Post # 694 THE “SPALDEEN”

We now return for a brief visit to 1948 Brooklyn, this time, for a sports story. The family, at this time, was residing in the Brownsville section of East New York, on Stone Avenue, three blocks from Belmont Avenue, the latter being the commercial area. In addition to the various stores (ex. The bakery, the appetizing store, and a shoemaker), there are numerous wooden pushcarts, selling vegetables, fruits; and culinary equipment. However, Selwin liked best, the large wooden barrels, sitting on the sidewalk, containing, respectively, “the best sour pickles in the whole world,” as well as a wooden barrel with pickled herring, called, “schmalz” (fat) herring, a favorite of his Lithuanian-American father.

There is no school today, Sunday, the rainfall had declined to a light drizzle, and so, Selwin put on his jacket and Brooklyn Dodger baseball hat, preparatory to going out to play ball. However, his mother stopped him and asked that he go to “Segaloff’s (bakery) first, and purchase the usual, two pound (sliced) rye bread and six rolls. Selwin was only mildly disappointed for two reasons; the first reason was that his mother had given him enough money to also, buy himself a sour pickle, from the barrel. Selwin was convinced, as he told “Geenzy” Edelman, that eating sour pickles in the rain, greatly enhanced its flavor. The other reason was, that he enjoyed the comic facial expression and wet, slurping sound of old Mrs. Segaloff, with her mobile, loose dentures, repeating his order for: “dewpon rye and sicsh rollsh.”

This writing is entitled, “The Spaldeen,” and it would be timely and appropriate to relate its intended, context.  First, a brief, elucidation. Spaldeen, was the universal, Brooklyn corruption for “Spaulding,” and specifically, referring to the pink smooth rubber balls, used for handball, catch, stoopball, stickball and other Olympic games. The spaldeen is readily, distinguishable from the fuzzy-covered tennis ball, also possibly, manufactured and sold by the Spaulding Sport Company. In emergencies, many youngsters would spend hours, industrially scraping off the covering on tennis balls, in an attempt get to the precious pink rubber ball, viz., the spaldeen.

In early 1947, the year, of this narrative, America and its Allies were still at war with Germany and the “Axis” powers, and, consequently, a great many items, essential to the war effort, were difficult, or impossible, for a citizen to purchase. Among this class of unattainable goods, was the rubber ball, since rubber ranked high among the materials essential for the military.

Luckily, Selwin did have an old spaldeen, so that when Geenzee, as usual, arrived with his leashed dog, Bruno, and asked, “Yuh gottaball ?” He was able to answer in the affirmative, “Yeah, but only an old one.” “Gudenuff”, responded Geenzie,” let’s play stoop ball”. Stoopball is a baseball-like game, where the players take turns, bouncing the ball against the steps of a front stoop. Catching the ball on the fly is equal to an out; like baseball, three outs and the other player becomes the “batter.” Uncaught balls are assigned, by distance, single, double, triple, and for an uncaught, high and long trajectory from the steps, a home run. Geenzee was the first-up  “batter” and, energetically, seeking a “triple,” or home run, pitched the ball so hard against the steps, that it sailed over to the next-door neighbor’s property and became immersed in a large, flowering shrub. Geenzee called out loudly, to Bruno, “geddaball.” Upon hearing his master’s command, Bruno charged into the shrub and immediately, emerged with the prized but aged, spaldeen between his large front incisors. Upon returning the ball, it was discovered, that Bruno, when snatching the ball with his mouth, apparently perforated it, making it useless.

Geenzee, red-faced, and in a guilty and subdued tone, said, (sotto voce), “Whattabout marbles?” 


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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