Childhood Memories: Comedian v. Reality
Yesterday, while toiling away at the office, I was reminded of a tale my father used to tell from way back when, a tale from Far Rockaway, New York in the late 50's. I told a friend the story, in my own words, how I remembered it to happen. When I relayed to my father that I was sharing one of his more famous anecdotes, he stopped me in my tracks. I was telling it all wrong. Then, with no prodding or pleadings necessary, my father whipped up the tale in a short e-mail and passed along the actual events that occurred.
The two stories could not be any more different. Whereas my tail, reimagined with my humorous and cunning mind, made my father seem devilish and his friends sly, the actual story was waaaaay more depressing than I had remembered, bringing to mind Angela's Ashes, my father a tiny little Frank McCourtshtein.
I thought I would reprint both our versions, if not for 2 mildly humorous stories, than to compare how a game of memory telephone can change events over the course of nearly 50 years.
When my father was a boy, him and his friends used to frequent this bakery near Coney Island. (Ed. Note: It was Far Rockaway, but close...) One day they devised a scheme. The first little boy went in, and asked the baker if they had "Apple Pan Dowdy Knishes." He was told no. About 30 minutes later, another boy went in, and again asked for "Apple Pan Dowdy Knishes", again told no. My father eventually went in.... they followed this scheme for a few hours.
The next day, when they passed the bake shop, there was a sign, in big letters: "YES! We have Apple Pan Dowdy Knishes!"
My father's version (the real one, i.e. Angela's Ashes):
The Boardwalk shops in Far Rockaway would open around mid-May and it was mostly local kids who would congregate around 35th street. The concentration of shops and amusements created a carnival atmosphere that was like a magnet to us, and there was a traffic pattern followed by those of us who walked the boardwalk, typically entering on 25th street.
The first shop and usually the first stop was Jerry's Knishes, famous for their cherry cheese at "only" 50 cents (remember a pack of cigarettes was only 25 cents back then). (Ed. Note: And my Dad would know, as he started smoking at 7 years old... not really, but close.) Every night we walked the walk and, accompanied by 3 or 4 friends, the first stop was Jerry's.
We'd walk in and the man behind the counter would look us in the eye individually and asked "What'll it be?", and while my friends would each buy a cherry cheese, I didn't want to tie up all of my funds in knishes... but, being too embarrased to say "nothing" I asked "do you have Apple Pan Dowdie Knishes"?
Knowing he didn't, I saved face without having to admit that his prices were just to high for me.
This ritual went on for about a week when one night on the normal route, a large banner was flapping in the wind over the entire store front. "YES! WE HAVE APPLE PAN DOWDIE KNISHES"
Seeing the sign, I made believe I saw another friend and told the group I was with that I would meet them at Tuckee Cup... and never again entered Jerry's Knishes.
Admittedly, my father's story is better. Maybe because it's true and happened to him.
And something tells me my friend Annie Tucker (and, specifically, her mother) would be very interested in learning more about this "Tuckee (!!) Cup." (Inside joke, people, nothing to see here.)
Seriously, all this knish talk has me jonesing for some dense potato and dough action. I think I'll hoof it up to Yonah Shimmel (or Yonah ShimShim and the Krazy Knishes) on Houston for lunch.