Mrs. Pool lived next door (on the back door side). All of us kids called her Aunt Helen. Her husband, at least I think he was her husband, who had very little hair, gave me my first haircut in a little shop in the back of the house. I’m not sure of the relationship. I didn’t like him. I am told that I cried and screamed when he cut my hair. He didn’t seem to be around much. It wasn’t a regular barber shop. He was very quiet, unlike any other barber I’ve met since. Aunt Helen’s house was the one house in the neighborhood that was the typical cottage style, with a white picket fence. She baked cookies for the kids, too. It was a little creepy for a lot of the kids. I liked Mr. Cooperman much better. He had the shop in Robin Center. We could walk down there. It was only a block and a half away. He would always wink at my mom and give me the quarter change from the haircut, if I “was a good boy.” He was Jewish and had escaped from a concentration camp in Germany. He talked with a Yiddish accent, I ended up going to kindergarten and all through school with his nieces and my older sister was in his son’s class. I think his son and my sister ended up practicing medicine in the same hospital for a while.
Robin Center was built in 1955, the same year I was born, the crest of the Baby Boom. The land it was built on had been turned over to the state as useless swamp land by someone who was fed up with paying city taxes on unbuildable land after the town had encroached on what had been a rural area prior to WW2. An enterprising citizen of Robbinsdale redeemed it from the government; then shipped in fill. Some places the “swamp” was forty feet deep. The shopping center had to be built on pylons. It has stood the test of time. It has had two face-lifts, one in the 1980s and one at the turn of the millennium. At this writing, it is still prospering.
Mr. Cooperman’s shop, the Mother Goose Stride Rite shoe store and the Fanny Farmer candy shop were all in a row there. A giant goose in the middle of the shoe store would dispense a genuine, 1921 or 1922 silver dollar each time we bought a pair of shoes. I was born with malformed joints in my ankles, knees and hips. Until I was three, I had to wear braces on my legs and feet when I slept. Whenever it was time for me to get shoes there was only one choice for me to make: brown or black. They were always corrective wingtips. I couldn’t wear them home, because the special heels had to be installed. For all the good they did! I spent my entire childhood with bloody ankles because of those shoes! I remember the feeling of jubilation of successfully rounding the landing going up the stairs in the house on Shoreline Drive, only to have my face firmly hit the top step as my right toe predictably hooked my left ankle.
More than three decades later, October 1993, in a follow up visit with an orthopod after my acetabulum had been shattered and my ilium fractured in a motorcycle accident, the doctor asked me if I could walk. I told him that I had walked into his office, so, yes. He was looking at my hip X-rays and told me that this was impossible. He had been practicing his specialty for over 40 years and had never seen anything like this. I told him that it was rather difficult for the first three weeks after the truck hit me, but I was OK now. He said, “No, I’m looking at your good hip. You should not be able to walk!” I told him that I have congenital hip. He said that he knows congenital hip, and that there is no way I should be able to walk with these hips. This is not that. “Are you sure you can walk?” I told him that I used to run cross country. He looked at the X-rays again and just shook his head and said that it was “weird”. That’s how I received a professional evaluation that I was weird to the bone.