TALK ABOUT the old Buffalo neighborhood. Talk about that old gang of mine. Talk about the old days, the young days, the '20s, the '30s, the '40s on Glenwood Avenue near Box Avenue and Kehr Street.
Fifteen men who grew up on the same dead-end block do just that at monthly lunches at the Big Apple in West Seneca.
They went to School 59 and St. Mary Magdelene and later to East High, Burgard or Hutch Tech. They played ball together, "stuck" bowling pins, fought a war, went to work or opened businesses. They made it, and then most of them retired. Now, if they play anything, it's pinochle or with grandchildren.
The area has changed. St. Mary Magdelene and School 59 are no more. None of the 15 lives there now, although Bob Schuh, 69, of Kenmore still attends the Glenwood Avenue Church of Christ.
Alfred Mallon, 69, of Williamsville, recently went back for another look. "The block is kept up pretty well, better than some. My sisters and I stopped in front of 913. 'We were born there,' we told a girl sitting there. 'Make sure you keep the place up.' She smiled a 'yes.' "
The first to leave Little Glenwood was in 1942 for World War II service. Rich Heine, 65, was the last to go in 1971. They went to the towns -- Tonawanda for him, Cheektowaga, Tonawanda, Amherst, West Seneca, Mayville and Sinclairville for the others.
But the memories are fresh and green. Ray Meiss, 68, of Cheektowaga, a retired machine shop owner, called the roll of the mostly German and Irish-descended families who lived next to each other on his side of Glenwood:
"Cavanaugh, Scheinborn, Orts, Dunbar, Meiss, Roeger, Mallon, Young, Scheffold, Pempsell, Orts, Lutz, Reifstak, Runkel, Streibel, Wangler, Gilbert, Reich, Kinskey, Haas and May."
And just as quickly, Bob Heine, 68, of Cheektowaga, a retired Westinghouse employee and one of six brothers, did the same for the other side.
"Dobe, Schuh, Lang, Hounstein, English, Domres, McLaren, Mohr, Heine, Macemer, Jeffords, Robnet, Novak, Orser, Cosgrove, Timmel, Sercu and Burkhart."
The regatherings began two years ago at Bob Heine's 40th wedding anniversary celebration. "The guys all sat at one table and started asking: 'Where's this one? What's that one doing?' So Ray Meiss sent cards out that started it.
"Now when we get together, someone will remember something and that opens more memories."
Mallon and Heine remember when the circus came to Buffalo. "For us, it was the highlight of the year," Heine said. "We didn't have any money to buy tickets, but we could walk to the end of Glenwood and see the performers outside their Pullman car."
Mallon remembered how the guys would gawk at the fat lady, the tall man, the Ubangis and the midgets. "One day, a gang from some other place grabbed a midget and took him away. I don't remember what finally happened to him."
Yes, it was a gang of guys, but not like the gangs that today plague big-city authorities. "If we had tried anything, the cops would have licked our chops," Mallon said.
The only drugs they knew were in a drugstore.
"We never looked at girls. We were too busy doing other things," Mallon said.
"We played softball at School 59 and Muny League hardball at Schiller Park. In 1937, our Glenwood team played South Buffalo for the trophy. Warren Spahn, the lefty who later was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, beat us."
World War II brought its share of derring-do recollections. Phil Fink, 69, of Lancaster, a retired printer, was a B-17 gunner who was shot down over France on his first mission. Taken prisoner, Fink escaped by crossing the Pyrenees into Spain.
Bob Heine, a bombardier, was shot down on his 16th mission and spent 13 1/2 months in a prisoner of war camp. "It wasn't until last year that Phil and I found out that we had both belonged to the same unit, the 384th Heavy Bombardment Squadron," Heine said.
Paul J. Heine, 61, of Cheektowaga, a postal worker, was a foot soldier wounded in the Battle of the Bulge.
Charles Heine, at 54, is the youngest Heine brother and of all the Glenwood boys. "I was the tag-along," he smiled as he left the luncheon for work.
Harold W. Pempsell, 77, a Bemis Bag Co. retiree and Town of Tonawanda resident, is the oldest of the Glenwood boys. Recuperating from a hospital stay, he missed the last meeting.
Sometimes the table talk wanders.
"Are you watching 'War and Remembrance'?" one man asked.
"No, but I'm taping it," said the other.
Bob Schuh told about his Kenmore model train business and selling an engine for $1,195.
"Who would spend that kind of money?" someone asked.
"The guy said it was for a friend."
"The guy said, 'He saved my life.' "
Alfred Runkel, 68, of West Seneca, a retired food salesman and Marine veteran with 32 months of Pacific service, was asked how he felt about the Oliver North conviction in the Nicaragua arms sale deal.
"I think that North was hiding too much behind the Marine Corps tradition."
Carmen Orser, 61, of Cheektowaga, a Chevrolet plant retiree, said he has better things to do than attending lunches. "But I have such a good time."
One day, Orser and Paul Heine became fathers-in-law to the Paul Heine Jr. family. "I baby-sit his grandchildren," Orser said, pointing at Paul Heine.
Sometimes, the boys from Box Avenue and Kehr Street came over to Glenwood Avenue. "Well, we had all the money," someone said, drawing laughter.
Some was earned when the Glenwood Avenue boys "stuck" -- set up -- pins at a bowling alley. Canisius High School now occupies the land.
Mallon was the first to own a car. "I earned most of the $50 I paid for the Model A Ford sticking pins," he said.
Harsh words sometime were heard on Glenwood. "We had some crabs, guys who would yell if we walked on their grass," someone said. "Yeah, and Jack Heine married the daughter of one."
What is the magnet that keeps the Glenwood boys together?
"It was a place, that, well, seemed like it was home," said Ray Meiss. "Yes, that was it."