It was not that long ago when “real men” settled their differences out in the alley, not in the courtroom. Such an event came to my attention when I was in the second grade. I know this because I remember my teacher was Mrs. Silverblatt in the second grade at PS 73. I walked home for lunch most days and it was not unusual to see my father there too. He walked home only two blocks to our apartment on 73rd Place in Maspeth. It was 1952 and I was 7 years old.
My father George, who was hearing disabled, and his two older brothers (Henny and Bill) operated a flower farm situated between 74th and 75th Streets. My dad’s hearing problem and his poor relations with his older brother, Henny, contributed to what calamity was to unfold.
Henny, knew for a fact that the Long Island Expressway (LIE) was NOT coming through the flower farm, so why were two surveyors setting up their equipment on the property? Henny, who possessed a vicious tongue, promptly sought to evict the interlopers.
My father was working nearby but didn’t know what was going on. His oldest brother, Bill, heard the commotion on the far side of the green houses and came rushing over. Just then surveyor #1 dropped Henny – 135 pounds soaking wet with a single punch.
My father was not an exceptionally big man, weighing only 180 pounds. He was however, possessed of another physical attribute: his very large calloused hands. From a distance it looked like he was wearing gloves.
Not to get into a blow-by-blow description of what ensued, my father got the better of both men in what must have resembled a scene from a Saturday cowboy movie. He flattened one surveyor, was jumped by the other, and then planted him in a ground pile.
When I arrived home for lunch that day I noticed a cut on my father’s nose. He would sometimes try fooling me with a tall tale fight with cowboys and Indians. This time, however, the mood was more somber and his brother Bill (my uncle Bill) was there to explain to my mother what happened. I remember my uncle saying “we were afraid Georgie might kill him the way he had this guy wedged into the side of that ground pile.”
No one called the police, no one threatened legal action, and the incident was soon forgotten except in the mind of a little boy.
As far as I know my father had no formal training as a boxer, although he made reference to the sport, and the left hook he possessed.