The longest three hours of the year were from 8:30 to noon when we had school that day. The entire city had school until noon, always ended by a Thanksgiving concert or production of some sort, and then everyone ran from their
The street was closed down by about 1 pm or so. From 1 until 5, we kids had free reign of that wonderful, smooth pavement. No cracks, no textured cement, just smooth sailing for our skates, roller hockey, bikes, etc. We ran and played like spirits possessed - we never knew how long we'd have, so we had to take advantage of every possible second.
Around five or so, folks from Macy's would start arriving and shoo us back to our apartments. They'd spend the next five plus hours laying out the tarps and the flattened balloons.
Upon returning to our apartments, TV dinner or spaghetti smells would hit us like warm breath. We were ravenous, starving after four to five hours of serious outdoor play, but our mothers always admonished us not to eat too much - "save room for the turkey tomorrow."
As I got older and our neighborhood got more varied and safer, the TV dinners and the pots of spaghetti generally went by the wayside. More business appeared around the corner on Columbus, and as a junior high kid, I could usually be counted on to join friends for a slice of pizza a coke at the pizzeria around the corner, or sometimes my parents decided to go out for Chinese on 72nd St. One particularly memorable Thanksgiving Eve, we went to dinner and my brand new boyfriend was invited along. I remember taking his arm and feeling very sophisticated on our five block walk downtown.
As a younger child, though, I'd inhale my plate of spaghetti and be pushed into an early bedtime, for the fun was still to come. Around 11:00 p.m. a mysterious phone chain was started after some telltale sounds from the street, and mothers throughout the entire neighborhood would wake their sleeping children - children in footies, children in flannels, children in Cinderella or Raggedy Anne nightgowns, and we'd put on our slippers and a coat and we'd trundle down to see what was there... and for what we saw, tune in tomorrow!