One day in the late 1950s, Bob Pesce, Lou Viani and I played “King of the Mountain” on a big mound of dirt in the middle of the Pit (the vacated sand and gravel site adjacent to the houses on the east side of Janey Way).
We grappled atop the dirt pile trying to push each other off of it. As we tussled, twisted and slipped on this hill, Bob suddenly said, “Look out, here comes Old Man Charlie!”
We stopped in our tracks and immediately looked westward in the direction of Charlie’s shack. Sure enough there he came striding down the west side of the Pit at deliberate pace.
Immediately, we dropped down to our knees, eyes posted, tracking the progress of the scruffy, yet feared watchman of the Pit.
“He’s coming this way’” said Lou. “He must have seen us playing out here. Let’s make a run for it.”
“Which way,” I cried.
Well, we basically had two options: run toward the southeast corner of the Pit and exit on 61st and M streets, or run northeast over the mounds of debris on that corner of the Pit and exit on Elvas Ave.
If we went toward 61st, he might cut us off, so we chose the latter direction.
Off we went in whirl of dust. Up, over, around and through the mogul-like mounds of concrete, wood and soil, we scurried. When we had progressed about 100 yards, we dropped down and stared out to the east to check on Charlie’s progress.
Sure enough, he was heading down the access road leading into the middle of the Pit, right in our direction. We lay low, holding our breath.
The Janey Way gang feared being caught by old man Charlie more than anything. We might end up hanging on one of those posts on the side of his house like side of beef. Yow!
Down into the Pit came the scary old man.
Despite his age, he still seemed pretty spry. We knew he might pursue us into the piles where we lay, but we held our ground.
“Let’s see what he does.”
When he reached the big dirt pile, he stopped. He looked up to the top of the hill and saw nothing but our tracks. Then, he turned 360 degrees, surveying the entire Pit. He scratched his chin.
“Where could those boys have gone?”
For just a minute, he considered heading off in our direction, then he had second thoughts.
“Those boys must be long gone by now. Oh well, at least they are out of here.”
Then, thankfully, Charlie turned and walked back out of the Pit, up the access road to the exit by the Petrocchi house on Janey Way and M Street, then turned right on M Street and disappeared.
Phew, he was gone for now. We had foiled his effort to catch us one more time. Naturally, we returned to the hill again and resumed our contest.
During the time, I grew up on Janey Way, Old Man Charlie pursued me many times. As the watchman for the Pit, this was his job. However, we perceived him as an opponent, a bogeyman. To the best of my knowledge, he never apprehended any of the Janey Way gang, but stories abounded of what he might do if he caught us.
Eventually, we all grew up, to heights much greater than the little old watchman. By that time, he had left the neighborhood and the Pit itself had disappeared, making way for St. Francis High School.
Now, Old Man Charlie is nothing more than a slightly comical Janey Way memory.