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Now growing up in Parkchester had a lot of wondrous and exciting advantages to many other neighborhoods in the Bronx. One which stirs up childhood fantasies, and memories is the Hundred Halls as they were referred to by almost every kid in the neighborhood and many adults. According to a paper found online, “Parkchester is comprised of 51 buildings with a modular system of varied cores and wings. 12,273 units house 42,000 people. Building range in height from 8 to 13 stories,” What this means is that most buildings were connected to other buildings. For the record if you lived there you know that we called them 7 story and 12 story buildings And while there were not direct pathways from one lobby to another there were ways to cut through if you ventured down a flight from the lobby. You see back then we had things called carriage rooms. You could walk down a flight from the lobby and go down the long hallways below to enter these rooms. most were long with metal railings on opposite walls. Generally there was a ramp access on the outer side to the lower level for easy access. The women of the buildings would keep the large baby carriages of the era there, some would lock them I guess with a chain to the bar, though I can’t remember anyone doing that. Some people would keep their bikes and store other things in these rooms , before crime got to be such a problem…..
Ok, so back to the legend. While travel between certain buildings was simple to achieve, it was the idea of being able to go to any building in the complex that drew our young minds to adventure. But to do so would require the help of another legend of Parkchester “The Master Master Key”. Master keys were held by the porters who kept the buildings clean and all the things in working order. These master keys were good for one or two buildings but the” Master Master” would access those doors that led to the very secret hundred halls.
One of those Master keys almost cost my friend George, or Tinki, his life when he got caught with it. Not by the police, or the judicial system, no after being informed by the police about the incident Tinki’s dad was the would be executioner, well not quite but it seemed that way in my youth.
Several times in my misspent youth I or a friend would take it upon ourselves to rid a lax porter of his key ring, he may have left on his jacket, hanging on a doorknob while he worked.
This is where the adventure began. the basement halls could be long and dark, with lots of doors that were unmarked except the fallout shelter rooms with those yellow and black signs. And kids, well we loved drama and would try to keep each other on edge and scared as we wandered underground trying keys in doors and going through different rooms to other halls. Feeling like we had gone miles and been down there for hours we would have to ultimately emerge only to find out we were still just a building or two away. of course there was the known fact, by all us kids, that there were many kids who nerve emerged from those halls. That was enough to keep you on edge the whole way through.
Today it may not seem like much to you, but to us who grew up there and lived these adventures, to us it was more than even Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn could have survived. And I’m sure if there are still kids living there that somehow, by someone, the legend has been passed down to.If you could just make it through all the way to come out say in the next quadrant, well you would be a hero for all time. Makes me think about going back and giving it a shot, even at 53 years old.
This is the link if you never lived there that will show you how buildings were connected around the complex.