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My Turn: We made the best of our LI summers

We moved from Far Rockaway to Hicksville when I was 4 years old, all 8 of us in a taxi with a dog and parakeets in a cage on our laps. The taxi had a large backseat as well as two small “rumble-type” seats located in front of the back bench. I don’t think they make taxis like that anymore.

The Hicksville house on Brittle Lane came equipped with two bedrooms, a fireplace, washing machine, telephone, television, living room, one bathroom and a large backyard for us to play. We were living the good life.

Summer was the best time because we were outside all day. The school system had a program for us baby boomers called “summer recreation.” We would attend school, at Dutch Lane, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and either play sports, weave baskets, or make pot holders. It was the closest I ever came to going to camp. After recreation, we went home to have lunch, usually a sandwich made with white Wonder Bread, and then attended one of the Levittown pools for the balance of the afternoon. This pretty much was our routine for most of the summer. In the evening, after dinner, the ice cream trucks came by and my brother Ken and myself were allowed to purchase a twin ice pop — that we shared — for 10 cents. We took turns ordering the flavors. Since each family had a minimum of five kids, there was always someone to play with.

The summer evenings consisted of tag, hide and seek, Simon Says and various other running-around activities. My mom worked evenings at Meadowbrook Hospital [now Nassau University Medical Center] and sometimes as a treat, my dad would pick up a pizza or ice cream or Wetson’s burgers for us when he went to bring my mom home from work at 11 p.m.

On Sundays, his day off, he would often take me and my brothers to Jones Beach. Mom would pack a big basket of food like we were going to Europe and there we would stay all day, winding up in the pool section around 5 or 6 p.m. (I think that was mostly to help remove the embedded sand from our body.)

The picnic basket is worth discussing because it consisted of different kinds of food depending upon the time of day, and only my mother was allowed to delve into that basket and to remove the goodies that lay inside of it. We usually started out with ham-and-cheese sandwiches followed by hard-boiled eggs and a cold drink. After the first round of swimming came the chocolate-chip cookies and some type of salty snack. As 3 p.m. approached, we begged for ice cream money and made the long trek up to the concession stand, burning the bottom of our feet. By 5 o’clock the second wave of sandwiches came out, peanut butter and jelly followed by a different type of cookie and some fruit, either peach or plums.

We were all skinny kids and used up our energy playing and running around. I think those beach days were the only time that my parents spent quality time together. We were out of their hair playing and swimming. As long as we did not drown or get hurt we left them alone and they left us alone. No helicopter parents back in those days.

I have wonderful fond memories of summer living in Hicksville. It was a simple pleasant playful time and place to grow up. By today’s standards I guess we would be considered “poor” and very disadvantaged (no cell, no internet, no cable, no pasta, no going out to eat, hardly any fast food, no seat belts — my baby brother Steve used to sit on my dad’s lap while he was driving). Three or four people to share a bedroom, white bread! I’m not sure how we did it, but we managed to grow up very healthy, go to college, have excellent professions and turned out to be very unspoiled citizens. I would not trade it for the world.

Judy Marcus Shivers


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