It was a little kid’s paradise. We lived on West End Avenue between 74th and 75th Street. There was the 74th Street gang, and the 75th Street gang, and the 76th Street gang. In May, it was marble season—we would play marbles in the street—right on West End Avenue. It was World War II, and there were no cars.
The first week of January, we’d take the Christmas trees that people threw out, put them in an empty lot — during the war, there was no building — and have a bonfire. My mother had a good nose and would say, “You’ve been burning things again.” “Me? No. Not at all.”
There was a big mansion on West End Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets surrounded by lawn and an iron fence. And I remember my father walking by there with me, and saying, “Do you think I should buy that house?” And what do I know, I thought he was serious. I said, “No.” He said, “Why not?” And I said, “Because when I’m playing with my soldiers, out on the lawn, everyone would see me play.” So he didn’t buy the mansion.