David and Russell Siegel had to be the two smartest and coolest kids at PS 179 back in the late 1960’s. While the rest of us were walking around with button down shirts, red bow ties and our hair short and slicked. The Siegel brothers wore tie die t-shirts, "earth shoes", and had long blonde wavy hair way past their shoulders. They were just a couple of “Park Slope” PS 321’ers way before their time. And their parents looked like real hippies too; with sandals and matching tie die t-shirts, they probably dragged the kids up to Woodstock back in 1969 in their Volkswagen bus they parked Avenue C.
Now, while the rest of us were mostly “low achievers” and branded by our high class numbers, 4-15, 5-15, 6-18, the Siegel’s were both “SP” students, which meant they were in the “smart kid” classes. These were always the 4-1, 5-1, 6-1, low digit classes. I guess in today’s world you would just call them the “gifted” classes that everyone wants their kids to be in.
Oh, God, maybe I was in “special ed” and never knew it?
And you know what? I don’t think the Siegel’s ever studied either. I never saw them reading or doing homework, and when they were in school, they were always laughing and fooling around in the hallways. So just like some of us are born to be tall or short, the Siegel’s were just born to be smarter than anyone else.
The Siegel’s also lived directly across the street from PS 179, on the first floor of an apartment building on East 3rd and Avenue C. Most of the time they never even wore coats to school, because all they’d have to do was run across the street to class.
Now you have to understand we hardly ever saw them in school, because they were always in the “SP” classes on a different floor at PS 179. But the Siegel’s were a kind bunch you know, and always made themselves available for us to hang out with after school. Which usually meant a “play date” in their apartment directly across the street from the school.
Now our “play dates” were a little different from the ones we have today. Sure we had the same kind of “fun” your kids may have today, we laughed, played games and told jokes to each other. But the biggest difference about our late 60’s Kensington version was that our parents were nowhere to be found. And that included Mr. and Mrs. Siegel.
So what kind of “play dates” did we have you ask? Well, forget water balloons out the window or shooting marbles with a slingshot at a city bus. Killing roaches with a hair dryer?, No, we’re talking about the 60’s here, that’s 70’s fun. And Russell and David would be way too advanced for that anyway, and besides they were “SP” students. So all of our suggestions were just kid stuff in their eyes. No, we just left it up to the Segals to run the “play date”.
And the Siegel’s had a special game; a game that only a PS 179 “SP” student was capable of making up. And it usually started with them handing out real Army helmets when we walked in their apartment. I guess the ones their parents must have used during Vietnam War protests at Washington Square Park.
So what do you think? playing Army men with toy guns? No, you better think again because these were the brightest PS 179 had to offer, and you could only expect the “best” from the Siegel boys when it came to a “play date”.
“Ok, everybody put on your helmets and get behind something fast”.
With that, we would all strap on our metal Army helmets and get behind a couch or wall. With a silver frying pan in his hand, David would place it on the stovetop, and light the gas. A few moments later he would take the box of 22 caliber bullets that he pulled out of a closet, and pour them into the pan. Quickly he would run away and hide either behind a wall, console TV, or just go into his bedroom. After a couple of minutes the shells would slowly start to fry and make a "sizzling sound", and then just like popcorn popping, they would start to snap and explode. "Hit the decks" said David. The bullets just flew through the apartment, breaking glass, hitting furniture, or embedding themselves in the heavy plaster walls. And we would never move until we got the "all clear" message from David. What do you think? we were stupid.
So like I told you, only the “best” from the Siegel’s.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking, what the hell were a bunch of “low achievers” doing with a couple of “SP” students who probably became Doctors or Lawyers twenty years later. Well, I don’t know either; and all I can think is they probably just found us “entertaining”, that’s all.
So the next time your 10 year is walking around with a frying pan on his “play date”, you better check his pockets and pat him down. Because somewhere in Kensington along time ago, kids were making more than just “popcorn” on their parents stove, and sure had "fun" on their “parent-less” play dates.