White Hats, Black Hats
© 2014, Gadi Bossin
P.O. Box 20
Kiryat Bialik, Israel
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
This book is an updated version of a narrative I wrote over 20 years ago. I have rewritten it for my now grown children: Roni, Rinat (and my son-in-law, Yoni) and Keren.
It’s also for Lia, my granddaughter, who will be celebrating her fifth birthday within a month.
WHITE HATS, BLACK HATS: PART TWO
Sandra, nicknamed Sunny, was my first secret love.
We were classmates in Miss Lukachko’s grade two at Grace Street Public School back in the 1953‑54 school year.
There had been a girl with pigtails I liked to pull in Miss Graham’s grade one the year before. But I never pined away for her as I did for Sunny.
And I didn’t suffer when our paths separated as I did when Sunny’s and mine did at the end of the second grade when we moved out to Downsview in the suburbs and Sunny’s family remained on Montrose Avenue.
In retrospect, I can’t say for sure what attracted me to Sunny. She was a diminutive blonde with a face at once serious and funny.
Perhaps I was infatuated with her because of her brightness and intelligence. Later on she skipped the third or fourth grade.
Or possibly it was that something or other in her expression declared a certain worldweariness and made her face, for just a flash at a time, into the face of a little old woman.
Sunny was from a Jewish family, and it seemed right if I were to be in love that I would be in love with a Jewish girl.
In the early 1950’s Jews were moving out of our neighborhood and it was no longer mainly Jewish.
The Grace Street Public School had a pupil population that was roughly one‑third Jewish, one‑third Protestant and one‑third Catholic.
The percentages would change radically in the ensuing five years with almost all the Jews moving out to the northern suburbs and the Catholics growing in number with the great influx of Italian immigrants.
Some years after my family moved to Downsview in North York Township, Sunny’s family moved to the same new neighborhood. Since she had skipped a year in school we were no longer in the same grade.
In the intervening two or three years I had gotten over my broken heart and had found other secret loves and infatuations.
But I always had a soft spot in my heart for Sunny.
Back on Montrose Avenue she would see me eating bananas on the steps of the veranda as she walked home from school—I would hurry home and position myself there and wait for her to pass by—and she would call out and tease me, “You love bananas so much. You look just like a monkey.”
I guess that’s how second-graders flirted with each other.
In Downsview, we lived on Lady York Avenue and she and her parents and her older sister lived around the corner from us on Whitley Avenue.
When we were still kids, in junior high school I think it was, her father was found dead in a ditch on their street. He had had a massive heart attack.
Sunny never knew because I never said anything to her, but I felt for her and shared in her grief and sorrow. I knew what it was like to lose a parent.
Herman was probably my first personal enemy. Like Henry he came from a family of Holocaust survivors.
He was a bully. Picking on the little kids on the street was a habit with Herman.
One day he made a mistake: He picked on my friend Jerry. I found Jerry crying, tears running down his pinkish cheeks, his squinty smile twisted into a pained frown, underlip protruding.
“Herman pushed me down,” he sobbed.
“I’ll take care of him,” I assured Jerry.
Right away, I ran after Herman, with Jerry in tow.
When we caught up to him, I confronted him with an ultimatum modeled on what I’d seen in the cowboy movie serials: “Herman, this is my friend Jerry. You ought to pick on someone your own size. Next time you lay a hand on him, I’m gonna come lookin’ for you.”
I liked to model myself on the heroes in the serials.
Cousin Barry had had a lot to do with that and so had my father. When he realized that fighting was still a way of life on Montrose Avenue even in the 1950’s, Dad told me: “Never start a fight. But always be sure you’re the one who finishes it.”
This was my credo. And if Herman started a fight by bothering Jerry again, I was going to finish it.
The next day I was coming home from someplace and saw a crowd of kids on the sidewalk near Jerry’s house.
I also saw Herman’s back disappearing rapidly up the street.
In the center of the crowd of kids was Jerry, sitting down on the sidewalk, fuming and shaking his fists in frustration.
“Herman knocked Jerry down and punched him in the face,” the kids chorused.
“He said I shouldna told you he pushed me yesterday. Then he shoved me and punched me,” Jerry screeched in hoarse indignation.
I started running after Herman and tapped him on the shoulder just before he turned into the sidewalk leading to his veranda. He turned and started to swing his fists at me. I ducked and got under his punches and knocked him down with a tackle.
We began to wrestle on the ground and I outmaneuvered him and was soon sitting on his chest and pinning his arms and shoulders. All the kids were gathered around by then, shouting encouragement.
It was just like in the movies.
Herman and I were “on the screen” and the others were the spectators.
In my mind, Herman was wearing a black hat and had a black stubbly beard. I was wearing a white hat. Herman was the villain. I was the hero.
All that was missing was the popcorn.
Herman was blubbering in his humiliation. “Lemme up. Lemme up.”
“I’ll let you up if you promise never to bully anyone else ever again,” I declared triumphantly. “Say ‘Give,'” I ordered.
Herman squirmed under me, struggled a bit more and then realized he’d been beaten. “Give,” he grunted.
I let him up and he darted into his house.
But the next day Herman caught me unawares on the street with a barrage of pebbles he’d gathered. His aim was poor and I managed to retreat into the narrow walkway between our house and number 39 without getting hit.
There I took shelter as Herman continued to pelt his stones at me each time I peeked out from the walkway.
The space between the two houses was barely wide enough for a broadshouldered man to walk through. Herman would not storm my hiding place because anyone who came into that space presented a target you couldn’t miss.
From behind the wide black trunk of the maple tree in our front yard Herman just kept whipping stones at me every time I poked my head out to see if he was still there.
When I first ran into the walkway I had no pebbles to throw back, but soon I collected all the ammunition I needed from the stones Herman had thrown at me. After missing their mark, his stones had ricocheted from number 39 to number 37 and back, from side to side of the walkway, until their momentum was spent.
Now I was ready to fight back.
I peeked out two or three times more, timing Herman’s response as he came out from behind the tree in order to rifle his stones at me. I selected a good flat pebble with just the right heft and weight to it to hurl back at Herman.
The next time I looked out from the narrow walkway, I stepped out and was well into my throwing motion as Herman exposed himself to throw at me. I pitched a perfect strike, hitting Herman squarely in the middle of the forehead before he even released his stone.
Herman dropped his stone and his remaining ammunition as well and set up a howling that brought the neighbors outside, asking, “Hey, what happened?”
Herman fled home, defeated again.
But this was not the end of the Herman story.
Later that afternoon, Louie came running to me all out of breath and gasped: “Herman’s got a knife. He’s coming after you. He said he’s gonna kill you.”