December 4, 2010

Canadian transplant Sandy Adams' memories of her early days in Levittown

Sandy is a 1960 graduate of Division Avenue High School. This 1950 photo is of Sandy in front of her home at 83 Horn Lane.

Click on photo to enlarge

Q & A with Sandy Adams
Tell us about the photo: Me with my brand new big bike! The house is so new that a number tag – 1270 – is still attached to a shingle on the house. The name on the house was that of my step-father. I had just arrived days before from Canada to join him and my mother. The new school year was about to start – apparently an addition was being added to Northside School, but it was not yet completed, so we were bussed to a Quonset hut set up at Wisdom Lane.

What do you remember about the house: It held the first TV set that I had ever seen – a 12-inch set in the wall under the stairs – wow! Heated floors, stainless-steel sink and counter top, a Bendix washing machine and a fireplace open to both the kitchen and living room. I remember that my mother had the fireplace closed up on the kitchen side – there was a problem with ashes and sparks whenever the front door was opened. The oil burner was between the fireplace and the washer – its cover was about 3 ½ or 4 feet high. Behind the oil burner and washer were open shelves to the ceiling.

Address of house: The 1270 number was apparently a reference number for building purposes – the address was 83 Horn Lane.

Do remember the landscaping, was there a lot of mud, or had a lawn been put in: The landscaping consisted of dirt and a couple of small shrubs. I remember grass seed, sidewalks and curbs being added after I arrived.

When did you move to Levittown and why: My parents first moved into the house while I stayed with my grandmother and great-grandmother in Canada. My step-father was an American (from Massachusetts) and had recently been discharged from the U.S. Navy. They moved to Jamaica, Queens in 1949 to get settled in the States, while I stayed in Canada for the second grade, and while in Queens came the opportunity to buy a Levitt house.

What year did you/your family move to Levittown, like was it a big adventure: I joined my parents at end of summer 1950, very shortly after they moved into the house. I was surprised to see an area that was so flat and plain looking.

You were how old: I guess I was 8 years old and going into third grade. Canadian schools had the same age/grade set-up as the States.

Where did you come from in Canada: My home was Saint John, New Brunswick, not to be confused with St. Johns, Newfoundland. This city sits where the Saint John River meets the Bay of Fundy, at the Reversing Falls, and the area is home to the highest tidal changes in the world – info is available online. I was a city girl, not from a rural area of the province.

Were you excited about moving to the United States: I was excited about being re-united with my parents. Another new and exciting part of moving to Levittown – my first family car! I was used to riding buses and trains with my grandmother. So using a car, instead of public transportation, on a seemingly daily basis was a very new experience. I think that this was probably a new experience for many of us back then.

Compare the winters your experienced in Canada to a typical Levittown winter: I grew up with very snowy winters – living at the end of a dead-end street made reaching the main thoroughfare a chore in the deep snow – traveling on the sidewalks almost felt like being in tunnels. I tobogganed, sledded, skied and ice skated through the winters. Being a coastal town, we certainly didn’t get the amounts of snow that fell inland.

Who were some of your first friends in Levittown: They were Linda Kenley, Carol Howell and Bob Joyce – I recently connected with Bob via email and Carol made a visit to Long Island this past summer.

You have said that you were shy, so was making friends a problem: I said some words very differently when I was new to Levittown – a Canadian accent raises the ‘ou’ vowel sound to ‘oo’ in many words and ends most sentences with its own idiosyncrasy, the word, “eh ?” (equal to “right?”). As we all know, kids are very adept at focusing on what is different about others, and my accent was a big target which made me more shy than I already was, so I spoke less and less for quite a while. But time eventually changes things, doesn’t it?

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