Editor’s Note: Joe Russo is a “Nortsider”, a retired teacher, and an aspiring writer. We’ve asked him to share his stories of the past and offer his perspective on the present and future of our neighborhood. His posts will appear each month under the category, “Old Times on the Northside.”
Growing up on the old Northside in the 1950’s meant playing baseball almost every day in the summer. I lived on Mary Street directly across from North High School. The neighborhood was full of kids my age looking to get outside and play catch or shag fly balls. Even if we didn’t have enough kids to play a baseball game with the full complement of players we found a way to work in the imaginary man on second base. Which of course led to many heated discussions, for example was the imaginary man fast enough to make it home on a slow rolling ground ball to right field? It was a dispute we learned to resolve without adult supervision.
The games were organized by yelling at your friend’s house from the street. “Hey Tommy, tell your brother we’re starting a game at North.” “Yeah, yeah we know, go wake up Tony. He always sleeps late,” replied Tommy. And so the message was passed on from house to house no cell phones no instant messaging just an open window and some verbal jousting. Sometimes we even found a way to play baseball with kids we didn’t like, imagine that?
It’s the summer of 2017 and times have changed. I go to the Farmers Market every Saturday morning. I often find myself taking a detour through the old neighborhood. I am curious. I know the Northside has changed but just how has it changed. When I drive by my old house on Mary Street I can see that the old baseball fields at North High are no longer there. North High School has been torn down and a complex of homes for senior citizens exists in its place. A couple of Saturdays ago I was driving home from the Farmers Market on Park Street. As I approached Washington Square Park I noticed a group of kids playing an unorganized game of soccer. The park actually had a pair of official looking soccer goals. The group was a mix of teenagers and some who looked to be under ten years of age. Everyone was madly running up and down the field having a great time. Neither goal had a goalie. I suppose they could have had imaginary goalies. I wonder if the imaginary ones made any saves. Is this the new Northside? Has soccer replaced baseball? It is a new era. I find that I cannot truly understand the emerging world around me unless I can see this world through the eyes of our youth. They are growing and developing the Syracuse of the future.