Pairings/Characters: Tony Stark, James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes, Steve/Bucky (Bucky does not appear in Ch. 2, 3, & 4), Rosa Martinetti, Mario Martinelli, Ella Simms, Unnamed Teller, Arnie Roth, Howard Stark, Thor Odinson
Continuity: Captain America 1: The First Avenger (2011), Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Captain America 3: Civil War (2016).
Series Notes: Any ideas that pop up about the boys in their early days will end up under this umbrella title. Skinny!Steve and Protective!Bucky for the win! ;) The entire series can be found here.
Genres: Angst, Drama, Historical
Fanworker: The talented taibhrigh! :) Link: here.
Fanworker: The superb dulcetine! :) Link: here.
Beta: The marvelous starsandsea! :) All mistakes are my own.
Warnings: (Ch. 2 & 4: Violence)
Spoilers: Captain America 1: The First Avenger (2011), Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Captain America 3: Civil War (2016).
General Summary: After what Bucky Barnes did to his parents, how can Tony ever reconcile that with Bucky being Steve’s oldest friend? An inexplicable trip to the past may provide the answer.
Dates Of Completion: May 5, 2016-September 3, 2016
Dates Of Posting: November 8/9/11, 2016
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel and Paramount do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 27,327
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: Written for the 2016 marvel_bang.
THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
What tomorrow brings,
But we hope
That it will be better
The Martians Invaded”
The train brought the three revelers to the site of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It was a site eerily familiar to Tony, as it had been (or was to be) the place where the Stark Expo was located.
The passengers oohed and aahed at the sight of the iconic Trylon and Perisphere, the tall Trylon resembling a thinner Washington Monument and the Perisphere a round globe. The white structures gleamed in the bright August sun.
The three of them went with the rest of the crowd to the entrance. After paying for admission, they studied the guidebooks and decided to just walk around before making a plan.
“Hey, they had a Superman Day here last month,” said Tony.
“Well, he is the Man of Tomorrow,” Steve said.
“Great comics, too,” said Bucky. “Wilder than any science fiction novel.”
“Imagine if there really was a Superman?” Steve’s eyes sparkled.
Tony chuckled. Captain America was not super-powered, but he was enhanced and a true hero. Steve would serve that role quite well.
They paused beside a tall stone structure. “It’s the Westinghouse Time Capsule,” Steve read. “Wow, it’s not scheduled to be opened for 5,000 years, in the year 6939.”
“Wow is right,” Bucky said. “Think we’ll be around then?”
Tony thought of the longevity powers of the Serum. You might be.
Steve grinned. “It contains writings by Albert Einstein and Thomas Moore, copies of Life Magazine, a Mickey Mouse watch, a Gillette safety razor, a kewpie doll, a dollar in change, a pack of Camel cigarettes, and millions of pages of text on microfilm.”
“Shoulda been Lucky Strikes,” Tony drawled. “And a Mickey Mouse watch? I like it!”
“It also contains seeds of wheat, corn, oats, tobacco, and a bunch of others. It’s all buried at a depth of 50 feet,” Bucky read as he grinned at Tony’s shenanigans.
“That’s amazing!” Tony was fascinated. As a futurist, time capsules interested him greatly.
“Isn’t it Westinghouse that features the robot?” Bucky asked.
All three men grinned. “We’re off to see the Tin Man!” Steve declared.
Bucky said, “Does that make you Dorothy?”
“I dunno. Are you the Scarecrow or the Tin Man?”
“The brains of the outfit? I’ll take the Scarecrow.”
“I’ll take the Tin Man,” Tony said, trying not to smirk.
“So that leaves me with either Dorothy or the Cowardly Lion, huh?” Steve thought a minute. “I’ll take Dorothy.”
“C’mon, let’s go see Moto-Man,” Bucky said as Tony laughed.
There was a crowd waiting in the Westinghouse pavilion eager to see the fabled robot. An excited hum started as a nattily-dressed man came out on a platform several feet above the main floor, followed by Electro.
The robot was painted gold, its movements slow but steady. Its torso was wide and stocky with a hole in the center. Steve had brought a Brownie camera with him and took pictures.
“Ladies and gentlemen, with a great deal of pride and pleasure, I present to you Electro, the Westinghouse Moto-Man!”
Applause greeted the introductory announcement, and the host began a conversation with the robot, simple words but keeping up logical thought. Tony knew that it was primitive but still amazing for 1939.
The host eventually put a cigarette in Electro’s mouth and lit it. The robot began ‘smoking’, much to the crowd’s delight. Steve snapped more pictures.
Tony marveled at the attitudes about smoking. People were so accepting of smoking that even a robot had to light up! Smoking was allowed everywhere: at work, on trains, on planes, in restaurants and hospitals. The soldiers in the upcoming war would find cigarettes in their packages of C-rations, and doctors and nurses would freely distribute cigarettes to wounded soldiers in the hospitals.
“Boy, never saw anything like that before.” Steve’s gaze was riveted to the robot.
“We can see a lot more wonders in the Futurama exhibit,” Bucky said.
“Where is that?”
“Right here in the Transportation Zone.”
The show with Electro was over in a few minutes, so the trio moved out with the crowd. Since the Westinghouse pavilion was not far from where Futurama was housed, they opted to walk instead of taking a tram.
The tram system consisted of cars that moved along a rail via electricity. It was simple but effective, and would spare them all long walks in the August sun later. While the heat was a little less oppressive today, it was still going to wear them out. And Steve’s recent bout with the heat made it imperative to keep a discreet eye on him, which Tony and Bucky did by unspoken agreement.
Once they arrived at the General Motors pavilion, they boarded a tram, which transported them over a huge diorama of a fictional representation of the United States in 1960. They were delighted by the miniature depictions of highways, towns, 500,000 individually designed homes, 50,000 vehicles, waterways and a million trees of diverse species. The diorama grew and the cars and other elements achieved life-size proportions.
The tram glided to a halt, discharging its passengers. The visitors entered what appeared to be a life-size city intersection with tall buildings and stores. The stores showcased cars and other GM products of the latest design. New materials were explained and new product concepts were unveiled, currently unavailable but in a few years, very available for a public starved for new gadgets after a decade of Depression.
It was an endless parade of wonders as the world of 1960 was laid out. Tony noted that they got the extensive highway system right. The major highway project under federal auspices in the 1950s would connect the country in a way unknown in 1939.
“Everything’s so clean,” Steve marveled. He took pictures of Tony and Bucky, and they took turns snapping Steve’s picture with each one of them.
“Guess Art Deco lives on,” commented Bucky as he studied the architecture.
Considering the ugly, boxy architecture of the late ‘60s and entire ‘70s, Tony wished that Art Deco had lasted longer.
“Will we have flying cars?” Steve quipped.
Tony smiled. “Like The Jetsons?”
“Oh, just a guess as to a futuristic family name.”
They went to the other pavilions. Railroads On Parade showed the latest innovations in diesel and electric power. They watched a live drama about the history of railroads and the newest models, examples of streamlined Art Deco, were a gleaming paean to progress.
Tony loved all of it. In 21st-century eyes, some of the exhibits were primitive, but for this time and place, daringly inventive.
Moving on to the Communications and Business Zone, they saw electric typewriters and an electric calculator.
Steve was overjoyed that IBM presented a Masterpieces of Art gallery with hundreds of artworks from over 70 countries. The Old Masters ranged from the Middle Ages to 1800 and Steve took them all in with shining eyes. Bucky and Tony exchanged knowing smiles, happy for their friend.
In the RCA Pavilion, the wonder of television was unveiled. Steve and Bucky were fascinated by the sleek wooden cabinets housing small TV screens, broadcasting low-resolution pictures. The thought of having such devices in American homes was an exciting one. It would bring the world to their living rooms! Tony was intrigued by the streamlined designs of the casings and thought about getting one for the Tower when he got back home.
In the Government Zone they were thrilled to stroll through pavilions of dozens of countries. Each building for every exhibit utilized clever and innovative designs, encouraged by the Fair’s Commission to go all out.
They saw impressive showings from Great Britain, which showcased the Magna Carta, and the U.S.S.R., which contained a mock-up of the Moscow Metro subway system. The Jewish Palestine Pavilion broached the concept of a Jewish state, which considering the state of Europe as it pertained to Jews these days, was not a startling idea. The Polish pavilion contained paintings, armor, inventions, and a royal carpet of the honored King Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk. They had obviously been very enthusiastic about showcasing Polish history and culture here in America, and it was a bright, cheerful exhibit by a people doomed to endure the first of Nazi Germany’s aggressions very soon.
They ate lunch in the popular restaurant that was part of the Italian Pavilion. Shaped like a luxury cruise ship, the eatery was elegant but in the spirit of the Fair, kept prices reasonable. The trio enjoyed wonderfully fresh garden salads and Chicken Parmesan, seafood scampi and veal scallopini. They drank good Italian wine and dipped their bread in virgin olive oil. Happily sated, they strolled out of the restaurant, fortified for the afternoon.
They were amused to wind up in the Food Zone after such a bountiful lunch. They were amazed by the mechanical methods in the Borden’s exhibit for milking cows. Some of the equipment would be used later in the future, Tony knew. The building next door was shaped like a loaf of bread, painted white with red, yellow and blue balloons.
“Wonder Bread!” Tony exclaimed with a laugh.
“Look, there’s a wheat field,” Steve said.
Bucky read a sign. “This says it’s the first time in a century that wheat’s been grown in New York City.”
“Past and future.”
Bucky smiled. “That’s right.”
They made a stop in the Amusement Area, which reminded them of Coney Island (the Life Saver Parachute Jump would wind up there after the Fair), and took in the Aquacade, worthy of Esther Williams for sparkling water pageantry.
Finally, on their way out, they took pictures in front of the Trylon and Perisphere. They asked a man strolling in with his wife to take a picture of the three of them in front of the gleaming landmarks. Steve got between Tony and Bucky and they all put their arms around each other’s shoulders and smiled as the man snapped the Brownie.
They talked about the Fair that night and for the next week. Steve said, “Maybe the World of Tomorrow is going to be better.”
Six days later, the country woke up to the news that Germany had invaded Poland, and England and France had declared war on Germany.
The world was at war once again.
WHEN THE WAR CAME
We weren’t ready,
Because who is ever, really,
For blood and death and bullets?
Instead, we watched Dem Bums
And all our bullets
As we gently pushed away
The screaming headlines
And cheered on
The good guys
On days of butter-gold
Before the blood seeped over
“When The War Came”
Bucky went out to get a newspaper early on the morning of Friday, September 1st. Steve and Tony were making breakfast and talking about what their plans might be for that evening when Bucky returned, looking grim. He held up the newspaper:
GERMANY INVADES POLAND; ENGLAND AND FRANCE TO ISSUE ULTIMATUMS TO CEASE AGGRESSION
“So, it’s started,” Steve said softly, holding two pieces of bread to put in the toaster.
“Let’s turn on the radio,” Bucky suggested.
The three of them went into the living room and Tony turned on the Philco radio that was set on the small end table next to the couch. A stentorian voice said, “Stuka bombers are diving toward Warsaw in continuous raids. Refugees are fleeing the city as relentless attacks destroy the peace of the country.”
Steve was not the only one who looked ill. Even Tony, who had known what was to come, was shaken. This was not some history book or old newsreel; this was real. He looked at Steve and Bucky, whose lives would be changed forever before this war was finally over. Both would suffer in ways they could not even begin to imagine.
Bucky slipped his hand into Steve’s as they sat around the radio. Steve would not be worried about serving in the military. Despite his persistence in trying to enlist in a few years, deep down he must know he was 4-F material. It was Bucky he was worried about.
After a half hour, Bucky shut off the radio. “I gotta eat and get to work.”
“Yeah, sure.” Steve stood. “Toast?”
Steve went into the kitchen. Tony kept quiet. What was there to say?
“Damn, why does the bad stuff always become inevitable?” Bucky asked. He looked like he wanted a cigarette.
Breakfast was quiet as the three men ate. Once Bucky left, Tony and Steve did a quick clean-up.
“Are you still going to the library?” Steve asked.
“Yeah. I figure the war right now is Europe’s problem. We still gotta eat.”
Steve flashed a smile. “Okay. Let me get my sketchbook.”
The two of them entered a world buzzing about war. Despite no official declarations of it by England and France, people knew that it was inevitable. The ultimatums would be batted away by the victorious Germans. The warnings were something the democracies did as a matter of form. Dictatorships had no use for them.
Gradually as the war ground on and the U.S. stayed out of it, it would recede into the background for most Americans, but today it was déjà vu all over again, as that grand baseball philosopher Yogi Berra would be quoted as saying years later.
Newsboys hawked their papers by yelling the hot news, and they had plenty of customers. Most people did not listen to their radios early in the morning and received a shock when they left their homes.
On the streetcar a middle-aged woman was telling her friend, “I tell you, Gracie, I got a shiver when I heard the news walking out my front door. I remember the last war.”
“So do I. Let’s hope the Europeans can settle it this time without needing us to go save their bacon like in 1917.”
The first woman nodded. “I don’t want my nephew Billy in any trenches.”
“Times like this I’m glad I had girls instead of boys.”
“Amen to that.”
Two elderly gentlemen were querulously arguing. The first bespectacled man said, “There will be a peacetime draft.”
His friend waved a cigar. “Why? You don’t need a draft unless you’re at war.”
“Best to start preparing now.”
“You’re jumping the gun.”
“Maybe, but it took forever to get our troops ready to send over in the last war.”
The second gentleman coughed. “I’m in no hurry to send our boys over there again. Let the Europeans clean up their own mess this time.”
If only, old man, thought Tony.
Once they reached Manhattan, the newsboys were on every corner. Thick crowds were around them, shoving coins at the kids, who handed out newspapers rapidly. War, as always, was good for business.
They got off the streetcar and heard snatches of conversation on the sidewalk:
“Are we gonna have a war every generation?”
“It’s not our business.”
“We’ll have to bail ‘em out again.”
“Damned Germans always causing trouble.”
“If we get in this one, my boy will do his duty.”
“Who cares? Europe’s always fightin’ about something.”
Tony was not surprised by any of the opinions. Why should people be enthused about this war? It would be interesting to follow, but most sane people would want no part of it.
The library was quiet, but Tony could feel an undercurrent of energy. In between note-taking and book-shelving, patrons and staff were whispering about the news. Uneasiness seemed to be the dominant emotion.
I bet they’re hoping for Britain and France to end things quickly, but the Germans have been gearing up for this since 1933. They are ruthless and efficient with their blitzkrieg and other military maneuvers.
He and Steve sat at their usual table and began working, Tony on his research and Steve his drawing. The quiet of the library soothed their nerves. Tony was surprised at how jangly his nerves were.
I must be going native. I know the future, but I’m still nervous, though maybe that’s the reason why. I know the suffering that lies ahead. What the people of Poland are going through is going to be repeated many times over.
Steve put aside his pencil. “I can’t draw today. I’m going to get some newspapers.”
Steve was lucky to snag a copy of the New York Times and also brought papers from Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. The headlines were relentless, and Tony knew that in a few days, they would be screaming WAR! once the official declarations were made by England and France.
The stories were much the same: descriptions of Stuka bombers pounding Warsaw as ground troops marched across the countryside. Tony could not imagine the terror felt by the Polish civilians who lay in the path of the brutal blitzkrieg.
Always the innocents suffer.
He felt shame at ever allowing himself to be involved in selling munitions. Never again!
“You all right?”
Tony looked at Steve’s concerned face. “Yeah, I guess it’s just all a little overwhelming.”
“No kidding.” Steve waved his hand over the newspapers spread out on the table. “It’s a scary thing. War isn’t something to fool around with. Some guys might march off to war with visions of glory dancing in their heads like sugar plums, but they’ll find out quick that it’s no day at the beach.”
“So you’re not a glory hound?”
Steve shook his head. “I’ve read a lot about World War I. Tony, you can’t imagine how awful it was: trenches that would fill with water to give soldiers trenchfoot, shells raining on their heads, flamethrowers, tanks, and all kinds of chemical warfare.”
Tony remembered the death of Steve’s soldier father by mustard gas. “Sounds like a nightmare.”
“It was. And that doesn’t even count ‘going over the top’ and running through No Man’s Land with bullets and bombs flying.” Steve’s tone was bitter. “Sometimes you’re not even sure why they fought.”
Tony pointed at the papers. “This war will be more clear-cut. No assassination in Sarajevo this time, with a network of alliances drawing everyone in. Germany is the clear aggressor.”
“England and France are drawn in already.”
Tony was surprised. “Do you lean toward pacifism, Steve? No offense,” he added hastily, aware that pacifism could be a pejorative in this era.
“No, if we go to war, I’d fight. Not that they’d take me.” His tone was resigned, though Tony knew he would try multiple times to enlist until Dr. Erskine noticed him and offered him a place in the Super-Soldier Serum Project. “I’m just hoping that we stay out of this one.” Tony could sense Steve’s fear.
Bucky’s a prime candidate for the draft if he doesn’t enlist voluntarily first. If I remember right, he did volunteer soon after Pearl Harbor.
He wondered how Steve would support himself once Bucky joined the Army. He was too sickly for a factory job. Maybe an office job? Jobs would be plentiful once America went to war.
“Well, I still say it’s too soon to worry. It could be years before we’re in this thing.” Tony hoped he sounded convincing.
“Too bad the Poles don’t have that luxury,” Steve stared down broodingly at the newspapers.
Two days later, England and France officially declared war on Germany.
That morning Steve and Tony passed the crowds gathered around the newsboys again as the boys hawked their papers with the tall, black headlines that screamed WAR! The men went to </i>Marinettis’ Fruit Store</i> and browsed through the bins bursting with food, the headlines imprinted in their memories. Two middle-aged women were checking the plums and talking.
The first speaker wore a black straw hat, her graying hair trying to escape its severe bun. Her pudgy body was clad in a black dress and an old-fashioned brooch glittered under her lace collar. She shook her head as she spoke.
“A terrible thing, Maria! I wake up this morning and what do I find? War!”
“I know, Angie.” The second speaker was also stout and gray-haired but wore a flowery print and cream-colored hat. “But that Hitler fella kept yappin’ about needin’ livin’ space and all that. Guess he decided to take it.”
“But what if we get drawn into their war again? Haven’t we sacrificed enough?” Angie made an anguished gesture at her mourning clothes. “Is my son next?”
Maria patted her hand and the two women moved to another bin.
Steve and Tony took their place and looked over the plums. Steve said quietly, “Some Italian women stay in widow’s weeds for the rest of their lives after a loved one passes. She lost her husband in the last war.”
“Poor woman,” Tony said.
They could hear Angie’s lamentations as she and Maria talked to Rosa Marinetti at the cash register. Angie was close to tears when she and her friend left the store.
When they approached the cash register after filling their baskets, Rosa clucked her tongue. “Such things that go on in this world! Poor Angie; it brings back bad memories.”
“I know,” Steve said solemnly.
“And now her boy Mario might have to fight.”
Tony held up a hand. “Hold on, Mrs. Marinetti. It’s still a little early for that.”
“Yes, you’re right.” She sighed and rang up their purchases. “I just worry, you know?”
Steve said sympathetically, “We know.”
Once out on the sidewalk, he explained. “She has four sons.”
That evening as Bucky showered after getting home from work, Steve and Tony were setting up chairs in front of the radio. Steve left the room and Tony checked the icebox for beer. He wandered back into the living room just as Steve returned.
“Here, Tony.” Steve held out his hand.
There was a photograph in it and Tony took the small picture. He looked at it and laughed. “The Three Amigos, eh?”
Steve grinned. “That’s right.”
The photo showed the three of them in front of the Trylon and Perisphere.
“A particularly happy day,” Steve said softly.
Tony felt great affection for his sentimental friend. “Thanks for showing it to me.” He started to hand it back.
“Keep it.” Steve put up his hand. “I had two copies made.”
Bucky entered the room toweling his hair dry. “Where’s the beer?”
“I dunno, Buck, drinking beer while listening to The Lone Ranger seems kind of sacrilegious somehow. I half-expect a nun’s ruler to come down on our hands holding the beer bottles,” said Steve saucily.
“I’ll get the beers,” smirked Tony.
In the kitchen he heard lively banter between his friends and he paused at the icebox. When had he started thinking of Bucky as a friend?
Does it matter? The Winter Soldier won’t exist for six years. This is the here-and-now. And all I know is that Bucky has been a good friend.
Tony opened the icebox and took out the beers. He headed for the living room and paused just before the entrance.
It had grown quiet in the apartment and Tony now could see why. Steve and Bucky were kissing, holding each other close almost as if they were ready to start dancing. Tony retreated, then clinked the bottles as he re-approached the living room. By the time he arrived Steve and Bucky were sitting in their chairs in front of the radio. The Philco was warming up and Tony said, “Someday we’ll be sitting around in front of a TV.”
“Like we saw at the Fair?” Steve took a swig of beer.
“Imagine seeing things in your own living room as they’re happening!” Steve’s eyes shone.
The strains of the William Tell Overture began as the narration started:
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”
“Hey, it’s time!” Steve said. Tony almost began to laugh until he realized that Steve was doing a wide-eyed routine. He threw a pillow from the couch at him and Steve ducked, grinning.
The deep voice of the Lone Ranger, Brace Beemer, said, “Come on, Silver! Let’s go, big fellow! Hi-yo, Silver! Away!”
Tony took a swig of beer. It figured that Steve would identify with an upstanding hero like the Lone Ranger.
Well, maybe the world needs squeaky-clean heroes, especially now.
They listened to the fast-paced adventure and Tony decided it was thrilling days from yesteryear. It was fun and the critics were right: radio did make you use your imagination. Tony could envision the big, white horse carrying the Lone Ranger and the smaller paint horse, Scout, carrying Tonto as they rode the range. Of course he did picture Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels from the future TV show, but everything else had to run through his head. It was always fun to listen to the old radio shows, new to his companions.
“Watch out, Kemosabe! It’s a trap!” yelled Bucky.
“Use your silver bullets!” Steve added.
“Are there werewolves in the Old West?” Tony snarked.
“Maybe.” Steve grinned.
“Ha,” Bucky said. “Does that include witches and vampires?”
“That’s more the Shadow’s thing.”
Bucky let loose the Shadow’s laugh. “What makes you say that?” he said innocently.
Tony drank his beer, feeling content. Somehow living in this small Brooklyn apartment with these two men allowed him some peace, something he had rarely achieved in his lifetime.
He slept very well that night.
“TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME”
Take me out to the crowd,
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.”
Jack Norworth (Lyricist)
Albert Von Tilzer (Composer)
York Music Company
1908, 1927 C.E.
As summer faded away into fall, the heat gradually slipped away, replaced by cool, crisp days that brought with them the promise of turning leaves in Central Park. The days grew shorter as the kids went back to school, housewives checked their Christmas Club accounts to begin holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving, and people settled into their post-summer routine before the holiday whirl would begin in a matter of weeks.
Poland was invaded by the Soviet Union on September 17th, the Red Army gobbling up as much territory as it could grab. It took less than a month for Nazi Germany to defeat Poland, as the beleaguered country surrendered on September 27th. They had fought hard but it had been a quixotic task from the start with the Polish cavalry on horseback charging German Tiger tanks.
In the United States, buffered by the Atlantic Ocean between them and carnage, the war receded as people’s attention turned to the rituals of autumn. The baseball season was in its final month. The Yankees had run away with the American League pennant and the Dodgers would have a slight chance at the National League pennant, though the Cardinals were the only true threat to the Cincinnati Reds. Steve and Bucky decided to finally take in a game and invited Tony. “Our treat,” Bucky insisted, and Tony accepted.
He had a pressing problem as the days of late-afternoon sunlight turned buttery-gold. His stash of fifty dollars was dwindling, and October rent was due soon. He was still here in 1939, so it was time to put his plan into action.
Tony walked confidently into the Bailey & Trust Bank, an obscure little bank in which his father had a long-forgotten account. Howard had told him about opening his first account here at the age of ten.
Opened in 1859, the bank still had most of the original dark woodwork and Carrera marble, and tellers’ cages were the original iron. Tony walked over the gleaming marble floor past a fat pillar and approached one of the tellers.
She looked up and smiled, her coppery hair coiffed in the latest fashion. “Good morning, sir. How may I help you?”
“Just making a withdrawal, Miss.”
“Yes, sir.” Her eyes widened as she saw the signature on the slip. “Mr. Stark…”
“Shh!” Tony put a finger to his lips as he lowered his sunglasses and looked over their rims. “I’m trying to be incognito.”
“Oh, oh, of course!” Flustered, the teller quickly processed the withdrawal, presenting Tony with fifty dollars in crisp, new, ten-dollar bills.
Tony smiled. His pencil-thin mustache and lack of goatee made him strongly resemble his father as he looked in 1939. He wore casual clothes but a fedora and sunglasses to obscure his features as much as possible.
He accepted the bills and smiled at the young woman. His father never accessed this account. If he stayed in the past he would figure out what job he could get to earn money, but right now this account would do nicely. He smirked as he tucked away the money in both pants pockets. Best to keep the pickpockets on their toes.
Ebbets Field was a classic, old-fashioned ballpark built in 1912 and officially opened on April 9, 1913 versus the Philadelphia Phillies, today’s opponent. Sportswriters called it a ‘cigar box’, possibly giving it a jab since a press box had not been built for them until 1929. The ribbed beams and iron pillars resembled Boston’s Fenway Park in its quirkiness, which had opened in 1912. While Fenway had the Wall in left field looming over the field like some monster ready to gobble up baseballs (hence the nickname, ‘The Green Monster’ in later generations), here in Ebbets there were odd configurations like the left field corner being below street level and a terrace running along the left field wall. Neither park had standard yardage to left, center, and right field, and many other parks of the era could boast the same oddness. Cookie-cutter parks were far in the future.
Tony found the place fascinating. Only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field would survive into the 21st-century as examples of unique ballpark architecture. He sat with Steve and Bucky on the first base line halfway up the grandstand. He squirmed in a small seat (people were definitely smaller in this era) and ate hot dogs with mustard as his friends treated him. Steve sat to the left of him and Bucky to the left of Steve. Tony liked sitting on the aisle. He felt slightly claustrophobic inward, and these rows were packed so tightly together that if someone entered or left, everyone had to stand up to let them by.
“We’ve got to try and catch a Yankees game next year,” Steve said.
“Why?” Bucky asked as he juggled his two hot dogs.
“I want to see the Splendid Splinter in person when the Red Sox come to town.”
"Yeah. They say he’s gonna be a great one.”
Tony was amused. The skinny guy with power appeals to you, huh?
“Well, I’m all for broadening my horizons,” Bucky drawled. “Here in New York we have the opportunity to see the stars of both leagues.”
“An embarrassment of riches,” Tony quipped.
“Well, embarrassment usually applies to the Dodgers. Riches, not really.” Steve took a bite of his hot dog.
Bucky laughed. “Considering this park was built over an old pig farm by the name of Pigtown, you’re not far off the mark.”
“You’re kidding.” Tony paused in eating his hot dog.
“Nope.” Bucky’s eyes gleamed. “Pretty fitting setting for Dem Bums, huh?”
Tony snorted. “Guess some clubs have all the luck.”
The Dodgers’ opponent was the Philadelphia Phillies, which amused everyone in the stands.
“The Dodgers beat the Phillies 22-4 last Saturday in Philly. Talk about a record for this club,” Steve said.
“Maybe they’ll score that many runs again,” Tony said.
Steve and Bucky looked at each other, then burst out laughing.
Tony settled back in his chair. It was a beautiful day for a baseball game, well, two of them. While double-headers were rare in the future, they were commonplace in this era. Two games for the price of one was a good deal, and always drew a big crowd. The majority of seats were filled, and people were still streaming in after getting concessions.
The game started and Bucky grabbed the attention of the peanut vendor. Soon peanut shells were littering the row under their chairs, and Tony drank a beer as the salty peanuts made him thirsty.
It was interesting to watch ballplayers who were not instant millionaires ply their craft. Many came from blue-collar backgrounds or abject poverty and had to work jobs in the off-season because their salaries were so low. The people identified with the players in ways that no one in his century could fathom anymore.
Despite the leisurely pace of the game and the number of runs scored (Dodgers14, Phillies 5), the contest still went faster than a game in the 21st century. There were no endless television ads between innings and the starting pitcher played until he was knocked out of the box, so no numerous pitching changes in later innings for set-up men and closers. If you had good stuff that day, you pitched the entire game, and if you did not, you went to the showers early. Very simple.
The three friends stretched and wandered around the ballpark in the intermission between games. Everyone was dressed in their best: men in suits and fedoras and women in dresses and flowery hats. Even children wore good clothes and shined shoes. No jeans could be seen anywhere in the overflowing crowd.
Tony and his friends were dressed in neatly-pressed pants, good shirts, and dress shoes. Tony had grown fond of suspenders and wore those, and Steve wore a suit jacket while Tony and Bucky were in shirtsleeves. Steve sported a newsboy cap, Bucky in a battered fedora, and Tony a jaunty straw boater. He had changed on his way from the bank to the stadium via a quick stop at the apartment.
Tony was still not quite used to dressing up for going to the movies or a ballgame. The slob culture of torn jeans and ratty T-shirts was still too much a part of him. While such outfits were a lot more comfortable, nobody in this crowd seemed uncomfortable.
“How about some ice cream?” Bucky suggested.
All three returned to their seats eating push-up ice cream. That was basically the ballpark menu: hot dogs, peanuts, and ice cream. Oh, and popcorn. Drinks were beer, Coke, or Dr. Pepper. Choices were limited in the prewar world, but nobody seemed to mind.
Tony relaxed and enjoyed the second game, which the Dodgers won, 5-1. The crowd had gotten excited in the first game, wondering if the team would score as many runs as last week, and in this game they were a little more laidback, but not by much. Tony ate popcorn and entered into the spirit of the game.
“You call that a strike, ump? Get your eyes checked!”
When shortstop Leo Durocher beat out a throw to first base, Tony yelled and clapped and nearly knocked his red-and-white-striped box of popcorn off his lap. Steve and Bucky were delighted by his fanhood, and yelled a little louder, too.
All day there had been plenty to cheer about. The Dodgers were really putting on a show. The Three Amigos, as Tony was calling them now, were enjoying themselves immensely. They sang “Take me out to the ball game” during the seventh-inning stretch for the second time that day at the top of their lungs and grinned. People were in a festive mood, happy that it was a Saturday.
Tony knew that it would be a day he would always remember.