By Bernie Halligan
The Neighborhood in the Fifties
Local landmarks gave the neighborhood a distinct character. The huge Methodist church, that for some reason we all called "Protestant," occupied the southwest corner of 178th street and Washington Avenue. Two long towers stretched skyward. A large, wooden entranceway accommodating a crowd and an adjoining lot where you could set up a baseball field, as if playing in Yankee Stadium.
Not to be outdone by the Protestants or Methodists, there was St. Joseph's Catholic Church in the middle of the block between 177th street, Tremont Avenue, and 178th Street. The church side entrance was on Bathgate Avenue and the church hall entrance on Washington Avenue. A castle-like structure, actually higher to the sky than the Protestant church because it rested on a hill, stretching from Washington to Bathgate avenues. Adorned by a simple cross on the roof, it was the highest point in the neighborhood. Both churches had beautiful stained glass windows surrounding most of the structures. The Protestant church was covered from roof to sidewalk with ivy, in danger of catching on fire every Fourth of July when someone threw a sparkler or firecracker into it. It would usually flame up but somehow never catch fire, making for great anticipation every Fourth.
There were other landmarks too, like the Chinese laundry sign. If you hit it, on a fly, playing stickball, it was an automatic homerun. There was Yaskill's candy store on 178th and Washington. Teret's on 178th and Bathgate had a jukebox. The Chinese restaurant on Tremont and Washington had a tempting metal sign, within reach, if you jumped high enough. It was next to the 5 and 10 cents store, "Woolworth's," where they sold everything you ever needed.
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