For several years in the early ‘50s, when I was in elementary school, I lived on a quiet, tree-lined street in Huntington, New York, on Long Island. The back of the house overlooked Jericho Turnpike, one of the main thoroughfares through town. In what I remember as a giant oak tree, my dad built and hung a swing, from which I had a bird’s eye view of every holiday parade the city sponsored. I fell head-over-heals for marching bands and their amazing music. I learned to ride a bike there and watched television for the first time, at a friend’s house, before we got our own. On Saturday afternoons, a friend and I walked downtown, without our parents, to the cinema to see Roy Rogers or Gene Autry movies. I had a cowgirl outfit I wore most of the time, imagining I was Dale Evans. In that house, my mother discovered that I had been stealing things from a Woolworth’s, near the movie theatre. She took me back to the store and made me apologize and return all of the little trinkets I’d lifted.
My friend Judy lived next door. She had a white german shepherd, named Lady and I had a dachshund, named Booby. Judy was a few years older than I and she always passed on her outgrown clothes to me, which I loved, because I always thought she had more and finer clothes than I. Judy and I spent lots of time together playing with paper dolls. I envied her because she took tap-dance lessons and my dad wouldn’t let me, saying it was a waste of time.
We played softball and kick ball down the street with a few other kids and in the summer we stayed out until after dark, catching fireflies in jars and telling ghost stories. When it was time to go in, you’d hear our moms and dads calling from up and down the street, informing us that it was bedtime.
Nobody worried about us. We could go anywhere within shouting distance and do what ever we wanted. Best of all, the Good Humor truck came by every day, its bell ringing, offering up the finest popsicles in the world. We’ d run indoors to beg for a dime or two, then sit in the shade and slurp away as the summer afternoon grew hot.
I became addicted to reading and books in the tiny public library, which still stands today, but is no longer a library. I remember the enticing smell of the place and the dust-laden light, sifting through leaded windows as I paged through books, looking for the best horse stories I could find. I always went home with armloads of reading material and was always back the next week for more.
Returning to Huntington a few years ago, I was surprised to find out how close I had lived to school, the library and the movies. I remember them as being miles away, but in reality, they were just blocks away. And I remember the house I lived in as huge, but of course, it wasn’t. My small size and perspective at the time, just made them feel that way.
Since then, I haven’t lived in an urban setting, always finding myself in the country or suburbs. So it is no surprise that the neighborhood I live in today reminds me so much of my Huntington address. The streets here are quiet, narrow and tree-lined. There are small patches of woods and a multitude of birds. Kids of all ages live up and down the streets and it feels safe and inviting. I love to sit outside and listen to them playing, often overhearing a touching conversation between a parent and a young child. Some of the kids, play out what looks like a Star Wars story, in much the same way my friends and I played cowboys and indians. Unfortunately, the never-ending childhood melodramas that teach us about good guys and bad guys.
Everyone here has a dog or two, and in the mornings and late afternoons we all walk them, often gathering in groups to talk about the latest storm damage or whatever else is happening in the hood. There is Bill who walks adorable, Francey; Ruby who totes her tiny white poodle, Bridgette, in a stroller because she is old and unable to walk and another Bill, with his two Australian shepherds. Even those without dogs are wonderfully friendly and helpful. We’ve felt at home here since we moved in.
In the late summer and fall, when the UVA students return from summer break, the marching band practices in a nearby soccer field. We can hear them from our patio and we’re close enough to walk over and watch as this talented group of musicians fills the evenings with baton twirling, flag waving and celebratory music as they prepare for the football season.
One of the public libraries is a few blocks away, though my presence has not yet graced its stacks, and the University libraries are also within walking distance. Unfortunately, these days I tend to underline and write in books and one cannot do that with loaners. We have no Good Humor truck visiting the neighborhood but we do have our own parades. On July 4th and Halloween, children and parents living on the surrounding streets come together, get dressed up in costumes and march around our block. Then everyone gathers for watermelon and popsicles.
I adore living here in the city and after all my years of being convinced that I’m a country girl, I’m now well aware that I have missed the friendliness and community to be found in this very 1950’s kind of neighborhood. The following photos are from this summer’s Independence Day Parade! Hope you all had a great Holiday!!