Bronx Neighbors: C.J. Wallace

This guy sure loves the Big Apple!

Throggs Neck resident Cornelius Joseph ‘C.J.’ Wallace has completed two odes set to music containing lyrics about his beloved New York City.

One piece called ‘That Big Apple Sound’ is reminiscent of 1930s and early 1940s jazz, and a second number remembers the September 11 tragedy and the heroism it inspired.

The later song began as a poem written in the year following September 11, 2001, and is called ‘The Big Apple Marches On’, he said.

The retired New York City Fire Fighter and World War II veteran found his happiness through writing after a tour of duty lasting 20 years at Engine 76/Ladder 22 on West 100th Street in Manhattan in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, he said.

C.J. is also the author of a one-act play called ‘The Big Apple, Served!’ which tells the story of a group of young people living in Manhattan and the changes they experience during World War II. The play begins in 1938 in downtown Manhattan and is about how the war changes their lives.

“In the military I realized I had a flair for writing,” said Wallace.

“I used to write love letters for the other soldiers,” he said.

But after serving in the Air Force in World War II, he got married and starting a family that included four children. Writing was put on the backburner to earning a living and being a provider. He first began to put pen to paper again when he would stay home with his children while his wife worked nights, he said.

He realized how popular the term ‘Big Apple’ was while working on a volunteer initiative that used the phrase in the early 1980s.

Wallace decided to use it as a trope or metaphor in his own writing.

The lyrics to ‘The Big Apple Marches On’ state that the city did not shake from fear from the attacks because we were weened on the spirit of ‘76. The lyrics thank all of the departed, who were brave and strong.

“They came from a tough old apple tree,” Wallace states about the heros of 9/11. “They set an example for you and me.”

Also building on the figurative theme that is a thread running through the song- and play-writer’s work, the one-act play ‘The Big Apple, Served!’ contains the music number ‘That Big Apple Sound’, which has the lyrical message of forward-looking hope often inherent in youth and, according to Wallace, is an attempt to explain how the Big Apple got its popular name.

“I have been trying to convert it into a two-act play,” he said. “I wrote ‘That Big Apple Sound’ for that play. I want to call it ‘That Big Apple Story.’”

Wallace is also an inventor, B-movie actor, and stand-up comedian. After retiring from the FDNY, he was director of fire safety for New York Telephone Company.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procc‌hio@c‌ngloc‌ Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.