November 2011 -- Last weekend I took Katie on a brief tour of some of my childhood haunts in Norwalk/Darien CT. We saw the pond I skated on, the hill I sledded on, the diner where I often ate with my father on Saturday mornings, and the site of a long-gone petting zoo. I had so much fun I wanted to show her more places from my formative years, and show my wife and other children also.
Such a trip would be difficult to arrange however. It is hard to coordinate everyone's schedules; some of the places are far apart; and my children would get bored after a half hour. So I came up with a better idea: an Internet tour! This web page is that tour. My goal is to show my family the places where I had fun as a child or that were important to me in some way, and to annotate each location with some of my memories from the place.
The tour is organized in rough chronological order...
July 1953 -- Born at Kew Gardens General Hospital (now gone) in Queens NY.
July 1953 to winter 1955 -- Lived in an apartment in the Kew Gardens section of Queens. I believe the address was 82-08 135th Street, Apt 6L or 64 [40.71411,-73.823063].
Winter 1955 to summer 1968 -- 90 Maywood Road, Norwalk, CT [41.100646,-73.460558]. This was my childhood home and the center of many childhood memories. (Picture in late 1950s, before we added on a 2nd floor.)
My house was surrounded by woods on three sides, which are
still there. This provided many places to explore, play with my
friends, and have some freedom to roam safely because none of the woods
were large enough to get lost. Our favorite game was "army". As 1960
was just 15 years after WWII ended, war was glorious and
heroic. We all had toy rifles, pistols, machine guns and
hand-grenades. Tim Lewis was always the Captain of our
troop. Looking back, I am not sure why he was the leader, but
no one questioned it and he did a good job. Geordie or I were sometimes
second-in-command as Lieutenant. We would hide behind rocks and shoot
the imaginary enemy. We built forts to hold prisoners. One fort was
carved out of a pricker patch and truly was impossible to escape from
if we guarded the small door.
My house also had another great feature in a large, rectangular front yard. This was a perfect place for baseball games in the spring/summer and touch football games in the fall. Kids from a wide area would come to my house often for these games, sometimes directly from school because we rarely got much homework. Since I was not a good athlete -- being shorter and skinnier than most -- this allowed me to be involved in pickup sports that I might otherwise have missed.
A short walk through a neighbor's backyard was an abandoned "ice pond" [41.099603,-73.459142, still there], used many years before to freeze/cut/store ice for the summer months. The ice pond was dirty and covered with scum during the summer, but created a perfect skating rink in the winter. My friends and I spent many happy hours skating there and playing informal hockey games. We could walk to/from the pond easily and go home for hot chocolate when we were cold. (Picture of the pond in 2011. Notice the stone pillars on the left, which held up the house that stored the ice in the summer.)
Just slightly farther down Maywood Road was a wonderful large, grassy hill for sledding in the winter. It looked so big to us that all the kids called it Tower Hill [41.096389,-73.460278, now houses there]. It is quite close to #90 but seemed like a long walk after a hard day of sledding. (Picture of the hill in 2011.)
My two best friends from this time were Geordie Campbell and John Bunzick, whom I have known since we were about five years old and I am still close to. Geordie lived in two different houses [41.095265,-73.455053 and 41.113107,-73.456523] and John lived at [41.11976,-73.449098].
My house was near to a classic baby-boomer neighborhood, Flintlock and Powderhorn Roads [41.098435,-73.457875]. The houses were all similar and many had young families with kids my age. While it was a fairly long bike ride to get there, it was only about 100 yards through the woods south of my house. I made that walk many times. We played baseball in the street, bought ice cream from a truck in the summer, and generally just hung out. There was always a friend coming out of some house looking for something to do. When the evening air was still, I could hear the bells of the ice cream truck from my house and, if I ran fast, could get through the woods while the truck was still there. Both streets were dead-end, so the neighborhood was quite safe. Friends from there included Mike Conforti, Ted Jerkops, Sharon Katzung, Edie Morse, Bill Yoder, Rusty Tiederman, and Tim & Karen Lewis.
Near my elementary school was the Boulder Road area, which was convenient for after-school play and an easy bike ride on weekends. Some of my friends who lived there were Peter Olsen, Kim Wallace, Mike Buzzeo and Floyd Frankel. Floyd and I are still in touch.
Across the street from our school was a technical college, which had a large field [41.102517,-73.453884] that we used for launching Estes model rockets.
Near the end of West Norwalk Road (and close to Geordie's house) was a collection of businesses that held a lot of attraction for us [41.091611,-73.454509]. There was a Carvel Ice Cream stand, a mini-golf course, a golf driving range, a donut shop that made their own, a penny-candy store within an old-fashion general store, and a small Disneyland type of place called Old McDonald's Farm. I often rode my bike here with various friends. If we collected stray golf balls from outside the driving range and turned them in, the manager would give us a free game of mini-golf. A Carvel ice cream was a big hit on a summer day. You could buy A LOT of penny candy with a 25 cent weekly allowance, more than it was smart to eat at one time. Old McDonald's Farm contained some rides, a petting zoo and various other activities. It was a fixed price to get in for all the attractions, which I recall as being more than we could ever afford, so we would look longingly into the place over the covered bridge entrance. All of these business are now gone, except for the covered bridge which is part of a nice park. (Picture of Katie on the bridge in 2011.)
Other fun locations in the area include Driftwood Diner [41.089387,-73.457712, now called
Darien Diner] where my father took
me on weekends, the Stamford Museum and Nature Center
[41.126047,-73.548746] with a mix
of nature and science activities, and the Norwalk beaches [41.085093,-73.392706] where my
mother often took us in the summer.
Some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around my
father sharing his love of flying with me. He, and all three of his
brothers, became pilots early in life, perhaps during their teenage
years. They all pursued this hobby throughout adulthood, owning and/or
sharing various airplanes. In the late 1950s, my father rented a plane
at Bridgeport Airport [41.166249,-73.125544] when he
wanted to fly. (Picture
of my father with a rental.) Later, he and his brothers Tom
and Jim bought a Cessna 172 together. This is the plane (N1358Y) that I
flew in many times and of which I have the clearest memories. They kept
the plane at Bridgeport and later at Westchester Airport [41.068998,-73.708849].
It was a great day when my father asked if I wanted to go flying with him, which of course I always did. Among the places we flew for day-trips were Martha’s Vineyard Katama [41.357081,-70.524441, still with a grass runway!], Block Island [41.168422,-71.579223] and Flying W [39.933565,-74.807982]. For these short trips, we would start in the morning, land at our destination, look around the airport a bit, have lunch (with pie!) at the airport lunch counter and then fly home. We also took some longer overnight trips to the now-abandoned Ovalwood Dish Company airport [44.237282,-74.456409 ??] in the Adirondacks and to visit a high-school friend of mine who had moved to Raleigh NC.
Since we only flew in good weather, there was always nice sightseeing and many white puffy clouds. I recall that I wanted to step out of the airplane and see what it would be like to walk on top of the clouds. (But even when I was young I knew this would be a bad idea!) I started flying with my father when I was about two years old, sitting on a pillow so I could see out the front window of the airplane. As I got older, my father taught me to fly the plane by myself, although he was always ready to take over if anything went wrong. But the best part of all, of course, was the quality time with my father. (Other memories about flying...)
My family usually vacationed for one week each summer on Martha's Vineyard, where we rented an efficiency unit at the Carol Apartments [41.392115,-70.515367, now renamed Edgartown Common]. We rented bicycles for the whole family on our first day there, so we had bikes to use for the week. We could walk into Edgartown center from our apartment, where we would watch the big yachts in the harbor, get ice cream cones, see a movie, ride the tiny ferry to Chappaquiddick or have dinner. When I became a teenager I enjoyed walking to town alone in the morning and buying Richie Rich comic books at the newspaper store. Some days we rode our bikes to South Beach or drove to other parts of the island. The Carol Apartments had a nice pool where we spent many hours and met other kids who were staying there. There was also a large swing set with sand underneath, so we could jump high and far off the swings but not get hurt on the landing. Some years, our visit overlapped with my Uncle Jim's family staying at the same place, so I could play with my cousins Jack, Jimmy and Betsy on vacation, which was great fun.
also vacationed for one week each summer at my mother's parent's house
in Tupper Lake, NY. Their house was actually on a nearby smaller lake
called Simon Pond at a place called Pilot's Point [44.189013,-74.438544,
previously owned by an airline pilot]. Tupper Lake is within the
Adirondack Mountains, which are still largely undeveloped. We
our time swimming in the lake off the dock, canoeing, exploring the
island just off their point, or using the small motorboat they had. My
grandfather had an original Willys Jeep and would drive us
in it for various errands, which was excellent fun
for a kid. The
could go on any road without getting stuck, so he would
take us deep into the woods on muddy, rutted trails that a car could
Tupper Lake is in the middle of a wonderful area for overnight canoe trips. My father traveled here with his brothers Dave and Tom for these outings before I was born or was very young. (Picture of them at Pilot's Point. From left to right, my father about 24, Dave about 20 and Tom about 28.) When I became old enough, my father took me. I clearly recall paddling on Raquette River with him on beautiful days, finding a state-built lean-to for overnight camping and then continuing down the river the next day. These trips are a special memory and led to my interest in camping/hiking as an adult. You can access Raquette River directly from Simon Pond, so we started and ended our trips right from my grandparents' dock.
My father's parents lived in the Lordship area of Stratford CT just across the street from the ocean [41.151322,-73.12109], which was the perfect location for all of the aunts, uncles and cousins to come together. I remember many fun summer barbecues and much beach play. There were 14 cousins on that side of my family, most fairly close in age, so we had many playmates when all (or even some) of us spent the day there. When I was about 13, my grandparents started to spend winters in Florida, so they sold that house and bought a smaller one, not on the water, in the same town. All of the cousins were quite disappointed and grumbled that it was now boring to visit the grandparents. Amazingly, they responded by quickly selling that house and buying a beach cottage at 2171 Fairfield Beach Road [41.118363,-73.263754], which again became the place where we all met in the summer. My Uncle Jim bought a small sailboat, which he kept there, so I learned how to sail off that beach. (Picture of me, on the far left, and some cousins on the deck of this cottage.)
Norwalk is near New York City and we
took advantage of this. We skated in
Rockefeller Plaza during the winter a few times and enjoyed other city
My father worked at IBM headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue [40.762016,-73.972625] for many years. He sometimes took me to his office with him for the day, which was a treat, and we rode the commuter train from Darien. The last section of the train ride was dark and I asked my father why this was. He explained that the tracks were underneath the city as we got close to the station. This amazed me. We were under the streets and buildings! When the train stopped, we emerged from the dark tunnel into huge Grand Central Station. From 1950 to 1990, Kodak had a photograph, called the Colorama, on display in Grand Central that was billed as the "largest photograph in the world". It was 18'x60' and backlit, so it was a technical marvel at the time. The picture was always a stunning, bright scene and it changed every few months. As I walked through the station, I always looked up to see what new photo was there on this visit.
During 1964-65, the New York World's Fair [40.746444,-73.845195] was in Flushing Queens and was just an hour drive from home. I went to the fair 13 times -- mostly with my family, but also 4-5 times with various groups of friends. The latter trips were especially fun since we were only 12 years old and felt very grown up to have the run of the world's fair on our own. But we were fairly safe.... We took the train to NYC with my father in the morning. He took us to the gate of the fair, where we met Geordie's grandmother who worked inside the fair at an office job. We roamed around on our own, but checked in with his grandmother during the day. One time, she got us unlimited passes to the amusement park area of the fair, and we went on the rides again and again and again. I have detailed memories of many of the exhibits also, including IBM, DuPont, Coca-Cola, Bell Telephone and others.
(Geordie Campbell read this web page and contributed some of his memories from our childhood together.)
Summer 1968 to December 1973 -- Appletree Lane, Norwalk CT [41.140601,-73.449972]. We moved to this house while I was in high school.
The house was quite a bit larger than 90 Maywood, with a playroom in the basement (great for teen parties), a basement workshop that I turned into a darkroom for my photography hobby, and a pool in the backyard.
My friends and I had many fun summer parties at the pool, making me suddenly more popular. There was a cabana near the pool so you could change clothes without going into the house. The cabana also had running water and an old soda machine that was rigged to not need money. The latter item was a big hit.
During high school I was quite involved with my church youth group at United Congregational Church of Norwalk [41.113285,-73.453894]. Many of my friends came from or overlapped with this group, including Geordie Campbell, John Bunzick, Gail Hoffman, Sue Abbott, Bill Harvey, and Carol and Ellen Eyman.
One of the best parts of the youth group was the Silver Lake Conference Center in Sharon CT [41.904944,-73.464365], a camp in a beautiful area of CT owned by the state-wide church organization. We went there for week-long summer camp sessions and for weekend retreats during the other seasons. The camp included all the usual activities -- swimming in the lake, softball and touch football on the sports field, arts and crafts, photography and hanging out in the cabins with friends. I even enjoyed the morning religious services at the chapel in the woods. I have many happy memories of both the small weekend retreats with my Norwalk friends and the summer sessions where I met kids from all over the state.
I attended King School in Stamford for grades 9-10 and Brien McMahon HS for grades 11-12.
September 1971 to May 1974 -- Miami University in Oxford Ohio [39.5052,-84.735231]. I lived in Symmes Hall, Morris Hall, and off-campus. There was a great bakery in town, Beasley's, which had its own canteen truck that sold baked items at night to students. By luck, the truck parked directly outside Morris Hall every night, so I wasted quite a bit of precious spending money and consumed too many pastries this way.
January 1974 to May 1978 -- Fairfield Beach Road. After my parents' divorce, my father's parents gave him their summer cottage so he would have a place to live. For the first few years, the cottage was not winterized, so he would rent another cottage nearby during the cold months.
I lived here with my father when I was not at college or traveling/living somewhere else. This included several stretches with him of 2 to 6 months each, visiting for other holidays and weekends, and staying here when he helped me with some medical tests (all was fine). The cluster of cottages near my grandparents' became my home base during this time (20-24 years old) and meant a lot to me. My father always made me feel welcome, even when he was living in a small winter place with one bedroom. (Picture of me, Dan and my father in one of the winter cottages, Christmas 1976.)
My father also made a home here for my brother while he finished high school, and welcomed my sister and her first husband to stay for several months when they moved back to CT to get married. We had winterized his cottage by then, so he had a slightly larger space. Cathy and Stan later moved to their own apartment next to Silvermine Tavern.
Besides spending time with my father, one of my best memories from this house is that you can watch the sun rise and set over the ocean from the same spot on the front porch.
This is where I started my sports career. My father had begun an exercise program of walking regularly, and I took his example and decided to try running. I had previously disliked all sports! I jogged about 1/4 mile the first time, with extreme pain and cramping afterward, but I stuck with it and have enjoyed many years of running/biking/walking/swimming since.
January 1977 to May 1979 -- Hampshire College [42.324286,-72.531631]. I lived in a couple different dorm rooms in Merrill House, an on-campus apartment in Prescott House, and off-campus during part of my senior year.
I met Phil Margolis and Peter Askin in Merrill, and we have been friends since. Peter and I started a bicycle repair business in the dorm and would block the hallway with bike parts so other students had trouble getting to their rooms. After a few complaints, we moved the business to a spare room in the basement.
Some of my favorite activities at Hampshire were frequent trips for ice cream to Barts in Northampton and Just Desserts in Amherst, the great sunsets visible from the west edge of campus, and the annual Beatles dance in the dining hall.
I spent many happy hours bicycling with friends around Amherst, Belchertown, Granby, South Hadley, Leverett, Shutesbury and other towns in the Pioneer Valley. This is truly one of the best cycling areas of the country, including beautiful scenery and tough hills.
I even spent some time studying and talking about interesting academic topics with friends and teachers. :-)
July 1979 -- After college graduation, I took a bicycling trip in the northwestern area of North America.
I started in Vancouver BC, rode northwest along the coast of Canada, ferried over to Vancouver Island, rode south to Victoria, ferried to Seattle, rode southwest back to the coast, stayed along the coast through the remainder of Washington, rode all of the Oregon coast, crossed into California through Redwood National Park, and finished near Eureka CA.
I usually camped at special hiker/biker campgrounds, which were quite friendly and inexpensive. I met other bikers on the road or at the campgrounds, so I often had company day and night.
In all, I rode about 800 miles in four weeks, using coastal roads that had light traffic. The same route is probably not safe today due to the heavier traffic 30 years later.
Peter Askin joined me in Seattle for part of this trip. As I recall, he flew out and then took the train part-way home, since he loves trains.
January 1980 -- Moved to Boston, into an apartment with some other Hampshire grads at 416 Marlborough St.