Off in a small wooded tract of land adjacent to Memorial Junior High School on Hendrickson Avenue in Valley Stream stood a few abandoned & boarded-up old homes … known as the old Sloan place. In the late 50s & early 60s they were the perfect place for a bunch of Long Island kids to find some mischief to get into.
If memory serves correctly, one couldn’t see the structures from the road. They sat off in those woods. Yet, we found them. It was kind of like life had just stood still in that wooded lot. It was quiet and the buildings stood there silently observing. So, of course we just had to give them something to see.
We used to run around in there, jump off the rooftops, generally raising innocent hell. One day, in search of something to do, we pried the plywood off one of the windows – maybe more – and went on in. We weren’t invited. I remember well the musty smell of the place, a ketchup bottle [don’t ask me why that sticks in my mind!!!!], old calendars, writings … the place was fully stocked & furnished – like the people that had lived there had simply vanished. It was quite an adventure arena for a bunch of young lads …
… One time, we were robbed – of some loose change, crayons, baseball cards – whatever we had in our pockets. Some of us were outside, others inside, someone was climbing through the window … I think we were on our way out. Suddenly, a gang of “thugs” were there … at least some of those outside scattered & returned home. The rest of us were robbed! A major haul it was, too, for those gangsters, at least a couple of years older than we were ... 10 cents worth of cold, hard cash!
The event that solidified that place in the logs of ancient lore for “our gang” was the finding of the guns. Today, at least one of those guns resides down in the sewer … dumped in the drain at the southwest end of Amherst Avenue – the same drain that swallowed up many a baseball, a few pensy-pinkies, and lots of grand memories – tossed there to forever hide the evidence.
In one of those dimly lit houses we were exploring all the nooks & crannies that held the memorabilia from a time gone by … old furniture, toys, dishes, doll-houses. We were just poking around looking for cool stuff we could heist. I opened a closet door … pay-dirt … the Holy Grail. There they were standing in the corner. I’ll let Doc recount it: “Richie [edit: that’s me] opened a closet and found three guns, a .22, a duck hunting pump shotgun, and a double barrel shotgun that was rusted and in two pieces. Henry Cavanaugh took the pump gun, pumped it once, pointed it at my stomach and pulled the trigger. It was empty. Richie being of more intelligence, [edit: debatable ;-)] pointed the .22 toward the window and pulled the trigger. It fired off three rounds .. one at a TV screen. I will never forget it. Had Henry grabbed the .22 it is very likely that I wouldn’t be here today. I think Ronnie [edit: my brother] was there, also. Richie brought the rifle home on his red Schwinn and his dad took the firing pin out. Imagine a kid riding his bike today with a rifle across the handle bars. One of the luckiest days of my life.”
Yeah, Ronnie was there alright. Simultaneously to the pump gun incident, I was pointing that [unknown to me at the time] loaded .22 rifle right at him. I guess, at the last split second, that little birdie in my head reminded me of my parents always telling me not to point a gun at another person. I moved the gun, pointed it to a window, and pressed the trigger. POW! Shattered glass.
But for the grace of God, there was nearly a double homicide on that day. Makes you wonder … maybe guardian angels really exist. Summer of ’64? We were all but 8-12 years old. Imagine the headline that could have been, but for the intervention of fate, “2 VS Youths Shot & Killed at the Old Sloan Place.” Yeah, it was one of the luckiest days in ALL of our lives.
Those were the days my friends …