‘Cinderella Man’ revives memories of an adventurous childhood
I grew up on a great block in North Bergen, N.J. We lived one block from a park with tennis courts, a playground and a lake. There were lots of children. We never were bored. Playing stick ball in the street, making up adventures — life was fun.
Bobbie was next door. He was five years older than I, and he had the great misfortune to become a physics teacher at my high school during my senior year. Guess who he had in his class? I did not make his first year of teaching easy.
Jack and Ann, Harry and Jeff, Regina and my sister’s friends, whose names elude me — we knew everyone on the block, and they knew us.
On the corner lived an older couple. They kept to themselves, but we all knew they were special. I remember when we moved in, the other kids told us immediately, “James Braddock, the boxer, lives in that house.”
It made our block really special. Even though I was too young to know who he was at first, I soon found out how famous he was to the adults.
This summer it occurred to me how important. I have never cried during the trailer for a movie before, but I did recently. I took my children to see the new “Star Wars” movie, but before it even started, I was in tears. My children were horrified. I was crying during the trailer! How low would I go in their minds? But I have a good reason for my tears.
It was the trailer for “Cinderella Man.” I was fine until the fight scene when Mr. Braddock is punched in the face. The tears just started. I knew Mr. Braddock. I moved to the block he lived on in North Bergen when I was 8 years old.
So why did I cry? He was just a neighbor — a special neighbor — but not one I knew that well. In my mind he was an old man. He must have been at least 57 when I met him.
I think I felt so sad because I knew him when I was a child. Seeing the character being hit in the face that way, made me feel sad for the man I knew. It brought back so many childhood memories. Although I had always known he was a boxer, I had never thought of him as being hurt or hit.
As children, our favorite part of having him live near us was the fancy cars that would sometimes be parked in front of his home. They were so “cool.” The boys especially thought so. And when those cars were parked, we did not play stick ball in the street.
We were told by other kids that we had the safest block in all of North Bergen because of Mr. Braddock. He probably had no idea he was such an icon to all the children or that we had made up stories and myths about him.
I must say, I ignored all the hype about “Cinderella Man” until I saw the trailer and realized who he really was in my life. I have never been interested in boxing. But, I bought the book recently, and I plan to read it. I do not know if I can see the movie. If I cried during the trailer, who knows what I would do during an entire fight scene.
In the meantime, I have lots of pleasant memories of the great street I lived on — and of the children and adults on my block.