Dec 17

Easter Sunday Part I

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Saga of the Suits

Easter Sunday during my youth was a very special holiday.  Not only did it portend the end of winter, it also featured  a spectacular boardwalk parade

Easter Sunday Parade 1912

Winters are long in Atlantic City; ask any “local.” Besides the length of time it lasts (we count fall and spring too), there are, at most, only three to four good rejuvenating summer months.

Right after Labor Day, we would get out our winter measuring sticks. The first distraction to help us with the oncoming dreary months during our high school tenure was football season. We’d look forward to every Friday night or Saturday afternoon to either play or take our place among the spectators, while secretly admiring cheerleaders from visiting or visited teams.  The next break in the action was Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas, New Years and finally, what seemed like an endless stretch, Easter Sunday. Once Easter Sunday arrived it was only a matter of six or seven weeks until Memorial Day and—summer.

However, I’d like to pause here and talk about Easter Sunday. This holiday was a big deal in Atlantic City. Even though New York enjoyed a nationwide reputation for having a spectacular Easter Parade with the song of the same name (lyrics by Irving Berlin, “On the Avenue, 5th Avenue…”),  still, the “Big Apple” would be hard pressed to surpass the splendor of Atlantic City’s boardwalk Easter Sunday Parade.

People swarmed to the resort from Philadelphia and surrounding South Jersey Communities decked out in all their Easter Sunday finery. Crowds would promenade the boardwalk while sharp eyed judges kept their eyes peeled for outstanding outfits. Later in the afternoon at Park Place and the boardwalk (surely you recognize that name from Monopoly), the judging would take place. The usual ballyhoo would ensue and winners would be selected from various categories.

During my early years my mom would take my brothers and me to the Easter Sunday parade, which at the time, we were too young to appreciate. We were easily bored from all the walking for which there seemed to be no purpose, except for an occasional hot dog or ice cream treat.

Later as we got older we’d be allowed to go by ourselves. Mom would buy us the latest little kid matching gabardine suits with checkered coat fronts. I believe one year Mick and I even had  matching wide brimmed doofus hats. We wore those suits until they were so shiny you could see your face in them. We’d make the rounds of relatives before Easter Sunday with our new suits and phony visits, whose only purpose was to see how much of their money we could extort. By the time the big day rolled around, we’d have a nice little bankroll to spend at the piers on rides, with enough left over to indulge in the requisite junk foods.

As we entered our teens Easter Sunday took on another change. “Cool” had come into our lives. Everything you did had to be cool. Cool was our guiding principal. Even if you didn’t feel cool you had to act cool. Even if your palms were sweaty and your mouth so dry you could hardly speak, cool was the order of the day. This resulted in a crushing demand on our psyches…

 

 

Dec 16

Easter Sunday Part II

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Saga of the Suits

Mom, Mick, Bob in our Easter Sunday doofus suits

Easter Sunday was now all about cool so, with this in mind, it was easier for some kids to be cool because they might be a jock, a class clown, popular with the girls, or, among those whose parents were well off and could afford their kids the latest clothing styles.

My first Easter Sunday ushering in the cool era was at sixteen. All the kids in my high school were going to walk the boardwalk and it was predetermined, sort of casually, and of course cooly, to meet at Park Place and the boardwalk around the time of the “Best Dressed” judging. Some of us like my buddy Jerry and I would start at the south end of the boardwalk at Convention Hall, kind of the dull end because of there being no amusements to speak of, whereas others started from the north end around Steel Pier. The bulk of kids all met at Steel Pier since our high school was much closer to that landmark.

One of the very cool members leading the Steel Pier contingent this Easter Sunday was a guy named Coxy. That was his nickname of course. His real name on his father’s side was decidedly Italian, but his mother’s maiden name was Cox and Jimmy as he was also known chose to go with the Irish side. That was because the inlet where he lived was predominantly Irish Catholic. Coxy was a world class ball buster. I had a love/hate relationship with him. He had a heart as big as gold, but on the other hand he was also  a snake. He and I had actually gotten into a fist fight one time at the Y.M.C.A. He always sided with the majority, so if you were on the losing end of an altercation you could always count on the non-support of Coxy.

I was hoping to buy a new suit for Easter Sunday, to wear in the parade  but things were kind of tight financially and my mom said that we couldn’t afford it. Being 16 at the time I really wanted to be among the cool, so this news was devastating.

I thought of everything I could to get a new suit for Easter Sunday but soon realized it was hopeless. Finally my mom came up with the idea to have my brother Jim’s suit altered, one he hadn’t worn very often. I knew why. This number mom was talking about had little black and white “square” checks that spoke volumes of being just that. Jim and I couldn’t have been more different in our style of dress. I was definitely flamboyant, where he was much more conservative.

I had a decision to make, either forgo Easter Sunday and the parade or wear the suit. The former was out of the question and I bravely chose the latter.

So we went into rehabilitation mode. I took the suit to a tailor and my beat up dress shoes to a shoemaker. I already had a white shirt and mom bought me a nice black tie. Cool or not, I would be on the boardwalk on Easter Sunday.

Dec 15

Easter Sunday Part III

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Saga of the Suits

Cousin Joe Charie Me Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday morning. I stood in front of the mirror to assess the damage. I had to admit everything fit quite nicely and my shoes were polished to a fare thee well. Well, for better or worse I was ready, or was I?

I met Jerry at Georgia Avenue and the boardwalk. I think it was all he could do to suppress a gasp when he saw me. I’m sure he was having second thoughts about strolling the wooden way with me at his side. Jerry was a cool dresser and stood out in the latest of sartorial elegance. He was decked out in a great looking suit with matching shirt and tie and the latest Flagg Brothers box toed shoes. These shoes, though stylish, looked capable of kicking field goals.

As we headed uptown I felt more and more insignificant. The promenaders going both ways looked like something out of the movie Easter Parade. There was much yellow and lavender, accented by a myriad of other colors. The people were so beautiful I felt like Oliver Twist begging for gruel on the streets of London. I could have sworn several passersby spied me and turned up their noses as I passed.

It was getting closer to the hour of reckoning as I became more self conscious in my corny threads. I probably would have felt more at home if I’d had hay coming out of my ears. This was not the Easter Sunday I’d envisioned.

Suddenly from a distance I spotted Coxy coming the other way with a cadre of the most popular guys and girls from our high school on each side of him. Even from a distance I could see how sharp he looked in his double breasted suit with just the right amount of tapering to his pegged pants and the newly fashionable pistol pockets. I braced myself. As he drew closer I saw the look of pure joy on his face as I realized he was conjuring thoughts of how he wanted to humiliate me. Poor Jerry, by my side, looked like he wanted to vanish. As I pulled within earshot and with perfect timing Coxy loudly proclaimed, hey, here comes McNesby in his “classy racetrack suit.” Well that brought forward a cascade of laughter that even Jerry couldn’t resist. My face turned crimson. If I could have gotten Coxy alone for two minutes I would have committed mayhem upon him.

Now fast forward to Easter Sunday, one year later. Same cast same scenario, except for one thing, no hand me downs this time. No, I made sure I had the necessary funds, or almost, as it turned out, to outfit myself in sartorial splendor. Jerry, knowing this, was willing to partner up on the boards with me again to the same designated meeting place.

What a thrill I experienced as we took the bus to Philadelphia. As soon as we arrived and alighted we hurried to South Street and—Krass Bros. Men’s Shop, “Store of the Stars.” One of the reasons for the stores popularity was the incredible amount of advertising they engaged in, especially prior to Easter Sunday, as well as the wide range of prices offered.

Jerry who’d been here before knew just where to go since he’d been clued in by a lot of guys who bought their Easter Sunday outfits at Krass Bros. He moved quickly to the 30-40 dollar line of suits. Since I didn’t have a lot of money I opted for the 15-20 dollar models. It wasn’t long, as I examined the rows of suits, before I spied this beautiful powder blue number with stylish oversized lapels. The price ticket was only $17.00 and because Krass Bros. had so many out of town customers they employed a stable of tailors to guarantee alterations while you waited. To complete the outfit I bought a pink shirt and dark blue tie. Jerry had purchased a classy tan outfit with subtle thin blue pinstripes—very sharp. We decided to head over to Flagg Bros., while our suits were being altered, to pick up our shoes. This would be a different Easter Sunday

Dec 14

Easter Sunday Part IV

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Saga of the Suits

Famous Atlantic City rolling chairs

Once there, we had no problem making our choice. The box toe was still in style so we each bought a pair and hurried back to Krass Bros. to try on the suits for fit.

I could scarcely hide my excitement as I viewed the picture standing before me. Boy, did I look cool.

On Easter Sunday morning I dressed slowly and with much care. Once I felt satisfied I descended the stairs to present myself to my parents. The look on my mom’s face told me all I needed to know. She absolutely glowed with pride. Even my dad who was not given to expressing his feelings looked impressed–I was ready.

Our plan was the same as the previous year, to meet in front of Convention Hall at Georgia Avenue and the boardwalk.

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday Day as I left the house to make my way to the boardwalk. I suddenly discovered an oddity. I realized every time I took a step my lapels would flop. Oh no, not again I thought. No matter how I tried to walk, slow, fast, half paced, it made no difference, the lapels still flopped.

As I got closer to the boardwalk I kept pushing my chest out or pulling it in. Nothing worked, the lapels had taken on a life of their own. As I walked up the boardwalk ramp I saw Jerry waiting by the corner of Convention Hall. His first reaction was one of approval—that quickly turned to horror. I know I said as I approached, I can’t believe it. He suggested maybe we could find a store with pins. We were already just going to make it on time to meet the gang. We quickly stopped in a couple of stores, but no pins. After that we just stopped trying

We started to pick up our pace but the faster I walked the more I flopped. It’s a good thing there wasn’t a strong southerly wind blowing off the ocean, or, like Mary Poppins, I might have become airborne. Fashionable Easter Sunday strollers, passing by, seeing me, ran the whole gamut of human emotions from stupefying stares to suppressed giggles. I was mortified.

And now, similar to walking the last mile in a James Cagney film, the final minutes approached. Because my anticipation was so great, like a radar beacon, I was able to spot Coxy and the gang farther away than the human eye should be allowed. We kept getting closer like those moving walls in a corny movie serial. Suddenly, I saw his face light up in gleeful anticipation. As soon as he drew close enough to know everyone would hear, he yelled look, here comes McNesby in his flashy new blue suit with the floppy lapels. As if on cue, the gang erupted with laughter just as on the previous Easter Sunday. What made it even worse was some of the Easter revelers picked up on this scenario and chimed in with their own two cents worth of mirth.

Anyway, mercifully that was the last year of meeting up with the high school gang. I still did the Easter Sunday thing but now it became more about getting into hotel bars, or, any bars for that matter, since that’s where all the, er…interesting older ladies hung out.

I was finally approaching adulthood–and independence.