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Although we lived, played, and dreamed on the streets, sidewalks, fire-escapes (which were really no escape), alleys and roofs, our childhood heros had never been in, or seen a city: At least not one like the one where we lived.

The Hardy Boys (Frank and Joe, two nice Jewish boys) were my heroes.

Every time there was a holiday or a birthday, I would beg my mom to buy me another Hardy Boy book. She always seemed dubious about this.

One day she has the nerve to tell me that all the books are the same. Why not save some money and re-read the same one over and over?

In the ensuing argument between a nine-year old and a middle-aged women I patiently explained that the books were definitely not the same. Not only did they have different titles, but the characters were different. How could she say that "The Mystery of the Old Shack" and the "Mystery of the Boathouse" were the same. Completely and utterly disimilar. In one, the Hardy Boys rescue a girl from the Old Shack and solve the mystery, and in the other, they rescure another completely different girl from a Boathouse and solve the mystery. Didn't she know that a boathouse and a shack were not the same thing? And as far as how they solved the mystery -- that was always different. The Hardy Boys were truly great detectives. And at the back of each book, there was the first chapter of the next book. And this just got my mouth watering to find out what was going to happen.

She'd give in and pick me up the next numbered book. And then, one terrible day, when I was about halfway through my 43rd Hardy Boy book I wasn't sure what book I was reading. This plot seemed to be quite like the previous 42 plots. I struggled to finish the book, but it was no use. The illusion was shattered. Nothing to do now but start on the Tarzan books. There weren't as many of them, but the plots seemed fresh and there were more big words..

My other favorite book for a long time was "A Child's History of the World." My parents gave this to me without looking at it too carefully, in the hope that I would read something halfway instructional. But my favorite part was the gory chapter about the French Revolution where they described the details of getting one's head chopped off, and how the French built special sewers under the streets of Paris to convey the blood away. I'm not sure if the fascination was with the blood, or the fact that the French had sewers just like us. It was amazing to think that those French Aristocrats had sewers, just like us -- even if they were filled with rivers of blood. Because sewers -- manhole covers to be exact -- were very important markers in our street games.


I offer several Bronx photographs as Note Cards here

All photography copyright Dave Beckerman.