“How much longer can we hold out?”
“Hard to say. Not long though. We’re down to the last
two hand-fulls of ammo per man.”
“How much money we got left?”
“About 50 cents.”
“Send Mousy across the street to buy more ammo. Get two
boxes of white beans. All right everyone give Mousy some cover fire.
Load up and give him plenty of protection. Fire!!!”
And thus went the great bean shooter war of 2nd Avenue, fought
right near our local ammo dump, Berardi’s Corner Grocery Store.
He couldn’t order the beans in big enough lot sizes. We are
talking huge bean barrages and heavy casualties here folks.
During the heat of battle, let’s go inside the store with
Mr. Berardi in WWI steel helmet, clutching the old black telephone
with cloth cord, and crouching behind the fire engine red Coca-Cola
ice chest full of sodas---
“Hello…Acme Grocer Supplies…..I need an emergency
shipment of white beans. Yes, that’s right, it’s Berardi’s
“How many boxes do we have left?”
“We are down to the last dozen boxes and the situation is
serious. My wife and I are barricaded in the store. There are spent
beans everywhere. The kids are putting half boxes of beans in their
mouths at once and firing like machine guns. That big kid from 4th
street blew a hole in my front window with the last artillery barrage.”
“What?……Shoot some other kind of beans?”
(ping…ping…ping, ping, ping, ping, ping!!!…bean
ricochets off the steel helmet)
“You never seen a North Newark bean shooter have you? It’s
a smooth bore, 9 inch, 0.30 caliber and that only takes the right
kind of white bean, and we are running out.
“It’s going to get up close and personal soon. They
already started buying lentils and that means you’ve got to
get in real close before you let go. You don’t get any range
with lentils, but up close it’s like a shotgun blast.”
“My grandson had his glasses shattered with a lentil blast
about 5 minutes ago. He was re-loading when his right flank collapsed.
The 5th Street regulars stormed his trench and he took it right
in the kisser. We got him on the couch in the back of the store.
His sisters are washing the saliva and lentil shrapnel off him now.
“You gotta’ send more ammo! Even the cops are keeping
(ping….ping….ping, ping, ping!!)
And so the battle raged that sunny summer. Neighbors were sniped
from behind cars. Little brothers and sisters were held ransom for
boxes of beans. The streets crunched as spent ammo was ground to
powder by passing cars.
Two kids were treated at Columbus Hospital for swallowing their
load of beans in the excitement of battle. Berardi’s grandson
won’t even touch lentil soup anymore. His mother was near
hysterical. His glasses were taped together with cracked lenses,
and he fought on, receiving two more purple hearts; but he bit through
his favorite shooter and had trouble with the new one jamming. He
never regained his former mythic status.
Peddlers and itinerant salesman avoided the war zone and soon
mothers complained. A blockade of Berardi’s store with baby
carriages put a crimp on ammunition, until another supply was secured
at Caruso’s Store up on Roseville Avenue. Battle engaged again
until the fathers stepped in.
All shooters were confiscated and the remaining bean depots raided,
with the contraband beans used for cooking. Soon, the whole neighborhood
was sick of eating beans with everything—which brought its
own serious side effects.
The two opposing sides had a temporary truce until advanced technology
introduced by yours truly upset the balance of power. This new technology
had a very serious advantage over bean shooters. The ammunition
was plentiful and could be used again. In fact, the ammo was right
there on the street.
Of course, I am talking about the bottle cap gun,…..but
that’s another story, maybe with a diagram or two to correctly
illustrate this unique piece of urban hardware. Bottle caps…..remember
“Hey Ma…what’s for dinner?”
“Beans and macaronis!”
“I don’t feel so good.”