He was a blue-eyed boy who took off on his Whizzer Roadmaster on Sunday mornings to the sound of the bells of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He rode around the desolate industrial area surrounding Greenpoint factories along the Gowanus Canal. He gripped his handlebars making believe he was hauling on a Harley. His balloon tires bounced along cobblestone streets under the Kosciusko Bridge.

Always on the lookout for found objects to bring to school for Show and Tell, he had already squirreled away in an empty tool box, a Dick Tracy Egyptian ring, quartz and marble rocks, skeleton head of a bird, a fossil, shell of a horseshoe crab, a sliver of eisenglass, Indian pennies and a vial of quicksilver.

One day he spied a dumped pile of pocketbook handles with broken latches containing a treasure trove of different colored marbles gleaming in the sun; transparent moons, tiger eyes, peppermint swirlies, ribbon cores, even steelys and a mother lode of oversize green and purple kabolas.

He figured that was his lucky day. But racing home, he spotted a crunched up ten dollar bill on the side of the oil-stained road, translucent in the morning haze. Flying home in a state of total exhilaration, he burst through the door, exclaiming: “I’m rich!”

The year was 1938 and he had visions of a lifetime supply of pennies for the Bazooka bubble-gum machine, wax lips, swizzle sticks, root beer barrels and Hooten’s Dutch one-cent squares of chocolates that he savored but usually had to wait for Grandma’s visit to be given a penny.

Much to his dismay his state of double ecstasy was not to last. In the family Model-A Ford he was promptly driven down to Orchard and Delancy Street where the money was used to outfit him to look like Lord Fauntleroy in a Roger’s Peet wool suit: short pants, high socks and a prep-school looking little cap, perfectly dressed and groomed to be the starring ring boy at his aunt’s upcoming wedding.

Milton P. Ehrlich