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

Building the Ferris Wheel

When I was five years old, my father bought me an erector set for Hanukkah. He was the youngest of seven children and his mother had died when he was only a year old, so he hadn’t had many toys of his own.

This was an unusual gift for a girl in 1946. My mother didn’t approve. The picture on the cover showed a boy. Mr. Gilbert, the inventor, promised boys would learn “Colossal Engineering Marvels.”

Gilbert Hall of Science Erector Set, showing young boy with built ferris wheel and tower

Every night after supper, my father and I sat on the floor, building things. I made a little sled with a blue base, a red seat and silver runners, following the directions in the beginners’ manual. My father showed me how to hold the screws in place with the screwdriver and tighten the nuts with needle-nosed pliers. When I was finished, he said my sled was perfect!

He worked on assembling the complicated ferris wheel, which had an electric motor. I built the four swinging seats. We used axles, brass wheels and loops of strong cord. At last I flipped the switch. The ferris wheel turned, slowly at first, then faster, just like the giant ferris wheel at Coney Island.

Though my career has involved attaching words, not axles, I’m pretty handy at fixing things around the house, thanks to my father, George Kostick.

© Arlene Mandell, 2009

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Welcome to Hemlock StreetBlock Party • Building the Ferris Wheel • Crossing 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