Life on the West Side

The tap dancing lessons took place in the lobby of the Paramount. Somebody said the teacher was famous. I doubt that. And I don’t remember her name.
Along with 50 or 60 other kids, all shapes and sizes, Gladys and I lined up that first Saturday morning in the Paramount lobby, We lined up in three long rows, “Let the lessons begin,” By the end of the second week, the number of students had dropped to about 30, By the third week, it was down to maybe two dozen.Gladys took to tap dancing like a Ruby Keeler on parade. She became good—very good, My own buck and wing, on the other hand, never made it. After about four lessons, I dropped out.

I had much more fun on Saturday mornings skating around the block on my new roller skates—or learning how to play ping pong with the Italian kid who lived in a big old rooming house around the corner. His house had a wide front porch with a swing set on one side and a ping pong table on the other.


Why is it that boys are so attracted to violence? Is it early environment? A learned response? Media influence? “Macho” traditions? Peer pressure? Higher levels of testosterone? Or does it begin with something in our genes?

How else can I explain why a group of ordinary seven and eight year olds would try to knock each other’s blocks off with rocks and rubble—-just for the fun of it?

I tagged along that day. A group of us started poking around inside the fenced remains of an old apartment house, torn down the week before. The area was strewn with crumbling basement walls, rocks and rubble. It had the look of a bombed-out building in war-torn Berlin.

Almost casually, a very dangerous game developed. Crouched behind the stub of an inner basement wall, three of the kids laughingly pitched small chunks of concrete at the rest of us, about 30 feet away. They were just playing around. We jeered at their poor aim and dodged behind a parallel piece of wall, shouting back a few friendly obscenities. Then we started lobbing rocks back at ’em. Like a snowball fight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *