Photo of Joey and Arlene seated on runningboard of 1940s car

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About Arlene

Scenes from My Life On Hemlock Street: A Brooklyn Memoir by Arlene Mandell

Block Party

The war was over! All the neighbors on Hemlock Street wanted to celebrate VJ Day. The police said we could close off our street.

I helped my mother mash bananas for her famous banana walnut cake. Mrs. Schwartz, the milkman’s wife, made potato knishes with roasted onions. Mrs. Parisi made spicy Sicilian pizza.

Cousin Lenny had just come home from the Pacific with yellow skin and a fever called malaria. Cousin Danny was still in the Coast Guard, but my Aunt Minnie said he would be home soon. Best of all, Daddy would not have to carry a gun any more or work nights at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, guarding our ships from our enemies.

By five o’clock, long tables lined the middle of the street. They were heaped with every kind of delicious food. When it got dark, our fathers set off fireworks and all the kids played with sparklers. I loved sparklers. Since I was only four years old, my mother watched me so I wouldn’t burn myself when I made loops and swirls.

Then I saw my parents acting silly and dancing in the street. I got sleepy. When I woke up, I was in my own bed wearing clothes, not pajamas. My charm bracelet was missing. Later we searched up and down Hemlock Street, but we never found it.

Soon shiploads of sailors returned from the war and docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The sailors were so happy to be home, they threw all their foreign coins to the people waiting to meet them. Daddy brought home a big copper penny with the date 1853 and the words “Napoleon II.” He drilled a hole near the top and put the Napoleon penny on a chain. Whenever I wore it, I felt safe.

© Arlene Mandell, 2009

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Welcome to Hemlock Street • Block Party • Building the Ferris WheelCrossing Pitkin AvenueThe KissInvisible BabyAunt Minnie's Second WeddingMurder Inc.A Real Italian DinnerSleeping with Nettie SachsDuke Snider Breaks Our HeartsCherries in the SnowMy Thirteenth SpringNo Room of My OwnDeeply in LoveHangin' Out and Makin' OutResolutions Made and Broken