Throughout this week's Town Focus series in Levittown, we are profiling people we meet, from community leaders to residents we bump into around town.
Polly Dwyer, 83
President, Levittown Historical Society
When did you move to Levittown? 1954
How old were you then and what brought you out here? I was 26. It was the most economical place. We couldn't find a house with everything it offered anywhere else.
My first husband was a World War II vet. He served in the Philippines with the army, so that qualified us, although by 1954 they had relaxed the rules a bit as to who could buy a house here.
We put down $100 and got it back at closing, so really it's like we put nothing down. We paid $65 a month for our mortgage.
Which type of house do you live in? The Cape Cod style. They built the Cape Cod houses over two years. In the first year, they had porcelain kitchen sinks, which were terrible to clean. In the second year, they put in stainless steel sinks. Thank God we have the second year.
What were your first impressions of Levittown? Very cute and I liked it that way.
We had been living with my mother-in-law in Little Neck. When we came out here, the salesman told us all the houses looked the same on the inside. We had seen a ranch and we had seen a Cape Cod house, so we bought the house without ever looking inside of it. But we really liked the location, we were three houses away from the public library and one of the village greens -- they built seven village greens when they built the houses.
What made you stay in the same town and the same house all these years? I don't know, it just happened. This was going to be our starter house and we'd move up.
My first husband had the kind of job where if the company was not doing well, his job got cut. So he was out of work for a while. He died in 1980 and all my children were grown but I had one son still living with me. When he died, he was repairing the house. He built an apartment so I could have the income. So that kept me here, I guess, because our house had an income.
What made you become involved with the historical society? I didn't even know while I was living here that it was so historic. It would come to me in drills and drabs, but I didn't know the scope of it.
After I thoroughly retired, I found out about the historical society and before I knew it, I was the president.
What do you love about the community? The neighbors. And it's a very convenient place. You can shop on Hempstead Turnpike for big things, there are loads of grocery stores, in the next town over, Hicksville, are all the department stores. You can go into the city or you can stay here and go to the beach or one of the swimming pools.
What challenges does the community face? Paying the taxes. Taxes are outrageous and it's not that big a house. People expand their houses to accommodate their children and then they can't afford the taxes and move. I have a house next to me that's been vacant for two years.
How has Levittown changed? Less children. Very few children. There are almost none on my block. Everybody just stays inside.
In the early days, the children were all running around outside in the lots. Now everybody works, the husband, the wife. There's nobody in the house most of the time. It's a sad change to me.
On a poster board in the historical society museum here, you're quoted as saying you fear for the children of the future because there is no Levittown for them. What did you mean by that?
You can't find houses for that price anymore, even relatively speaking. There are not affordable houses. There isn't anything line there was for us then in Levittown. There is nothing special for the veterans. No special place to live. It's tough and I feel sorry for them today.
How would you define the character of Levittown? Pride in homes.
The actual houses here seem to be a big part of the identity of Levittown. Absolutely. We're so proud of our homes. Houses are improved, lawns are kept up. You have an obligation to your neighbors, I think, to keep it lovely.