Last weekend I held what I hope is our first of many East Fourth street reunions. I guess you can blame the power of the internet for helping us all keep in touch. Just a running list of email addresses and my December 2008 pitch for a get together in June of 2009. Yes, it was a success, and more people showed up than I ever thought would in a million years.
And yes, there was talk of the old days, all the crazy things we used to do and such. The normal chatter you would find at any reunion, be it high school or nursing home.
“Hey Ronnie, remember the time we let the dummy fall from the tree in front of that taxi cab?” “Oh my God, I thought that cab driver was going to have a heart attack”.
“Hey Ronnie, remember the first time you got drunk at my parents house on East 5th?” “You were in the bathroom throwing up and singing at the same time”.
“How about all those camping trips up by Downsville?”
Yes, the day was filled with the talk of “how about” and “remember the time”. And yes, I loved every minute of it.
You know for all you folks who just moved here to Kensington, you should be happy to hear that all the guys who moved away years ago are still quite impressed by the old “nabe”. The words “solid neighborhood” was mentioned quite often that day, and I couldn’t agree more with them.
So we all sat on my stoop just like 30 years ago, and it was like they never left. Just feeling more comfortable than ever with your lifelong friends.
There were coolers and bags of food, hockey sticks and hockey gloves. And the very curious black bag and portfolio that Neil O’Callaghan brought to my house.
“Hey Neil, what are you pitching a presentation today?”
“Oh Ronnie, you better get ready for the hockey slide show” “I think you may want to see some of these pictures”.
So Neil went inside my house and set up his laptop while we all sat on my front porch, and about ten minutes later peeked his head out the front door.
“Ok guys, the shows about to start, come on in”.
So we all got up and lumbered inside my dining room, the parquet floors squeaked like crazy as the boys all gathered around Neil’s laptop sitting on the table.
Neil smiled at me as he pressed the button on his laptop. The “show” was about to begin, and a million memories would crash on my old grey head.
As pictures starting rolling I couldn’t believe my eyes, in a state of total shock I just stared at the screen.
There I was at about sixteen years old making a stick save off someone. My hair was long and my body young and thin. I was wearing my old Ryans Northstars jersey that was thrown away years ago. The court looked quite new and the boards were free of 70's graffiti that eventually covered everything except us.
There was Bobby Brennan, Pete Liria, and a young dark haired Neil O’Callaghan. Charlie Gilli fighting one of the 67 precinct Blues, and "Little Tommy Brennan" making a stick save.
We were frozen in time in the most glorious photographs that I have ever seen. A treasure chest that lay hidden in the darkness for over thirty-five years has now crashed on my head with all its weight.
These were the “lost” hockey photographs that Neil’s brother Mark took so long ago, and finally at 51 years old I shall finally see them!
You see whenever we used to play hockey on the block or down at Avenue F back in the 70’s, Mark used to always take pictures of us. We never cared, and never bothered to ask Mark to see them anyway. No, we were too busy being kids and had no time for pictures.
Oh, but life changes my friend, and when you get older you never know what brings you true joy.
So the screen of Neil’s laptop must have gone through over a hundred pictures. The most amazing photographs I have ever seen. Just a bunch of young kids with no cares and no worries playing the game we loved so much.
In the days before marriage, kids, mortgage payments and foreclosure worries, there was just hockey and nothing else. And yes, I sure miss those days.
I just stood there and couldn’t believe what I saw. I was totally blown away by those pictures, totally blown away!
Hey Mark, thanks for the memories. Because “better late than never” has never rang so true.