Blogpost # 896   IN FOR A DIME

[For a momentary diversion from the angst of the contemporary scene, we have acquiesced to a reader’s request to, once more, return to our exotic past. We have, previously, devoted several writings on our childhood, as first-generation progeny of poor Eastern European Immigrants].

By the late 1940s, our family had moved to the Brownsville section of East New York, to lease and reside in the downstairs apartment in a two-family dwelling, owned by our maternal Aunt and Uncle. It was at this era in the lives of myself and my twin (fraternal) brother that the relevant action took place.

It is because the currently, inauspicious coin, viz., the dime, has a prominent place in the adventure to be related, and, further, because some brief observations of the ubiquity of the same, in the 1940s, might be of assistance in imparting a partial picture of that singular period, we would indulge in a brief, but factually, related, diversion, concerning that relevant item of exchange.

The ten-cent coin, the “dime,” contemporaneously, occupying the hapless, financial status as a feckless nuisance, by contrast, had some significance, in an era when prices, and wages, were, so low, as to now appear incredible. Yet, in the 1940’s it was a minor, but, nevertheless, utilitarian, medium of exchange.

The coin’s ubiquitous significance in this era, was evidenced by the following, illustrative, uses: “The March of Dimes,” (fund for the eradication of polio), “Dime Stores,” (still in use for low-priced consumer marketing), “The Dime Savings Bank,” (would distribute, for deposit purposes, small cardboard dime holders, for saving the coins until the same reached, the depositable, total, $3.00), expressions like “a dime a dozen,” (of common character, ordinary), “In for a nickel, in for a dime,“(totally dedicated), “the car can stop on a dime,”(it has excellent brakes), the stereotypical panhandler’s request: “Mister, you gotta dime for a cup of coffee?” and so many other contextual examples.  Notably, the cost of a ride on the subway and the charge for the use of a public telephone, likewise, was the then, ubiquitous, dime.

Our “new” neighborhood, albeit, quite modest, conveniently, had a public pool, “Betsy Head Pool,” with admission at nine cents per patron. On warm summer afternoons, my brother and I would go there to swim, and took the price of admission from our meager weekly allowance. Our hard-working, immigrant father, like most other families in our milieu, unfortunately, was the recipient of low wages, and could not afford to give us a better weekly allowance.

As recalled, it was on a sunny, hot Friday, and predictably, my brother and I decided to go to Betsy Head Pool, where the price of individual admission was nine cents. Since it was the end of a week, we investigated the balance our mutual financial resources. Happily, we discovered that each of us, had retained, the identical sum of thirty cents (i.e. three dimes); sufficient to pay the cost of admission to the pool (.09) and the charge for the subway, going (.10) and returning (.10). Our mother gave us two towels, and, as expected, a greater number of mandated, instructions after which we went swimming.

We, at this juncture, each having remaining balances of eleven cents, just enough for our return subway trip, and upon exiting the pool, feeling refreshed and energized, we spied an Italian ices truck (lemon ices! Price, per cup, 10 cents). We were, at once, struck with frustration, and truly devastated, at our monetary shortfall. Italian ices, especially, lemon flavor, at this stage of our lives, was “Nectar of the Gods,” however, we each needed our dimes for our return subway trip.

We, sadly, descended the steps of the closest subway station with the intention to return home and discovered that the selected portion of the station facility was not central, but an auxiliary, unmanned one with simple, a turnstile for the deposit of fare, and a revolving door, which was mechanically, activated, and allowed entry into the station, upon deposit of the dime entrance fee.

We, shrewdly, looked at each other, then, wordlessly, ascended the stairs, and purchased a delightful cup of lemon ices, and, slowly and passionately, consumed it. Thereafter, we again, descended the steps of the deserted, auxiliary subway entrance, with only the wherewithal, (one dime) for one admission. We merely looked at each other as the cue for dynamic action. My brother, being the slimmest and most agile of the two of us, mounted himself, upon my shoulders, as I, compliantly, crouched. I then deposited the one dime in the turnstile slot, pushed into motion the now unlocked, revolving door and proceeded, shoulder-mounted with my sibling, into the train station, for our mutual ride home.

Prior to the described offense, and, moreover, in the seventy-five succeeding years, I have never committed, even the slightest, criminal offense. Accordingly, I remain eternally, hopeful that this singular, (ancient) theft of a dime’s worth of services, will legally, be barred by some applicable Statute of Limitations, even, possibly, annulled, so that, officially, I will be enabled to continue to exult in the recollection of a lifetime, of otherwise, unimpeachable, behavior.

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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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