A Memorial to Youth

by George Broadhead

We were living on Eaton Ct. near Bartlett Place when WWII started. Our nearby neighbors on the opposite side of the Court were the Cunninghams. They had a daughter who was our baby sitter and a son who was on the Bataan Death March, in which the Japanese brutally killed men along the route to prisoner of war camps after they had been surrendered. Shortly after they learned of his capture, the family moved to Long Island, where they had already bought a house. We never saw them again, but their pigeons returned to the large coop built into the roof of their old garage like a cupola. 

My buddy at the time, was a classmate, Daniel Mahady, who lived on Abbey Ct. After school, we would each go home and change from our school clothes, which consisted of a white shirt and a red or blue knit tie, depending on grade, and our knickers. As soon as possible after changing, we would meet at the empty garage on the former property of the Cunningham’s. Our goal was capitalistic.

The Mahady’s had a neighbor on Abbey Ct. who kept pigeons, and one day Danny told him we had caught a pigeon at the old coop. There was a daily return of pigeons flying from Long Island to their old home in Gerritsen Beach. The neighbor offered us five cents a pigeon for every pigeon of "his" we returned. We had tapped into something, and tap is exactly what we did. We shut all exits in the garage, and when pigeons entered through the cupola coop on the roof, they were undoubtedly tired from the flight. They would perch on the rafters in the garage, and we would stand at either end, each with a long stick, and tap the rafter the pigeon was on. The pigeon would fly to the other end, only to have that rafter tapped. Eventually, the pigeon would get tired and come to the ground, where we would carefully scoop it up, and carry it to the man who gave us a nickel. We continued this for several days, but it took a very long time to catch a pigeon, and our arms were ready to drop off. 

One day we found the headboard of an old iron bed in the dumps, and we carted it back to the garage. We invented a pigeon trap, using the iron headboard. I can still remember my excitement. In the meantime, my brother, Bobby, had gotten wind of our money making venture, and he wanted in on it. God rest his soul, he could be a pain in the ass. We propped the iron headboard up with a 2 X 4 tied with some of my mother’s clothes line which came out through a glassless pane. At the other end we tied a brick, to throw back through the pane to trigger the trap. We put pigeon feed under the trap, and waited for a pigeon to take the bait. Nothing happened, and fortunately for the pigeons, we sent my brother in to test it. When he yelled out to us he was at the trap, I threw the brick through the windowless pane to trip the trap. Shortly after, my brother came out screaming, with blood pouring down from his head. With that, my mother came to the front door of our house, and seeing Bobby, she nearly fainted into her newly planted bed of pansies. Bobby was taken to "Doc" at the drugstore on Gerritsen and Cyrus, where he was patched up, and Daniel Mahady and I went back to tapping the rafters. The pigeons stopped coming home. The Cunningham boy never came home, but I have never forgotten him, or Danny, or Bobby. Nor have I forgotten all the other men like the Cunningham boy, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, which enables us to share these memories. That is why I told this story.

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Last changed: March 09, 2005