When we were kids Growing up Bronx, one of the ways we kept cool during the steamy summer season was by using the fire hydrant to get wet. It wasn’t an uncommon sight to walk by a block and see the powerful stream coming from the fire hydrant. Using a tin can cut on both ends, we would direct the water to go up, and all the kids would get soaked on the other side.
As I describe this to you, I can feel the giant droplets of water slapping against my overheated body after running up and down the block playing tag with my friends. Sometimes we’d sit on a car and let the water hit us. Drivers knew that they have to roll their windows up, or risk getting the interior wet. Once rolled up, this proved a great opportunity for a quick car wash.
The pompa was one of the greatest parts of my Growing Up Bronx experience. However, there were times when it wasn’t all fun and games. On occasion the firemen or cops would show up and then shut down the waterworks. Other times, you’d hear one of the people in the building screaming at us that they were trying to take a bath or cook and we were screwing up the water pressure. In some cases, one of the “brave tough guys” would come down and shut down the hydrant themselves while daring us to turn it back on. Sometimes it would go back on and sometimes not.
In my old block there were two very big families, and one of them used to always shut it down, the other would on occasion turn it back on. They both had large numbers in their families, so they somewhat respected each other and compromised. But the rest of us though, we couldn’t fuck with either of them. So if one wasn’t on our side, we had to comply with whatever the other decided regarding the hydrant. Looking back on it, it’s pretty funny how the street hierarchy worked.
Eventually, the fire department came up with those caps that would prevent us from running the fire hydrant. In some cases, they’d put those sprinkler type addons for us. The image above reminds me of drinking water from the hydrant. There are so many little details that come to me in fragments. Up until this moment, I had no recollection of cupping my hands, bending over like a gazelle in the wild, and drinking from the hydrant, watching my back that no one jumped me or kicked me face first into it.
I tell y’all, Growing Up Bronx was a special experience.