Think back to where you liked to hang out when you were young. Your stomping grounds might have been determined by your ability to get to a variety of locations. It’s time to pull on those tangled memory strings and sort out some thoughts. Did you spend more time hanging out at friend’s houses or away from the eyes and ears of parents? If you stayed home, how did you spend your time? Did you have a favorite eatery? Did you go to the mall with friends? Did choose to socialize at bowling alleys, arcades, or roller rinks? Did you go miniature golfing or do another outside activity? Did you hang around after school killing time? What did you do? Did your parents typically know where you were? Did you prefer to “hang” with friends or family members? Was it “cool” to be seen hanging out at any particular place? Was there a place you wanted to hang out, but weren’t allowed to?
Rather than do this in pieces, I thought I’d just ramble. I grew up in Queens, which is a borough of New York city. It was (back then) other than Staten Island, the least developed part of the city. We still had woods and a few small farms. The area I grew up was part of the city, but the city had grown around it and it had stayed surprisingly rural. And yet, it was walking distance from the subway. Whatever was wrong with my childhood, growing up in the “country” with New York city a subway ride away was magical.
We didn’t hang out at malls because we there were no malls. I hung out with my friends, all of whom lived on the same “block.” We hung out in Carol’s backyard because she had a set of swings. When it rained, we stayed on Mary’s front porch and played Monopoly. We did go to the local cheap movie theaters. The Carleton and the Laurelton cost 12 cents per child. We could stay all day and watch those cowboy movies over and over. Garry went to the same movie theaters. As he is 5-years older than me, we never crossed paths. That took another five years when we met in college.
These were the least expensive third-run movie houses. Everything else cost real money. Which we didn’t have. Also, we could walk there. It was a long walk, but if we took a bus, we wouldn’t have enough money for movies. It was okay. We were young and sturdy. Walking was okay.
There were plenty of first-run movie houses downtown in Jamaica, but someone’s mother had to pay for them. They were beyond our tiny allowances. The Loew’s Valencia was a huge theater. It looked like someone’s stoned out version of a palace and included a ceiling of twinkling stars. My brother and I saw “Shane” there. I was 5 and I remember getting lost staring at the twinkling ceiling. That movie house has (long since) been turned into a church. It holds more than 3,000 people, so that church must have quite a following. I wonder if the ceiling still twinkles.
On my own, when I was old enough to take the subway, I’d cut out of school and head into Manhattan. I hung out at the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Medieval collection held in a medieval castle at the upper end of New York overlooking the Hudson River. The castle was brought there stone by stone from somewhere in France. On Sundays, they had singers dressed as monks who roamed the halls singing plainchant. I never lost my love for the Cloisters.
I also hung out at the main Metropolitan Museum of Art which was a wonderful experience. Back then it was free. I think it still is, sometimes. Maybe for children or seniors. I got deep into the Egyptian collection which was set in an area designed to look like the inside of a pyramid with (fake?) mummies. As you walked through the museum, the time changed from the oldest (Egypt) to modern (right by the ladies room). It was a kind of time travel, especially if you had to go to the bathroom and you had to walk through the art and architecture of each age. Then, you got to travel back in time to meet your friend in whatever part of the museum you left them. I have no idea how it is arranged now, but it was magic.
I also hung out at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. It’s huge. I discovered the stacks, way down in the sub-basement where I could find original material for whatever research project I was working on. Not for school. For me.
I never got picked up for not being in school because kids that are skipping out of school are not usually found in libraries or museums.
Of course, everything changed in college. The friends I grew up with were at out-of-town colleges. Most of our houses had been sold or knocked down. Our properties were huge and developers could easily fit two, three, four houses on a single plot. The street (I’ve looked at it using Google) no longer looks anything like it did.
And so the years have rolled along.