When I was about eight years old and in the third grade, I would accompany my mother and her best friend, Mrs. Pisano to Thursday night novena. Afterwards, we would all visit with Mrs. Santacross and her very elderly mother who lived nearby. The ladies would talk in Italian while I was treated to a bottle of warm 7-Up and exactly one bland and kind of stale cookie.
One Thursday I had homework to finish, and my dad said he would look after me. After I had dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, my dad asked, “How about we walk down to McCooksky’s tavern? You can get a soda and watch TV with me. Don’t tell your mother.” Wow! McCooksky’s! TV! Soda! What’s not to love?
“Okay, Daddy. Don’t worry, I won’t tell Ma.”
So, we went to the tavern. I watched John Cameron Swayze and the News (15 minutes) and the Dinah Shore show—“See the USA in your Chevrolet” (15 minutes), followed by Dragnet! “My name is Friday. I’m a cop.” I drank an ice-cold coke from a bottle, and chomped on a Fifth Avenue bar, while my dad nursed a beer or two and talked to his friends.
Funny how I had too much homework every Thursday after that one. Our trips to McCooksky’s continued. I loved the atmosphere of the place. Men talking in English about stuff I found interesting: major league baseball, high school baseball, and President Eisenhower. We liked Ike. He had farm in Pennsylvania. Especially, I loved the TV! We didn’t have television at home, so Dragnet at McCooksky’s was a real treat for me. I even liked the ads for shows I would never see, like the Friday Night Fights, brought to you by Gillette Blue Blades.
One evening I asked my dad if he would let me come with him on a Friday night so I could watch the fights. “Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea, honey. They’re on too late, and your mother wouldn’t like it.”
“But Daddy,” I said, as the face of the underdog for the next bout filled the screen, “I want to see if that poor bastard gets the shit kicked out of him.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my last visit to Mcooksky’s!