Golden Age on East 49th Street: Whirring and clicking on the street

This story is about a part of my life in the 1950s. It was fun, it was exciting, it was scary, it was about bad behavior. It was about an introduction to other worlds and in so many ways it was about realizing that life was not always going to be like it was then. —Ralph Horner

So many things in the physical makeup of East 49th Street were very different than the streets of today.

The streets were made of red bricks. When a car rolled over them it made a strange kind of whirring clicking sound that was kind of pleasant.

The curbs were made of sandstone and tended to crumble after a while. The sidewalks were made of huge blocks of slate, and they were great to roller skate on but not so good in the winter as ice tended to form on them.

With a careful, long run, you could slide a very long way on them in the winter. Most kids were sure that they could slide an entire city block if the ice was just right.

There were virtually no front yards. The house fronts literally came up to the sidewalks. The streetlights had another function other the providing light. Kids playing outside were instructed by their parents to come home as soon as the streetlights came on. When those lights came on, the night was over.

Ralph Horner
Ralph Horner

About the Author: Ralph Horner

Ralph Horner grew up in the 1950s and 1960s on Whittier Avenue in the Central and Hough neighborhoods. In the 1960s and 1970s, at the age of 19, he managed a French Shriner shoe store on Euclid Avenue, where he got to know many of the people who hung out on Short Vincent.  A self-proclaimed juvenile delinquent living in the inner city, Horner observed the characters who were regulars in the neighborhoods he lived and worked in. Now in his 70s, Horner shares the stories of some of his more memorable experiences on Short Vincent with the FreshWater series, Rascals and Rogues I Have Known.