My Walk to the Bronx Zoo
When I was about 8 -9 years old, I spent some time at my aunt’s apartment in the Bronx. I don’t remember why I stayed there, just that I did.
My aunt, she was called Tillie at the time lived in a one bedroom apartment on Walton Avenue one block off Burnside. She lived there with her husband who was sick and her daughter Rocky, aka Carol, who is 8 years older than me.
Rocky got her name in Junior High. She wore a black leather motorcycle jacket and was always in trouble. Once she got stuffed in a garbage can during a fight.
She almost didn’t graduate from high school because she spent so much time in the balcony of the Loews Paradise Theatre with her boyfriend when she should have been in school.
Later in her 40’s she went back to school and eventually became a teacher and Assistant Principal. As an Assistant Principal she was the disciplinarian. The kids quaked when they had to go see her. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it.
My aunt Tillie, who later changed her name to Natalie, was very close to me. As a baby she would carry me around bundled up beneath her fur coat. She introduced me to coffee at about 6 months and Jelly Apples about the same time.
My grandmother once went to the coffee shop with my aunt, my mother and me, and was shocked I was pointing at the coffee cup, wanting some. She got really angry, and really let my aunt and mother have it for allowing a baby to drink coffee. This was repeated when we passed by the candy store and I cried because I didn’t get a Jelly Apple which I was pointing at in the window. I still cry at not getting a Jelly Apple.
It was summer time, and I was with my aunt for a week. I don’t remember my uncle being there; perhaps he was in the hospital at the time.
My aunt worked every day in Manhattan and I was left to my own devices. Its possible Rocky was supposed to watch me but I’m not sure.
There was another boy in the building about my age and we became friendly.
We were bored and he suggested we go to the zoo. He said he knew how to get there so we started off in the morning with no plan other than walking in the direction we thought it was.
The Bronx Zoo is a great zoo and is on Fordham Road about a mile or so from the Grand Concourse. That made it about 4 miles or so from where we were.
We walked up Burnside to the Grand Concourse and headed for Fordham Road. Once at Fordham we turned in the direction of where he thought the zoo was and continued walking.
We eventually found the zoo. We had no money but managed to get into the zoo. We walked around looking at all the animals and the exhibits, and late in the afternoon we headed back.
We hadn’t eaten since breakfast and we were hungry and thirsty.
My friend said his uncle had a store on Fordham Road and we should stop in and ask for some money for food. We eventually found his uncle’s store, it was a hardware store, and he gave us each a quarter and some ball bearings. We used the quarter to buy some ice cream at the candy store next door and continued walking.
We eventually made it home. We were exhausted and hungry. I got in just as my aunt was getting back from work.
I excitedly told her about my day and could we eat now.
I didn’t get the reaction I was expecting.
She didn’t seem too happy about my adventure. She was angrier about my going off without telling her than the adventure itself.
Times were different then; two young boys could safely navigate the streets of the Bronx and go to the zoo.
I don’t think she told my mother right away or I would have been picked up and brought back to Queens, and some appropriate punishment doled out. Not sure if she blamed Rocky for not watching me. I hope so.