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Hot Summer and Double Dutch

Besides board games and double Dutch, summers also meant Mitch, the good humored ice cream man. We always heard his truck music before he turned the corner. Dressed in uniform-white shirt, white pants and white hat, he’d stand outside his truck taking orders and then searching behind a thick, white door for the packaged ice cream we requested. I had never seen a coin change belt dispenser until I saw his. After getting over the excitement of making my purchase, I would rush to unwrap my ice cream to see if I had won Mitch’s lottery, Lucky Stick engraved into the wood. I won a free ice cream at least once. I recently learned that the Federal Trade Commission considered those lucky sticks an illegal lottery in 1939. Over twenty-five years after that announcement, Mitch was still bringing broad smiles to the streets of Brooklyn with his sticks of luck.

(Photo by TOLBERT / Alamy Stock Photo)

Sitting at the top of a brownstone stoop, I learned to love the Game of Life. Remember those cute little cars and peg holes for a growing peg family? That game had me making decisions about auto insurance and college at ten-years- old.

(Photo by Randy Fath/Unsplash)

When I was growing up, no one could have ever told me that there was a better place or time to experience New York City than during the hot summers of the 1950s and 1960s. Mind you, no fan or air conditioner blew air around my home during those days, but somehow if I sat still long enough, I remained relatively cool. Once the sun made its journey to the middle of the street, all the children came out to play.

Under the summer sun, I had a chance to exercise my physical, mental and emotional muscles. (I had to learn how to win and lose.) My hot summer games, double Dutch jumping, and songs were mandatory preparation, if not the recipe, for withstanding the trouble in mind or body waiting in the wings of adulthood. Remembering that experience brings joy over fifty years later. I can hear the rope (a telephone cable line ), the jumper’s feet rhythmically hitting the pavement, and our voices singing.

All in together, girls. How do you like the weather girls? January, February, March. . .“

(Bedford-Stuyvesant, August 2017/MJM Collection)

Adults didn’t supervise or organize our games. I don’t even remember if any of us took the lead. We just co-operated. If we had to choose who was it in a game of tag, all six or seven of us would put one foot in a circle and “eeny, meeny, miney mo” our way to it. And we were off looking for hiding places behind cars, trees, even around corners. One corner we avoided because the owner kept two mature Doberman Pinschers in his high-gated yard.

Here we are in the midst of a hot summer in New York City as the mayor offers cash as a carrot to the unvaccinated and issues a strong recommendation for indoor mask wearing.

Back then, we didn’t worry about the headlines. Our biggest challenge was hitting a ball, running a race or