Dressed in cordovan penny loafers, chinos, white shirts with Trinity ties – navy blue with gold shield motifs – and blue blazers, we hopped on the #96 crosstown bus at 7:15, no matter what the weather.
In grades 1 to 3, Roddy, Danny and I had a fourth grade chaperone, compensated by our parents for his efforts. One year it was Grady, the headmaster’s middle son. He was okay. We paid little attention to him, and it was mutual. When he was a little older, he broke his leg and – when recovering on crutches – he dropped one of them through the stairwell down seven flights in Danny’s apartment building just to see what would happen.
I doubt he even sat with us, those “little kids.” We had colored rectangular bus passes, different color each month. Wrong color, no ride. Though I didn’t know anyone who was actually kicked off the bus for the wrong pass. Kids bootlegged them all the time. Or they took a purple pass from 1975 to use in 1978 and kind of wrinkled the year real good so you couldn’t read it from the bus driver’s seat.
We rode across the park through the 96th Street transverse and got off at 97th and Columbus, at that time a fair to poor area where, half a block south at the intersection of 96th Street and Columbus I once saw a pair of squad cars come screeching to a halt around a getaway station wagon full of thugs who the police had been chasing, and the cops jumped out of their cars with their guns drawn and aimed at the station wagon. I only saw an occurrence like this once, however.
We’d walk six blocks south to 91st Street to school, past the public high school – actually there were two schools, one on either side, and I never was sure what levels each was, middle or high, but both were filled with white-kid-haters. And every now and then the black kids would be there in the morning just looking to hassle us, and one time a couple of them punched my brother Jim and me in the face just because. Just because.
Danny befriended the only black kid in our class, Darnell. He later hung out with black kids much more than I did, and I doubt he got picked on like Jim and I. He would buy polyester black pants and wide lapel print shirts from Korvette’s Department store on 46th Street.
This pretty much assured that he wouldn’t be mugged.