Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Along the El in Kensington Brooklyn

I remember looking up at the train as it passed overhead.
Like the sound of thunder on a clear Kensington morning, the dirty black subway cars slowly rumbled by. And as always the large shadows of the train made their way though the playground.
Sheets of black silk gently moving over the swings, seesaws and then finally the small brick building where the bathrooms were.

I just stood there staring up at the train, it hissed, moaned and clattered until it was finally out of sight, just slithering away into the distance until there was silence.

I guess I was about four years old when my mom used to take me to that playground on Dahill and Cortelyou. At the time there was an elevated train that used to connect the Ditmas Avenue F station with the Ninth Avenue D train station by 39th street. I think it was called the “S” shuttle train. And although I never really traveled on it that much, I was certainly fascinated by it as a kid. That’s because the El that the train traveled on was almost directly above the playground my mom used to take me to all the time. And let me tell you, I was certainly one who loved anything that traveled on two rails.
So when it came to going to the playground, I probably spent more time waiting for the next train to come rather than climbing the monkey bars.

And my mom, well, she was never really the type to chase me around the playground or slide down the slide alongside side me. No, my mom would always sit there on the concrete and wood bench, and watch me play instead. And that was perfectly fine with me you see, because I really never saw any other parents sliding down those slides either. No, when it came to the playground, our parents knew where their place was, and that place was usually on a hard bench in the corner somewhere.

But that all changed the day my mom
decided to ride the seesaw with me.

Now I was always a skinny little kid, and my mom, well, let’s say she was always kind of “big” if you know what I mean. She was probably about five foot nine and well over 175 pounds at the time. While I was no more than 40 pounds or so, and skinny as the subway rails above the playground.

“Ok Ronnie, are you ready to try the see-saw with me?”

I remember sitting on the wooden plank of the seesaw and looking at my mom across from me. She was smiling at me and was telling me to “hold on to the handle”.

But just then another train started to rumble by overhead. I looked up at the subway cars as they thundered by and was fascinated once again by their wheels, windows, and noise.

And then without warning I remember feeling myself being thrown into the air. I was floating way above the seesaw and the playground. The train suddenly was not that “high” above me anymore.

“Wow, can this be heaven?”

And then I started falling towards earth.


I remember waking up and seeing my mom’s face above mine. There were other people too all staring at me. I guess I forgot to hold on to the handle along with my mom forgetting that she weighed almost four times as much as me. My mom told me that I hit the back of my head on the concrete so hard she thought she killed me.

But even though my head hurt real bad, at least I got a
real good look at that train that day. Because that El was
torn down some years later in the 1970's.
And the rumble of that train can be heard no more.

And as for riding on a seesaw?
Well, I've never been on one since,
and never plan to ride one ever again.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter


Anonymous said...

I used to go to that same playground and the seesaw well that was another story. I never forget the first time I learned the hard way that both people really need to get off of it at the same time. As for the shuttle--remember the old men playing bocce underneath it. AND the huge screeching when it made the turn into ditmas ave--even in the middle of the night. I have pictures of me on the swing with the el in the background. Didnt they end up making a swimming pool there? Now its grass and benches. But I did play basketball there when I got older and handballtoo. 15 ave was pretty scary in the 70's as was everyplace else. but thank goodness they demolished those apts and now there appear to be families in townhouses.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ron,
Another great story that brings back so many memories - thanks again! The train you're talking about was called the Culver shuttle. I remember it well. It used to scare me riding it with my mom to go to 13th ave shopping because when it pulled back into Ditmas ave, it was on that outside track and looked like it would tumble off the track and down into that junkyard on McDonald Ave as it made the turn! And the old Italian guys that would play bocci underneath it between the old freight tracks by 13th/14th Aves. It was out of service for a long time - replaced by a bus- and when they finally tore the structure down, I felt sad, like a part of my childhood disappeared. And that playground you're talking about was totally off limits to me and my friends(we grew up on E 5th bet. Cortelyou and Ave.C) We were told bad kids hung out there doing who knows what and it was too close to the apartments where all the puerto ricans lived, and they would rob you,beat you up and steal your bike! That was partly true but exaggerated. Yes, later on they added a city pool, but we still couldn't go there. In the 80's it was fixed up and updated and was a pretty good park (and by that time all the "bad people" were mostly replaced by Hasidim.) I brought my own sons there while I still lived in the nabe, I have videos too. Anyway, that's my nickel's worth. Thanks, take care and keep the stories coming.
-Joe, former E 5 st guy