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Warwick Stories
arwick Stories

Though I am not a writer by any means I do dabble as one as a hobby. Like a weekend golfer, at best I am a "duffer" as a literary person. Still I have scribbled many half finished stories over the years and not a few have been about Warwick. Some of you have proposed sharing your stories so I thought I would risk starting the ball rolling. Please send any and all, long or short.

Below is a story from Millie Sudman about Greenwood Lake and one I wrote about Monk Crover that I have kept for years.
More to come.

        Greenwood Lake Ice Skating
        Monk Crover
        Bubble Gum
        At the Movies
        Main Street
        Poley and Augie

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Poly and Augie - Summer of ’51

Poley and Augie - Summer of ’51


I was eleven years old during the summer of 1951. One evening I was walking home from the movies with two friends, Tommy Hayes and Ash Morgan.  At this point in life, as best I could determine, a prankish kid was the most heroic of life forms. Tommy, age fifteen and  six foot tall, was on the timid side when it came to mischief. Ash, on the other hand, had a well deserved reputation as a daredevil. As for me, I was probably just as scared as Tommy, but I pretended otherwise.  A walk home from the movies as Ash’s sidekick was a rare opportunity for notoriety.


The three of us walked along South Street, without much talk. We had just seen the movie On an Island with You with Esther Williams and I was intermittently lost in thought, dreaming about one day having a girlfriend like Esther Williams, maybe even Esther herself. Ash was fiddling with the contents of a Good & Plenty candy box that he held against his belt buckle. He wasn’t eating any; he was just fiddling and he didn’t offer any to Tommy or me. Tommy had his hands in his pockets. He was whistling, pretending to be nonchalant.  


From a distance we could have been mistaken for a father and two kids because Tommy at fifteen was a slender six footer. According to my growth chart, recently drawn on the kitchen cupboard door, I was exactly four foot nine and one quarter inches. That was if I stretched my neck and had shoes on. Ash was maybe an inch or two taller.


Just before we reached the park, I noticed two girls across the street, under the street light. It was Peggy Gray and Snookie Card. They were in front of Peggy’s house talking like girls often did, about interesting stuff, stretching the evening before they went inside. Ash yelled over at them. Tommy and I didn’t say anything. The girls said ‘Hi’ back, looked our way, then resumed their conversation. Being a grade above me, Peggy and Snookie were the local equivalent of Esther Williams.


We turned up Parkway and I started thinking about Esther Williams again. Suddenly I was startled by a sharp tinkling sound that shot straight through me. I knew immediately what happened. Ash had just peppered Augie Emerich’s front window with a handful of Good & Plenty candies. Tommy left the scene in a flash, bolting homeward faster than a sprinter launched by a starter’s gun. That was the last we saw of Tommy.


As for me, I was caught in the definitive fight-or-flight moment. My chest heaved; I gasped, drew in a gulp of air and made the choice to stay, to fight. Flight was not the thing to do. Not with Ash.


Augie and Gert Emerich lived in a quaint antique furnished home just at the bend in the Parkway road, as the street curled upward toward Park Avenue. Augie was an energetic and athletic young father, perhaps in his mid thirties. He was not an easy mark. If he decided to give chase, any twelve year old would need a considerable head start. But Ash was not any twelve year old. In addition to being a daredevil he was a regular B’rer Rabbit in kid’s clothes when it came to chases. He could crawl into places no man or boy had ever been and where few would follow. He always found a briar patch-like haven and so he always got away. I was not so confident about myself, an eleven year old.


            Since the first handful from the Good & Plenty box brought no response from anyone in the Emerich household, Ash fished into the box and pitched another single candy at the front window. Still there was no sign of Augie, so he hurled a second. Again, no one stirred. Then came a third, fourth and fifth Good & Plenty. These were spaced approximately ten seconds apart, and Ash heaved them with a methodical precision. I thought he looked quite earnest as he did this and I also thought that his timing was perfect as well, calculated specifically to drive Augie nuts. It was well known that Mr. Emerich had a short fuse.


Since there was no need for two people to be heaving things, my only job, as an accessory, was to watch, and not leave too early. An early exit would warrant a good dose of ridicule and deservedly so. If I did that I would surrender all rights to talk about it later and any accomplice status would be revoked. On the other hand, staying too long wasn’t good either because I knew that if anyone got caught it would likely be me, not Ash. I also knew my captors would torture me until I squealed on Ash – or confessed that I alone was the perpetrator. Either way would be curtains for me. As leader of this whole enterprise Ash expected both loyalty and competence from any partners.


Ultimately Ash exhausted his supply of Good & Plenty candy. Still there was no sign of Augie so Ash bent down and reached into driveway and gathered a handful of limestone pebbles. At this point I decided that I had seen enough. When the first pebble hit the window, I sprinted Tommy Hayes-style, up the Parkway sidewalk, until I reached the front yard of a man named Poley, a couple of doors up from Emerich’s. Here I ducked in under the cover of a small grove of Pine trees that separated Poley’s yard from his neighbor, Bill Crigar. I sat down on the ground on the dry needles and tried to hunch myself into an invisible state by shrinking into the shadows. I leaned back against the tree trunk and brushed a few cones to the side, creating a small clearing. That word, clearing, made me think of how the Indians made clearings and lived in them. It was part of a school lesson that had stuck with me. For the smallest moment I forgot my perilous circumstance and a little kid’s dream made its way into my head. I thought about actually living right here, like an Indian, in a warm Pine grove, safely looking out on the world. The needles were dry, the branches offered shelter from rain and Poley’s yard was on a hill that overlooked the sandbanks. I could live in a wilderness like this and roam the country I thought, but then suddenly my dream was interrupted.


I heard someone chugging up the street, approaching like a frantic speed demon. The sounds were those of an obvious life or death emergency. The noise buildup reminded me of an oncoming train, not really deafening until it’s on top of you and then you get a fearful blast as it whizzes by. This was how Ash passed my Pine tree grove, puffing and churning his arms, with loud breath like a steam engine. Otherwise he was speechless, doubtless because of the gravity of the situation. I knew that Augie would not be far behind, and I was right. Augie’s approach was more like a police car with siren blaring. The siren was his jingling pocket change and the slap of his shoe leather on the sidewalk was as rapid as car pistons. I shuddered as he passed me at full gallop and I heard enough swear words to get the message that he was boiling. Couldn’t say that I blamed him, thinking of the limestone pebbles that had just dented his windows.


I knew that Ash couldn’t outrun Augie and I’m sure that Ash knew this also, but my main concern now was myself. My location worried me because, while I was undetected during the top speed first pass, I feared that I might be easily sniffed out by a slower moving and more alert Augie when he returned minutes later. Doubtless he would be empty handed and foaming at the mouth - after Ash gave him the slip. While I was confident Ash would avoid capture, I was honestly petrified. From what I knew of life (the movies), something close to a death was likely in the very next scene. Thus I decided to leave the Pine grove and move back from the sidewalk. I crouched down as low as possible and duck walked into Poley’s back yard.


I had no idea about Poley’s nighttime habits. I didn’t know if he walked the dog at this time of night; I didn’t even know if he had a dog. I wondered if he heard the ruckus. Was he likely to venture outside? I knew only that Poley owned “Poley’s,” which was a small candy store with a soda fountain on Main Street. Officially it was Poley’s News Stand and Cigar Store. I knew also that Poley was older than Augie, and obviously not as spry. These thoughts occurred to me as I stole back into the uncharted dark terrain of the Poley backyard. Suddenly the night air, which was silent save for my heartbeat, was pierced with a sharp and menacing shout that went like this: “I know it’s you Morgan.” I shuddered. It was Augie shouting into the briar patch – the sandbank canyons.


That was the great thing about Warwick in 1950. Not only did you know all of your neighbors and not only did you know who was driving the car headed down your street - if pebbles hit your window, you knew who did it.


I ’m not sure what Augie said after shouting that he knew it was Morgan (that would be Ash Morgan) but I guessed that he would soon go back home and I hoped and prayed that he would not search for accomplices along the way.


Now, most eleven year olds have good hearing and my young ears were never more finely tuned as when I stood still as a stick in the dark of Poley’s back yard and listened for the sounds of Augie retracing his path on the Parkway sidewalk. Waiting for the smallest sound I was suddenly startled when Poley’s outdoor light came on.


I assume I went into shock here because for some reason, instinct maybe, I just slipped into Poley’s garage, sliding through the opening where the door was ajar and not more than a step or two from my previous spot that was now directly under the light. Even as I did this I knew it might be a mistake. What if Poley walked out and came into the garage? What if he closed the door and then locked it from the outside? I pressed myself flat against the one door that was still closed and raised my ears to listen. There was nothing. No sounds. Not of Augie nor of Poley. The windows in the garage doors let in some light from the spotlight and I was able to see some of the surroundings. Poley’s garage sure was filled with junk. I noticed that the whole one side of the garage was crammed with what looked like a large pile of glistening objects. It took a few moments before I finally figured that the objects were glass jugs, the kind that I would see from time to time behind soda fountain counters. They were the big gallon jugs that had contained coke syrup and other syrups for making soft drinks. I wondered why Poley would store these jugs in his garage instead of keeping them at the store and returning them from there – I knew they were worth a nickel each. Whenever Ash or I found jugs like this we immediately brought them to Poley’s or Heiblim’s for the refund. Then we would play the pin ball machine. There was a fortune here, a lot of pin ball games, I mused, managing a smile at the thought. But my expression changed quickly when I heard the faint shuffle of approaching feet in the driveway. I held my ear against the garage door and felt my heart move into my throat. Suddenly the door that I was leaning against pressed back toward me. Oh my God, I thought, Poley is closing the doors. I prayed that he was not going to lock them shut as we always did with our own garage doors - which were just like these - by closing the latch and then hanging a padlock hooked into the eye loop that stuck through the latch.


My prayers were not answered. I heard the distinct sound of a lock being fitted over the door latch. What to do? I would be trapped in Poley’s garage, for life. Death scenarios flashed through my mind.


The first scenario was that I would starve to death in here.


Or, I would almost starve, surviving just barely - like in the movies on desert islands but in this case without Esther Williams - on the meager drops of coke syrup drained from each and every one of the hundreds of gallon jugs. Buzzards would circle above. How long can a man – boy, age eleven – live on coke syrup?


I could scream bloody murder right now, before he got his hand off the lock, but I feared that would so frighten the feeble Poley that he would immediately collapse and fall flat in his driveway clad in his pajamas. When his store failed to open the next day someone would eventually investigate. Bill Clark (Chief of Police) and Frank Meyers (patrolman) would pick up the body. There would be investigations, detectives, confessions, the electric chair. God!


These thoughts consumed approximately two seconds. I quickly snapped out of it. Then I had another thought. Even if Poley lived through it all I feared that the noise would surely bring Augie to the scene. Frozen from terror I would be an easy mark for Augie. He would grab me by the neck, hand cuff me and lead me to the police station where I would be forced to squeal on Ash Morgan. Having done that, my life in Warwick would be essentially worthless, no more future. I would need a witness protection program. This was the worst of my death scenarios. But no matter. The lock was in place.


I could now only wait for the Gods to do something.


I had a trust in God at age eleven. I prayed nightly, as did all of my friends. My main prayer (the one I started with) was “Jesus, gentle shepherd, hear me …” Some of my friends said “Our father who art in heaven…” That was my brother’s prayer. Others said, “Now I lay me down to sleep …” My friend, Frank Fotino, said that. After I was done with the main prayer, I said my very own stuff. I said “God bless” for all in my family, including my dog Trooper and also my grandmother, Mom, who had died when I was four. Next came all requests and thank-yous. Every night I prayed that my mother and dad would live a “long and happy” life, that my brother do good in high school and college and then lastly when I got to myself I mostly prayed to “do good” in various sports activities and for certain girls to “like me and marry me.”  The current girl that I wanted to marry was named Re-Re Wieland. In my prayers I spoke candidly. I had a childlike faith. I quickly recited some parts of my prayers, a couple of times. This took another two seconds.


I generally felt that God had never failed to answer any of my prayers. I ignored the fact that I had not gotten American Flyer trains last Christmas. I already had a Lionel train and so I accepted that maybe God knew best. Truly God did seem to be blessing me. I reasoned that he would somehow get me out of Poley’s garage and save me. I slumped down into the darkness and onto the damp garage floor and waited. I was not exactly filled with faith here.


Just then I heard Poley’s feet approaching. Could he really be coming back? I prayed, “Please God, make him stop before he gets to the garage,” but God didn’t answer this prayer. Poley was now right at the door and again fiddling with the latch. The door creaked, then slowly opened. I ducked, but the light hit my face directly. Poley’s knees, were bumping into my eyes so I did the only thing I could do. I lunged past him and franticly dashed out and into the yard, scurrying for darkness like a frightened nocturnal beast, which was what I was. A dozen steps into my escape I realized that I was heading toward the front where Augie was probably on the sidewalk, so I circled back and raced for the sandbanks, at the back edge of the yard. Still crazed, I bolted toward the hedge at the rear of Poley’s property, whereupon I dove airborne, over the bushes with my hands stretched in front, Olympic swimmer style. I creased the shrub’s top branches. Here is where I believe that God was likely to have taken notice of the events in Warwick, NY on this particular summer night in 1951, and decided that His assistance was called for.  The miracle was that as I hurled myself through mid-air I caught just the right amount of hedge branches to put the brakes on my Olympic dive. Enough so that when I came through the other side of the bushes I didn’t end up still airborne but instead dangled momentarily until I fell lightly (I weighed about eighty pounds) into soft earth (God had removed all rocks) on the far side of the hedge. Then, with my momentum not completely halted (again thank God) I kept rolling, gracefully, performing a full cowboy like tumble all the way down the sandbank cliff that backed up to Poley’s yard. Had it not been for hitting the hedge just right I might have either remained stuck in the hedge, wedged between the sticks or, the other extreme, I would have gone off into the air like one of those lovable cartoon characters that galloped full speed off mile high cliffs without realizing where they were and suddenly found themselves suspended in flight and without traction, whereupon they immediately fell as gravity intended, except faster. When they hit the ground they turned into a pancake. Thankfully, that was not me. I made a lot of noise going down and it was at the end of this crashing-through-sticks descent that I thought about Poley. I felt confident that he would not pursue me but I wondered if he knew who had brushed past him. I thought I had bumped him quite solidly as I fled by and I worried, “Did I knock him over?” I definitely remembered a grunt sound. Was he hurt? Startled? Scared to death? Was he dead?


Just as a guess I would say that the sandbank cliff that I rumbled down was probably about twenty feet in height. To a four-foot boy, this was a respectable cowboy movie size.


The first thing I did after I stopped rolling was to listen, for sirens. If I knocked Poley over and he died and Augie found him, he would have called the cops and there would definitely be sirens. But I didn’t hear any and I didn’t hear any footsteps coming after me either. I half expected another “I know it’s you Morgan,” shout from Augie, but there was none. I waited for some time here. I thought of my parents who were at the Methodist Church Social and were likely laughing and having coffee and cake and knew nothing of my current whereabouts. I thought of Tommy Hayes. He was probably home already and could even be talking to his own parents about what happened. But I decided that he wouldn’t tell anyone because kids didn’t mention these kinds of things to parents. Even if they were funny, it was best not to tell. Parents didn’t think that this stuff was funny for some reason.


I turned my attention to the route that I would follow out of the sandbanks and home. Once I determined that everything was quiet I got up and began to make my way. I avoided all main roads, actually all roads because I feared running into the town cop. There was just one cop car in Warwick most likely just one cop on duty. It could be Frank Meyers or Floyd Ryerson. I proceeded through the sandbank wilderness, surprised as to how well I was able to cross this terrain. Finally I came to civilization, the backyard of a man named Springer. I tip toed through the yard and then dashed across Forrester Avenue, through another yard where the Bainbridges had lived, and finally onto an open field at the northwest corner of the McFarland farm. I took myself a good distance into the field sinking out of sight of any traffic. The McFarland field was easy to walk through, as it was a cow pasture with little brush and short grass. A hundred yards or so in there and I began to circle back toward Park Avenue. Believe it or not, I arrived home safely. I was relieved that there were no ambulances or police cars waiting for me. I didn’t know what happened to either Tommy or Ash, but the calm night suggested that there had been no deaths. I slept well that evening content that I had taken part in an adventure with Ash and lived to talk about it. I was dying to know about Ash’s escape, but I could wait to hear about it. 


The next day Ash gave me the details. He too had hid in the sandbank, though a bit further east from where I entered through Poley’s hedge. He said that the funny thing was when Augie yelled “I know it’s you Morgan,” he was right underneath Augie, just a foot or two under the overhang where Augie was standing. “I could hear him puffing cause he was out of breath,” Ash said.


I told him about my experience, getting trapped in Poley’s garage, escaping and wandering through the sandbanks and taking the roundabout way back home. Ash thought that was pretty cool, except for the fact that I had fled a little too soon from Augie’s house when he was pegging the pebbles. Thankfully he didn’t dwell on this. He seemed to forgive me, loving especially the part where I escaped from Poley’s garage and knocked Poley over – I embellished a bit here, claiming a full collision with a pajama clad Poley that sent him sprawling just before I dove head first through the hedge and sailed airborne and the tumbled down the sandbank. The bottom line is that I was graciously included as a full participant in the story myth as it was told to everyone in Warwick – except parents.