Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hyde Park of My Youth

Life seemed simple then, the only world I knew.  The Holt development was a community of cookie-cutter homes for the post-war boom. Behind the Rainbow Room Tavern, off Route 9G, it was nestled into the small valley, with wonderful elevation changes you will never find in developments today.

We would push our bikes to the top of the Madison Avenue hill and ride like the wind down to the bottom. One summer we played cowboys dismounting our bikes like we saw the Pony Express riders do in the Saturday movies at the Roosevelt Theater.  That experience was good for at least two of the scars I carry to this day, but boy was it fun.

We had forts, hiding places, and wonderful journeys of exploration in the woods and farms that surrounded the development.  Having a Daisy BB gun and vast open fields makes a boy a great hunter of small things.  In these days where guns, gun safety, and gun ownership is condemned I can't imagine how children will grow to understand the role they do play and appreciate their value and their risk.

Winters brought snow, and the hill behind my house was perfect for sledding. Real sledding, not some wimpy saucer, but a sled with runners that could scream across the packed snow, or if you were really lucky the ice-crusted snow from a heavy fall, and a light rain that then froze on top. A sled you could steer - kind of, to avoid the big tree coming right at you. I guess I am one of the lucky ones, all my fingers still attached and no apparent damage to my frontal lobes.

I started school at Ralph R. Smith elementary but was exiled to Violet Avenue for second and third grades.  Having served my time I was repatriated back for fourth through sixth.  I still remember kickball with Mr. Johnson.

We moved to Brower Blvd. while I was attending Haviland Junior High. There is an interesting dynamic in moving from a neighborhood to a single street.  If I wanted to ride my bike it was through the cemetery, until I found the paths that took me to the town center.  Our bus stop was the entrance of the Union Cemetery, and we had to cross 9G to get to it.  Somehow I don't think that would be acceptable in today's risk adverse world. 

We were the first class to attend the new Roosevelt High for all four years.  There were three or four teachers who helped me survive. I was not a motivated student, but Mr. Sanford and Mrs. U apparently saw something worth helping.  Mr. S was the crew coach, and after I outgrew the coxswain position he allowed me to be the manager.  To this day, the times on the river linger in a warm place in my heart.  Mrs. U opened my mind to the arts by inviting me into the first Humanities class at the school.  What a fabulous year that was.  Study Architecture, and then go to see the great examples, I.M. Pei or Frank Lloyd Wright stand out, dramatically different in style, but both with great vision.  Music -- attend a symphony, art, see the Museum of Modern Art.   Ballet, Opera, Drama, Painting, she truly opened my eyes to the world.

Mr. King, was a wood shop teacher, my Drivers Ed teacher, and a World War I flying ace.  I had always been enthralled by aircraft and his quiet demeanor hid the fact he had a Sopwith Pup parked in the garage and would fight it out with the Black Knight on weekends in the skies over Rhinebeck.  He encouraged the dream for me, a dream that ultimately led to my commissioning in the Air Force.  The drafting teacher, whose name escapes me, also was a pilot, with a little homebuilt of French design.  I think it was the Cricket, but I am a little fuzzy on that detail.   

Well, that's about the sum of it.


John said...

Mr. Brainbridge was the drafting teacher...

John said...


robin parow said...

My family moved from Long Island to the Holt Development on Spring, 1956 when I was three months old. My two older brothers, Dick Schmidt and Glenn Parow certainly were part of the boy's club and I mostly remember them riding like mad over to the Holt's on their bikes and setting up forts (snow forts and tree houses) in the yard on Holt Road. We moved to Dutchess Hill in '61 but my most lasting memory ofthe Holt development is of trick or treating with what seemed like hundreds of other kids. We got great loads of candy, apples, and home made stuff that you would never give out nowadays. I went around with Denise Paresi - we were so proud of our over-the-counter costumes. Since we were kindergartners our night ended early, but the boys stayed out, dragging their pillow cases of loot. Great memories of Hyde Park.

Cathy Johannessen said...

My family lived on Holt Road from 1956 until 1975. It was the perfect place to raise seven kids! We would leave the house in the morning and return at dinner time. Playing in the woods, ice skating on the streams and ponds in the back of the neighborhood, sledding down the hill next to our home, riding bikes with friends. My Mom never had to worry if we were safe.

Thank you for the article, it has brought back alot of happy memories!

Cathleen Heidel Johannessen

Al Zanetti said...

I lived in a Trailer Park in East Park. Sucks

Al Zanetti said...

I lived in a Trailer Park in East Park. Missed out on a lot of things

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