I grew up in Washington Heights, NY and I have incredibly fond memories of this rich, diverse neighborhood. Whenever I want to transport myself back in time and remember the great moments of my childhood, all I have to do is visit the old neighborhood, turn on the radio and listen to some music or watch a movie that premiered during this time period.
The absolutely best years growing up were 1977 – 1979. I was 10 years old in ’77 and had met several lifelong friends at PS 189, a school just two blocks away. Star Wars had hit theaters in the summer of 1977 and I remember going to the RKO theatre with my best friend Hector several times to watch it. We played with our Kenner action figures (his mother still has the complete and original 1977 set!) all day long and in subsequent years watched other sci-fi movies that proliferated the screens after Star Wars premiered – anyone remember Roger Corman’s Galaxy Beyond the Stars or Disney’s The Black Hole? This is definitely where my love for sci-fi originated.
All of these memories are crystal clear in my mind’s eye.
It was also during this time that I first started to collect comic books and discovered the great artists like Walt Simonson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Sal Buscema and Michael Golden with titles like ROM: Spaceknight, MoonKnight and The Micronauts. But it wasn’t just comic books that I devoured. Reading was a favorite pastime for me after discovering so many authors like Beverly Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder and the big one, J.R.R. Tolkien.
In the summer of ’77 a simmering New York City was hit with a massive blackout and a serial killer David Berkowitz – The Son of Sam, roamed the streets, causing a powder keg of chaos and fear throughout the city. All of these memories are crystal clear in my mind’s eye.
It was just my mother, my twin and I living on 191st Street and Wadsworth Avenue. Several blocks away at 188th and 189th, we used to play with friends on the streets while watching out for cars, we participated in the biggest block party at the time and cooled off with water from opened fire hydrants, spraying cars and passersby alike with a simple Goya tin can opened at both sides and held with a strong grip amid the powerful stream gushing out at full strength.
Disco was in its early death throes and while everyone hated the genre at the time, I remember to this day listening on my “boom box” hits from Donna Summers, The Bee Gees, Gloria Gaynor, Anita Bell, KC & The Sunshine Band and many others. There’s no shame in admitting in having some of these mp3’s on my iPod. Listening to these songs instantly transports me back to those early years and makes me feel very nostalgic.