It was my great pleasure to run into the Whalens on Sunday. I hadn't seen any of the Whalens in almost 30 years. The Whalens were my next door neighbors when we lived with my grandparents in the northeast and were great neighbors and great people who I genuinely loved. Bill Whalen was the youngest and my age, the other Whalen kids were older and so I knew them, but never to play with. Bill Whalen was a great kid.
Just this week I told Lynn Bloom a story about a "spirited Mayfair discussion" among the neighborhood children about our ethnic divisions. Bill Whalen said that I was a hebe, prompting me to say, "you bow down to one every sunday" which then escalated into a full blown battle of ethnic slurs ending with Bill telling Dawn that their ancestors had been at war for over 800 years. The loser in this battle? Robbie Slinkard. Why? Because his brother was "gay" for singing in the Philadelphia Boys Choir and so he was always the loser. Actually, Robbie's brother turned out to be gay as in "homosexual" in addition to, "dude, singing in a choir is so gay." He nailed gay in every sense! Robbie was also the loser because he wasn't allowed to play in the open hydrant since his father was a cop and opposed it on principle.
This is what it was like in Mayfair, except loving and comfortable at the same time. This is how we talked to each other and how our neighborhood friendships worked.