Kenneth Hand remembers the Kingsbridge of his youth as a place where streetwise kids roamed without the burdensome boundaries of over-involved parents.
From a nighttime cop chase out of a Van Cortlandt Park pool to “mining” copper off roofs along Godwin Terrace, Mr. Hand compiled stories from his 1970s Kingsbridge upbringing for his book You Can’t Take the Bronx Out of
The Boy My Dad.
Tales of troublemaking and fun are contrasted against the comparably cloistered life of the modern kid.
“The world we grew up in, in the ‘70s, you’d say ‘mom I’m going out’ and that was ok, then you went and did your thing, and your parents didn’t worry about it. They just knew you’d be back.” Mr. Hand, who lives with his wife and two kids in Virginia, said. “With my son, when he’s going out, even when he goes to play basketball in our subdivision, my wife is worried about him.”
Though the stories are written from the perspective of his own son remembering his dad’s life lessons, Mr. Hand originally told the stories contained in the book to his children, in the hopes that they would gain from hearing about his upbringing.
“When I had kids I remembered different challenges that I had as a kid. One of the things I thought to myself is I wanted to prepare them for those situations,” Mr. Hand said.
While the book is often light-hearted, Mr. Hand doesn’t shy away from dark periods, both in his life and in the history of Kingsbridge.
Drug dealers peddling outside of school, dropping out of John F. Kennedy High School as a teenage alcoholic and the bullet-riddled death of a former classmate who had turned to dealing, were all part of Mr. Hand’s urban reality.
“He definitely had a guardian angel,” Rich Hand, Mr. Hand’s brother, said. “You could picture a kid like this ending up on Rikers Island.”
Christine Hand Light, Mr. Hand’s sister, said that their Bronx upbringing was integral to overcoming setbacks as an adult.
“He uses stories for his children, to pass on life lessons on what to avoid and why to avoid them ... He turned the pain that he had in his childhood and turned it in to a positive thing,” Ms. Hand Light said.