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'Stanley is God'

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Growing up during the Depression in New York
Stan Lee Writer
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December 28th was a very important date for me, in the year 1922. That's when I was born, on the west side of Manhattan, on 98th Street and West End Avenue. I'm sorry I can't remember any more about my birth, but the next thing I remember I was about five or six years old, and... my parents used to like to take photographs of me. They didn't have a camera but there were always people in the neighborhood — professional photographers. I think you'd pay them a dime at that time, and they… they would have a little pony with them, and they'd put the little kid on the pony, and take his photo, and give the photo to the mother. So I have... I seem to remember I had more photos of myself taken on ponies, and she would sometimes dress me in a sailor suit or something and take pictures of me. I think she wanted me to be an actor, I'm not sure. But anyway, I had a fairly normal childhood, I guess. We didn't have any money. It was during the Depression. My father who, was a great guy but he had trouble getting a job, and so he was unemployed most of the time. My earliest memories are just him sitting home reading the want ads in the newspaper, time and again. He had been a dress cutter, and there were just no jobs apparently for dress cutters.

So we lived... after a while we moved to, I think, the Bronx in New York, and... It was funny because I remember that the... we lived in a little apartment house on University Avenue and 175th Street, and the women in those days — the mothers — would have little wooden folding chairs, and they'd come outside with their children, and they would all sit in front of the building on their little folding chairs, and talk to each other and gossip while they were watching the children play. And when I think back, it was very strange 'cause, when I was eight, nine, 10 years old, whatever it was, I used to roller skate and ride a bike, and we never wore helmets or knee pads or elbow things or... we just rode our bikes, and we skated. And if we fell, we bruised ourselves and put some bandage on, and went back and skated some more. When I see people today riding a bicycle with these dumb-looking helmets, and kids roller skating covered up with things that... every part of their body is covered up so that, no matter where they fall, that part is protected, it's just very funny to me. We also played... we played hockey in the street when the traffic wasn't there. We played hockey on roller skates, and on the side street which had very little traffic we chose up teams, and we were always skating back and forth, and hitting the puck. And there would be somebody stationed at the top of the street so if a car came, he'd yell ‘Hey hey! Car coming’. And we'd stop playing for a minute. The one luxury that I missed... I never had a bicycle until I was, I don't know, maybe 10 or 11 or 12... I'm not good at dates or things... but the one thing I wanted was a bicycle, and finally my folks scraped up enough money and they bought me this two-wheeler. And man, I felt as though I had been freed ‘cause now I could go anywhere on that bike. I could ride downtown; I could go across town ‘cause… obviously, we didn't have a car. Fact is, I think back, we didn't have a telephone either. I never missed it because we were used to not having a telephone. I don't think I knew anybody who had a telephone so we didn't know what we were missing.

The creative genius of American writer, Stan Lee (1922-2018) brought us 'Spider Man', 'X-Men' and 'The Hulk'. They climbed tall buildings and fought the bad guys, but had normal worries too, about love, acceptance and family. Readers loved them and Marvel Comics, with Lee at the helm, went on to become hugely successful. In 2010 the Stan Lee Foundation was founded to focus on literacy, education and the arts. On January 4, 2011 Lee received the 2428th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Listeners: Leo Bear

Leo Bear is a Hollywood-based features writer. Her background is in news and features writing. Leo spent five years on the entertainment newsdesk at BBC Worldwide before going freelance and moving out to Los Angeles. She specialises in writing lifestyle features, celebrity interviews, health stories and travel features for publications including Eve Magazine, OK! Magazine, Total Film, TV Hits and Conde Nast Gourmet Travel Guide.

Tags: New York, Bronx, Manhattan

Duration: 3 minutes, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008