Life on the West Side

My mother would sometimes let Gladys and I attend a weekend matinee all by ourselves, as long as we stayed together. This resulted in lively wrangling over what movie to see. One vigorous debate over “WINGS” still sticks in my mind.

By 1928-29, the talkies were taking over the film industry. Yet a few silent films remained big box-office hits, especially at the neighborhood level. Advertising for “WINGS” told of “death-defying exploits/’ coming to our local theater. I made up my mind, I had to see it.

“WINGS” was a silent, big-time, world war aviation thriller. It won the first-ever Academy Award for “Best Picture of the Year.” (The combat flying sequences using WWI Spads and Fokkers are still considered among the best aerialdog-fighting sequences in Hollywood history.)

Gladys had no interest, whatsoever, in going with me to see “WINGS,” even when I told her it starred Clara Bow and Richard Arlen.

“Aw … c’mon, Gladys.”
“No way.”
“You just gotta come with me.”
“No way.”
“No way.”

In the end, we made a deal. She’d go with me to see “WINGS”if I’d go with her to see something called “Broadway Melody.” That Grade B bomb turned out to be of possible minor interest only because it was the first of the talkie musicals. I can’t remember anything else about it. But I did go see it with. her. And Gladys and I remained good buddies.


Most kids steal, at one time or another. My time came early. It wasn’t much. But it taught me an unforgettable lesson—real quick.

One day I set out to explore the neighborhood on my own. I enjoyed checking out all the wonderful stuff in the windows, one shop after another—like the Jewish bakery, a used tools store, a fancy shoe store, an Italian deli, chocolate candy store, art supplies, and the open-front Chinese market. There was my downfall.

Tucked in with his vegetables and exotic Chinese herbs, the elderly store-keeper kept a wire rack next to the sidewalk, neatly stacked with boxes of chewing gum. Blackjack gum was my favorite.

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