You’d never suspect it was my younger brother, Sylvan, from his civilized behavior today, but our friends once numbered a medieval Count among them. Our family had just moved to Manhasset, when we boys faced a challenge never before faced in those environs. The Quaker Ridge gang. We were about eleven or twelve years old.
The boys from Quaker Ridge Rd. soon found out we came from a foreign place (Forest Hills) and spoke a foreign language (Swiss-accented Queens County talk) and laid their conditions before us: join us or be bullied.
Now my mother had long been in the habit of raising our self-esteem by telling us stories of the early Swiss, forerunners of the Swiss Guard. She described their battles and medieval weaponry. Forgive her, she mixed up the weaponry and said they carried Morning Stars instead of halberds.
Well, about that time a hurricane had left excess lumber on Great Oak Rd., and so we made Morning Stars by hammering nails into wooden cudgels. Came the face off: the Quaker Ridge gang versus us with Morning Stars. Sylvan took off after Patrick, a boy older than he, and we heard Patrick’s “Ows” and “Yikes” as the Count took his measure with the Morning Star.
But the medieval warfare soon came to a halt. We all attended St. Mary’s elementary school, and when my father brought to the attention of Mother Catherine that gangs existed in her school, it stopped, period.