Our small elementary school, P.S. 66, in Richmond Hill, Queens, was the first meeting place of my lifelong friends. We have known one another for nearly 70 years. That is not unusual these days. However, there's a little wrinkle to the story that might make it unusual.
P.S. 66 is among the smallest schools in New York City. (It's also more than 100 years old.) It had a small playground and a very small area was set aside for us to play slapball. These games get taken very, very seriously when you're 6, 7 and 8 years old. Of course, as the years passed, we learned to play punchball and stickball in the streets and baseball at Victory Field. Eventually, we graduated from Richmond Hill High School or other high schools in New York City, went on with our education and/or full-time jobs, pursued our careers, married, attended each other's weddings and then the weddings of our children. Even though some of the guys moved to different parts of the country, we remained in contact with each other via phone, mail and, now, email.
We spread our wings over six states but continued our bond. When turning 50 years old, I rounded us all up with a formal letter saying we were elected to the P.S. 66 Slapball Hall of Fame (which I made up). The official induction was on July 24, 1988. There would be an old-timers game — us guys vs. our wives and our children. The game would be followed by swimming, barbecuing and conversation lasting into the wee hours of the night.
One of the most amazing parts of this story is that these friends came from California, Long Island, Maryland, New Jersey, upstate New York, Pittsburgh, Queens, South Carolina and Virginia. We have met a total of seven times and the same crowd keeps coming.
The kids won the game that first year and asked if we could make it into a World Series of four out of seven. At first we said we'd do it every 10 years but realized that for such a series, the seventh game would occur when we were 120.
Well, we have met for our series tournament seven times, and I'm thrilled to say that the Old-timers Slapball Hall of Famers won the four out of seven games, making us world champs. A kind neighbor of mine (a professional photographer) created an album of pictures to prove our athletic prowess.
This year, on July 14, the Slapball Hall of Famers celebrated our 75th birthdays, the 50th wedding anniversary of three couples and the wedding of one of our members. There were 25 people in all who came for the reunion. We had a wonderful time, with a big barbecue, and we talked from 12:30 p.m. to 8:30 at night.
It must be said that our loyal Boy Scout leader and participant in our slapball games, who attended P.S. 66 13 years before we did, departed to a "Greater Hall of Fame" to join with another of our deceased buddies.
--George A. Giuliani, Dix Hills
Editor's note: For instructions on how to play slapball, go to bit.ly/PBQMoW.
Deep roots on the Island
I was born in Glen Cove in 1957. As kids growing up in Stony Brook, we all used to play games such as spotlight and kick the can. Then we went our own ways in more mature camaraderie with games such as backgammon and chess. I joined a library chess club after my first year of college.
I am still not married, but I dated a lot of native Long Island women over the years.
My first out-of-parents'-house residence was in a rented room in Setauket in 1976, then in college dorms and off-campus apartments in the upstate towns of New Paltz and Poughkeepsie. My first car I inherited for a small fee. It was once owned by my brother, then by my father; a 1967 Saab station wagon that was powered by a three-cylinder, two-cycle engine.
As a high school senior and local college partyer, I used to hang out in a local pizza place called House of Goodies and a club called Tuey's, both in the same strip of stores in East Setauket. In the '80s, on weekend breaks from working all week, I frequented a club called Shadows in Stony Brook.
I have rented an apartment in Bay Shore for the past 17 years and drive a 2004 Ford Taurus while running my own business out of my home since 2001. My family is spread out, with a brother in Winter Springs, Fla., a sister in upstate Millbrook and another sister in Melville. She's the only relative left still living on Long Island except for myself.
I spent many good, long days off work at ocean beaches such as Smith Point and Robert Moses. I also played golf and tennis with my friends and jogged on local roads and biked into town in every area I lived.
It has been a lavish and fun experience growing up and living on Long Island as I have for 52 years, and I have been supportive to various causes benefiting this Island and its residents. Thanks, Long Island, for your place in my life!
--John Whitton, Bay Shore