February 16, 2011

Cutting through early Levittown backyards was a way of life for kids whose only means of transportation was walking

Levittown before fences, early 1950s. Note the small trees and bushes. Photo courtesy of Tim Lavey, class of 1963.
click on photo to enlarge

By Frank Barning

"In those early years of Levittown, no one had yet put up a fence to delineate their property so as kids we would 'cut through' to get to the North Village Green and the pool. And every yard had a clothesline, and every house a TV antenna." These words were written by Howard Whidden, class of 1962, for the blog and they triggered so many memories long forgotten.

'Cutting through," as Howard called it, was an art form for many of us who walked everywhere. This was primarily when we were too old (not cool at some point) to ride a bike and too young to even dream of driving a car.

My favorite cut through was from my house on Hyacinth Road, corner of Primrose Lane. I'd walk directly cross the street and slip through my friend Ed Gifford 's side yard. Behind his house was what was known as the Long Island Rail Road right of way, which was a wide swath of dirt that ran east/west through all of Levittown starting on the west side of town at Newbridge Road.

Many years before, the LIRR had a branch line that ran through what became Levittown. The official name was the Central Railroad of Long Island (see note below). As far as I remember, no tracks remained by 1954. High-tension power lines were and still are the dominant feature.

Often, the boys from Hyacinth Road and nearby Primrose Lane would cut through the right of way and wind up on Old Farm Road. From there it was a short hike to the joys that the North Village Green offered us. If you were a Levittown kid in the late 1940s and the years that closely followed, you probably had your own favorite cut throughs. That ended when substantial fences were built between houses. Most of the early Cape Cod residents in my part of town had been renters and they certainly were not installing strong fences and other improvements.

Our house had been a rental until we moved to 10 Hyacinth Road in late 1954. My dad replaced the flag stone front path with cement, improved the almost barren landscaping and installed a stockade fence to separate us from the neighbors in back who lived on Carnation Road. I remember the Thompson and Caruso families who lived behind us for many years. The fence offered us and them some privacy and delineated our turf.


According to Wikipedia, "Central Railroad of Long Island is a former railroad on Long Island built by Alexander Turney Stewart, who was also the founder of Garden City. The railroad was established in 1871, was merged with the Flushing and North Side Railroad in 1874 to form the Flushing, North Shore, and Central Railroad, and was finally acquired by the Long Island Rail Road in 1876, and divided into separate branches. Despite its short existence, the CRRLI had a major impact on railroading and development on Long Island." If you are interested, there is considerable information and maps that can be accessed via Google.


JonB said...

Cutting through should be punishable by death!

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