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My Turn: An anniversary trip like none other

Paul and Ellen Mitchell stopped at the place

Paul and Ellen Mitchell stopped at the place they met, Baumann Camp, on their anniversary tour. Credit: Gail Robin Mitchell

Our three grown children dreamed it up and carried it out — their surprise gift to us for our 60th wedding anniversary, a tour down our very own memory lane.

My husband, Paul, and I had been told only to dress casually and be ready at 8:30 am. The day dawned warm, sunny, beautiful. Just like the day we married, June 7, 1959.

And here came our two daughters, Elisa and Gail, stepping out from a rented, elegant, white Town Car. But, where was our son, Jim? Oh, there he was, dressed as a chauffeur, black suit, crisp white shirt, black tie and chauffeur's cap.

A sign at the rear window declared “JUST MARRIED … 60 YEARS AGO.” It drew many a thumbs up from passing motorists. For music, we enjoyed a nostalgic playlist of 1950s oldies but goodies.

First stop: the home where we'd raised our family in Melville. We didn't want to wake the current inhabitants, so we stood outside and reminisced. Kudos to those owners; the house looks fabulous.

We hurried on. Next stop Freeport, where I grew up. Our destination? Camp Baumann, the day camp where Paul and I met in 1956. I was a counselor, he my supervisor (that arrangement has long since changed). The Baumann Camp is history, but a man named George Coleman now owns the property, which is today Coleman Country Day Camp. George had been alerted by our daughter to the plan and he dove right into the spirit of things. He drove us round in a golf cart pointing out features that likely existed in the 1950s. He gave us a copy he'd reproduced of an old Baumann brochure, and he stopped beneath a tree house, which may or may not have been the one Paul and I occasionally frequented.

On we went to take a look at my childhood home in Freeport, my elementary school, which still stands, my high school, which has relocated across town, and my high school haunts, long gone but fondly remembered.

Paul had moved to Hempstead as a teenager, and so we sought out the structure that served then as Hempstead High.

Next on the agenda was the synagogue where we married that is now a Korean church. On to Paul's former home in Hempstead. Again, we came upon a most gracious person, the lady who has lived in the house for decades; she invited us inside.

When our kids were young adults and sometimes far from home on holidays, Paul and I had a custom of driving to Long Beach, walking the boardwalk and stopping for hot dogs at a nearby Nathan's.   Again, we did just that. The hot dogs are still delicious, but it now costs $15 to step out onto the sand.

Next up (are you exhausted yet?) our son drove us to Brooklyn while our daughter navigated the streets on her smartphone. The years have not been kind to Paul's first childhood home, but I nonetheless detected a tear in his eye. His school and his temple both have changed dramatically. He remembered his old neighborhood as being “much bigger” back then. An older woman sitting on the stoop next door wished us another 60 years of happiness and health.

Back east to Mineola, we made a quick stop at an apartment we rented there when our eldest two were tots. The current owner, his wife and a couple of neighbors, all strangers to us, turned out and became well-wishers.

A short drive brought us to Eisenhower Park, where our 1959 wedding reception took place. We could not pinpoint the exact spot where the reception was held. So, we toasted each other with Champagne as we stood in the parking lot.

By then evening was nigh, and we hastened to the Milleridge Inn, a restaurant we frequented in years past. There we were met by a bevy of other family members who toasted our lives and longevity.

A trip around our very own world in less than a day. Wow!

Ellen Mitchell,


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