain "stretchers" in your backyard. Making wooden "go-carts" with abandoned baby carriage wheels (with the baby boom there was no shortage of wheels). Open flame kerosene "smudge pot" lights as motorist hazard warnings along construction sites on Success Avenue. Hiking in the "woods" behind Betty Ann's Bakery, building a camp fire and baking potatoes in the coals. X-ray fluoroscope machines in the shoe stores. Pair of sneaks tied together and thrown over the power lines. Weaving potholders on a frame and selling them door to door. Clear plastic water pistols. Baseballs covered in black tape. Making a ball of used string, making a ball of rubber bands, making a ball of metal foil from discarded cigarette packs (Why did we do that?).  The loud piercing whine of gas powered model airplanes that had to be controlled by wires - the operator had to stand in the middle and rotate with the plane. Finding a "grain of wheat" penny "tails up" was good luck. Collecting 1943 steel pennies from the war era. playing marbles, playing mumble-e-peg with a jackknife, playing hang-the-butcher spelling game, playing "knuckles", a card game. The Old Maid card game.  Hula-hoop craze. John Nagy "Learn to Draw" kits from his 50s "hit" TV show (with Venus-Paradise color pencil kits from Grumbacker's. Nagy also did "Famous Artists Correspondence School"). Getting a real "siren" for your bike that worked by rubbing the impeller driver on the rubber tire. Blue, red and green color cellophane to put over your black & white TV picture tube to create cheap color. If you did not have a color set - you said " we're waiting for it to be perfected"! Bubble magnifier for small TV picture tubes. The rooftop Bead Chain billboard that lit the giant light bulb each time the animated chain got "Pulled". The Spanish cannon at Seaside Park point - some "unidentified" kids were known to throw lit cherry bombs into the muzzle to simulate cannon fire. People walking out on the Seaside Park breakwater at low tide and getting trapped by high tide - it was not connected to dry land! Parking and watching planes land at Bridgeport Airport with your parents was something to do for a typical Sunday drive. Taking the younger kids on the miniature amusement rides on Boston Ave. or at the airport. A trip to Savin Rock was one of the biggest treats you could get on a Sunday afternoon.  Visiting the futuristic "Talgo" train (June '54) parked at the Bridgeport train station (in the '50s). Patrick B. McGinnis, controversial president of the railroad, order the train in a lost cause attempt to salvage the collapsing NY, NH and Hartford RR passenger service. The futuristic Talgo featured one long articulated cabin  - there were no doors between "cars"! They painted the adjacent columns of the Bpt. RR station red, white & blue and handed out coloring books to the kids. (Remember the UTC - Sikorsky Turbo Train (late 60s) that also tried to revive passenger traffic after the Penn-Central takeover.) Remember the thunderous rumble of the station structure when regular trains came through the old wooden elevated station. Remember the old station had gargoyles decorating the tower? The old passenger cars that never got washed - you could not see out the windows. I was there when a big trailer truck went under the lower (wrong) station underpass and peeled its aluminum roof off like a sardine can. It made a loud bang and sprayed rivets all over Fairfield Ave. Remember when the Beardsley Park Zoo was free. The Tarzan swing at Bunnell's pond (located where the RT 8-25 connector took a piece of the pond). Did you know that the two piers, still visible in Bunnell's pond, were for an ice house? My dad saw it burn down and the fire took out the houses on the adjacent street near the dam. Buying giant blocks of ice at the ice company for picnics. You put in a quarter and the block was dispensed out of a chute! Back to back hurricanes (Carol Aug '54 [60 deaths] & Dianne Aug '55 [184 deaths]) blacking out the lights at Success park - going out briefly in the eerie calm when the "eye" went by - shocked by the big trees that came down. The valley towns were wiped out. If your parents had essential business in the valley during clean-up, they had to get typhoid shots. Remember when Veterans' Day was called Armistice Day? Kids would shinny up the drain pipes to retrieve balls landing on the flat 2 story roofs of the Success Park buildings. The introduction of the "wiffle ball" ('53) ended the reign of the Spaulding pink ball. (The precursor to the wiffle ball was a plastic practice golf ball with holes - my dad had used those and we hit those with broom sticks.).  The big deal when Alaska & Hawaii became states. (The US "officially" had a 49 star flag for one year - It flew over the White House and Capitol. Nobody bought any since they knew it was changing to 50) The not so big deal (by today's standards) when "under God" was added to the pledge. Remember when adding fluorine to the water supply was controversial, and for some "a communist plot" . . .  a sign of "creeping socialism". We lived through the red scare, McCarthyism and black listing on TV. Teflon coated pots would make you "sick".  Aluminum pots were unhealthy. Cranberry sauce was "contaminated". Eisenhower ate cranberry sauce on TV to "save the industry". The world came to a halt when "Uncle Miltie" (aka "Mr. Television") was on Ch. 4 on Tuesday nights. (Milton Berle's show, called the Texaco Star Theatre, was responsible for a huge increase in TV set sales, the proliferation of antennas at Success Park & Canaan Village and the demise of many movie houses.) 
Remember when old used jelly jars were pressed into service as thermos bottles? If I had to take some milk with me, a washed out jelly jar with waxed paper screwed under the lid became a leak-proof "gasket". We also used waxed paper to preserve fall leaves by ironing the leaves between the sheets (irons were protected by another sheet of paper) to give them a coating of wax. Remember pea shooters? How about Flexible Flyer sleds. And yes!  . . .  the snow was deeper in our day!

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