On the Road: Memories of Days Past

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I am standing on a New York sidewalk looking up. The mast of the skyscraper in front of me nearly touches the sky.


    Nearly, not quite. More than a half century earlier, when I was five, I stood on this spot with my father. I thought the Umpire State Building TOUCHED the sky, I told him. (To this day I cannot bring myself to say EmpireState.)  


    I recall the day with far greater clarity than any childhood Christmas or birthday. My father had taken a day off work just for me. No dragging along my stupid little brother or my snotty older sister. This was my day. I was going on my very first train ride. I was going to see the UmpireStateBuilding and attend my first major league baseball game, the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.

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    The memories come flashing back, the train pulling into the station of a small Connecticut town. It was always a big treat to show up at the station to greet Gran’pa Joe and Gran’ma Alice arriving from Springfield, and to see them off. But now I wasn’t waving bye bye. I was getting on the train!


    I’m looking out the window waving to my mom, and the train is moving! Now the scenery is moving real fast and we’re going over bridges and stuff. Another train goes past in the opposite direction. I wish I’d known this in advance so I could have informed my mom.  As my mom well appreciates, there’s simply nothing better that hanging around the station watching trains come in.


    Unless you’re going to the UmpireStateBuilding and to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers, of course.


    We’re on the observation deck of the UmpireStateBuilding, the tallest building in the world. In a world where practically everything is extraordinary to a five-year-old, I know I am beholding a sight truly extraordinary. Below is New York in all its splendiferous magnificence. Soaring towers, wondrous spires, toy boats on the Hudson, Matchbox cars on the streets. And above me the mast that almost touches the sky. If only they’d built it a little higher.


    We’re now at Ebbets field, in front row seats practically astride first base. I can literally make out Gil Hodges working the tobacco in his jaw. Jackie Robinson is over on third, Pee Wee Reese at shortstop, Roy Campanella catching and Don Newcombe is on the mound. I know practically the whole team. In center field is Duke Snider and in left is Carl Furillo. All of them are Hall-of-Famers, except Furillo, who should be in the Hall.


    The Dodgers are playing Stan Musial and the Cardinals. Life cannot get any better than this.


    We’re now on the train back home in what has been the most perfect day of my life. Only the birth of my daughter nearly 25 years later would be more perfect. I have a ginger ale in the dining car. I can’t contain myself. I go over to the ladies at the other table and tell them I saw the UmpireStateBuilding and the Brooklyn Dodgers Then I go back to my dad. Then I remember I left something out. So I go back to the ladies, as I know they desperately want to know every detail.

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    I am now looking out at the most magnificent view in the universe through decidedly older eyes. The memories surge through me as if I were recalling yesterday. Back home, I have a retro Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap, which I wear practically every time I venture outdoors. To everyone else, it’s just a blue hat with a B on it. To me, oh the memories that lie beneath.


    In loving memory of my father, James, 1920-1994.


Published On: March 29, 2007