Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gangs of New York, c. 1964



We don't need no stinkin' May Pole!  We're the Jets, we're famous!

Actually we were project girls --Amsterdam Houses  in New York City.  This is the section of the housing project closer to West End Ave. The top photo was taken in the playground we called The Boats and Barrels because that's what it featured for us to scamper around on, plus sliding pond and  monkey bars, without that thick padding underneath that kids get today. The bottom two pictures were taken in The Little Park, right in front of the Boats and Barrels.

We were very confused project girls. We loved "West Side Story," and we identified with the Jets. But every girl in this picture has Puerto Rican or Mexican or Cuban heritage! Our mothers all spoke Spanish at home. Huh? What can I say, I think it was the song that did it, you know "When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin' day." As I got older,  I saw "West Side Story" with fresh eyes and realized that more than anything else I wanted to be Anita, dancing like crazy on a tenement rooftop. Or at least Rita Moreno playing Anita.

That's me with the poor fitting spring coat and baggy pants-- as the youngest, I got the hand- me-downs from two older sisters.  (I changed to tights and Mary Janes in the last picture, with jump rope slung over my shoulder--don't mess with me, pal). My sister Maria is the tall girl with skinny jeans and ski jacket. My sister Elaine probably took this picture with her Brownie camera. Most of the girls in this picture I'm now in touch with via Facebook.

Click below to see who else is gathering around the May Pole theme...


14 comments:

  1. I think it's wonderful that you have these photos from your childhood, and that you've managed to stay in touch, or get back in touch, with your friends from those days.

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  2. Thank goodness for that Brownie camera to record these special moments in your childhood. Now I will be singing a selection from West Side Storu all day!

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  3. What cute pictures -- love the word Jets in chalk on the walk. I bet you girls rocked the Boats and Barrels.

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  4. I wouldn't dare mess with the gang in the second photo.
    The trouble is photos from 1964 make me feel even older.

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  5. You gals were so cute! Love the chalk writing so that everybody knew for sure who you were, lol.

    Kathy M.

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  6. Cute pictures. Even that playground looks more modern than the ones I had at school about 10 years earlier.

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  7. How wonderful that you still keep in touch. It would be fun to see a reunion picture of all of you at the same place.

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  8. Great pictures. Weren't we lucky to be able to play around on the streets and playgrounds without the excessive supervision the kids get today.

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  9. I'm with Christine H.!!
    A reunion picture would be great.
    And I expect I'll be humming one song or another from West Side Story for a good part of the day ahead...

    Rita Moreno?!
    Not a bad choice...
    She's done great work throughout her career.
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  10. Fantastic memories, you look very self assured in your Mary janes and the skipping rope over your shoulder! Like your story, it was in a way a very different life for children, we were not so indulged like the children today.

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  11. I would have been so jealous of you. I remember coming out of the theater in Oakland, late at night, after seeing West Side Story and just wanting to dance through the streets. Then driving home through the tunnel back to the suburbs. I had to do West Side Story in my mind.

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  12. Love the pictures, Linda. I wish I'd seen them sooner instead of leaving this very belated comment. I remember your saying awhile back that you identified with the Jets. I thought it was so funny. West Side Story had a 50th anniversary at Graumann's Chinese Theater about 6 months ago, and Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn put their feet in a cement block. Kwei-lin

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  13. Never too late to comment, Kwei-lin! Esp. when it comes to West Side Story, I know it holds a special place in your heart, too.

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