BEST BROOKLYN FRIENDS
I met Huey Develin when I was 7 years old. My family just moved to Martense Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. It was September 1945 and the leaves on the city’s maple trees were still green.
It was 5 miles from our old house in the Flatlands but it seemed far, far away to me. I’d be going to PS 246 on the next day. That was an unsettling thought.
I was sitting on our front stoop wondering what the neighborhood was up to and ever alert for danger from street bullies or my older sister, Janice. My ears pricked up when I heard young voices approaching. Suddenly 2 older guys came jostling down the street. The bigger one, maybe a little hefty, was swinging his leather book bag at the other lad. His victim shied away from the blows. They looked like they could be 8 or 9 years old. To me they looked like combat veterans.
“Hey! Who are you? What are you doing here?” Huey didn’t say “on my street,” but that was the immediate message I got. He looked and acted tough. Strike one.
“B-B-Billy Serle. I live here.” We were on the 1st floor of the 3-story apartment building. I had never lived in an apartment before. I guess that was scary too.
“Where you going to school?”
“PS 246.” That was strike two.
“Oh yeah. How come you’re not gonna go to Holy Cross?”
“Er. Er. We’re not Catholic.” Strike three!
It must have been bro-love at first sight despite that inauspicious beginning. Our rooms were directly opposite across the airshaft. We called good night to each other on and off over the years. Just like brothers. We hooked up paper cup and string phones and Morse code gadgets when Christmas rolled around. We heard lots of “Shut-ups,” and “Go-to-sleeps,” together.
Prospect Park, The Brooklyn Ice Palace, Flatbush Theater triple-features for a dime shows, Saint George Hotel Pool, Coney Island, Holy Cross Friday dances, street games like tag, ring-aleevio, Johnny Jump-Jump, Stick Ball, Stoop Ball, Blackjack, Poker, Monopoly, Boy Scouts, puberty and more. Best friends. We shared our happiness and troubles, small and big, for over 7 years.
Then it was over. First Huey was 2 years ahead of me at Erasmus Hall High School. Then my family made another move to Farmingdale, New York, after my freshman year at Erasmus. It was too much for our friendship. We took different life paths but I never forgot the blessing that was Huey Develin.
I got a call from my son Bill Serle, III about 7 years ago. “Hey Dad. Some guy named Huey Develin is trying to reach you. He almost hung up when Billy told him that he never lived in Brooklyn. I spoke to him too and stopped him when I said, “Right family – wrong generation.” Here’s his telephone number.”
Huey and I have talked many times over the past few years. Email and text too. We will likely not be able to see each in the flesh but it has been great meeting him again. He put me in touch with Eddie Ford and Johnny McNicoll, other pals from Martense Street too. Thanks Huey!
I’m going to send Huey a copy of this story.