Ann Szatmary is my earliest connection, and memory, of Valley Stream. We moved next door to her family in August, I believe, of 1956. We came via Brooklyn. Ann & I immediately became friends. I remember spending time cooling off in her little inflatable pool that summer, picking pansies from her mother’s flower garden, and eating red raspberries from the bush in my own backyard. Ann became a suitable “replacement” for the girl I left behind me because of the move, Judy Thoma, the dentist’s daughter.The next spring or summer, the Doughertys moved in on our other side. Peering from my upstairs playroom window, I remember the moving van pulling up and unloading. I remember their tan colored dog, Bullet, scampering around. And soon I had met Jamie & Judy! Out behind our house was The Farmer’s place. It was just that, the remnants – maybe half an acre – of what was once probably a prospering farm. There was an old farmhouse still there, and the Farmer & his wife lived quietly, tending to their vegetable garden each summer. It was idyllic. But then we came. The hordes of young folks invaded as the NYC suburbs spilled ever eastward. We were ONE measly block from the city line, yet to our parents, it was “country.” To the poor Farmer, it must’ve been a nightmare. I truly feel for him now.There was a candy store several blocks up Hook Creek Boulevard from us – source of many a candy bar, baseball card pack, and comic book through the years – not to mention the creek itself, which, back in those days, was a veritable wildlife refuge to us. You could actually catch fish & find turtles down there. One year, we floated boats – for, oh, 5 seconds or so – in that creek. The boats – old doors, really – quickly sank. In later years, we drank Gallo port down at the creek … but that’s another story for another time.We used to outfit ourselves as if we were going off for days in the remote wilderness and set out on day hikes at the creek. It was quite the place. We crawled through culverts with flashlights, broke into schools, and imagined, I suppose, that we were adventurers swashbuckling through uncharted lands. We had a lot of fun down at the creek. I remember finding a bloated, fly infested raccoon carcass & puncturing it with knives & forks. What a stench! I told you, lots of wildlife. One of my most vivid recollections of our hikes was the time this little bulldog looking hound got run over by a car or two right in front of our eyes on the Belt Parkway, which ran adjacent to the creek. I still remember it rolling around under the speeding vehicles. For years later – into adulthood – I froze, literally, every time I’d see a dog near traffic. This poor hound’s eye was hanging out after all was said and done. Somehow, he survived & we managed to retrieve him & carry his tough – and heavy – little body to a phone booth, crying all the way, where we called the police. I wonder what ever happened to that poor dog. Yeah, my brother Ronnie, Jamie [Doc], Eddie & Roger Makowski [who lived across the street], maybe Timmy Baldwin, and one or two others, we used to hike that creek with gusto. And, along with Ann, Barbara Meltzer, Judy Makowski, Kathy Keys, Billy Currao, Douglas Hallberg … we romped up & down Amherst Avenue & Everett Street … playing Robin Hood through the summer months … hot, sweaty evenings of pure fun! Ah, summer. Early, sunshiny mornings … meeting out under the tree, still in our PJs, to formulate plans for the day. Mostly, those plans involved our National Pastime … baseball … out on Bombers Field.
I’ve never forgotten that poor dog…My recollection is that it was Jamie Doc who ran out onto the parkway, weaving and dodging several cars, to save him. -Ron