March 3, 2011

From Levittown to England and beyond, Karen Biro Hewson tells her story


Karen's yearbook photo and a recent shot with husband Brian while on a cruise

By Karen Biro Hewson, class of 1960

My classmate Carol Ackley Rosebery's wonderfully detailed story posted on February 23rd reminded me of things long forgotten. It was great growing up in Levittown, they were innocent times and I was soooo naive.

I came to Division Avenue High School in the seventh grade and always felt not really part of the crowd. Everyone seemed to know each other -- it seemed like from kindergarten -- I always felt like the “new” kid, which was mostly my fault, as I was kind of quiet and not very outgoing, which made it all the harder for me to fit in.

I hung out mostly with Loretta Fountain (’61) who was a neighbor and the first person I met when I moved to Levittown. My first recollection of Levittown (I think I lived there only about two days) was going “Trick or Treating” and winding up at Renee Gordon’s house, leaving there and getting lost in the winding streets. Loretta introduced me to most of the girls I hung out with, all of whom were in the Class of ’61, Ginny Castle, Mary Birney, Ann Crescenzo and Rita Cataldo. Two of the girls in our class that I was friendly with moved before graduation – Carol Vasser and Dorothy Whittaker.

American Bandstand was what we watched every afternoon (does anyone remember Pat Molinari on Bandstand?) And, of course, we “just had” to watch Bandstand on Christmas Day to see what the girls were wearing.

I remember going to the Meadowbrook movie matinees and getting in for 25 cents because I looked like I was 12 until about age 16. In the winter, if we could get a ride, we’d go to Jones Beach and roller skate, then get coffee or hot chocolate at the only boardwalk restaurant that was open. I remember how cold and windy it was and enjoying every minute of it. In the spring we’d play Par 3 golf (badly). And of course in the summer we’d go to the beach or the East Village Green pool.

Loretta and I used to shop at Mays a lot, then go to Wilfred’s Coffee Shop and if we had enough money, get a cheeseburger platter -- huge cheeseburger, fries and coleslaw for $1, what a deal! We relied on a lot of people (mostly parents) to get rides, because none of us had cars until we were out of school. It was great fun even without the cars. When we got older we would go to the Bowlder Lounge at the North Village Green to bowl, then go and listen to the piano player in the lounge (no it wasn’t Billy Joel), also, Caruso’s and that infamous bar in Hempstead -- Ryan’s, The Coach House in West Hempstead and the Garden City Bowl.

I never went “steady” with anyone in high school, but dated Scott Cornell, Peter File and Terry Turner in my senior year.

There were a few teachers whose classes I enjoyed, Ms. Eisenhauer, Mr. Keating and (don’t laugh) Mr. Flynn – he scared the s--- out of me, but I never forget to cross my T’s and dot my I’s to this day.

After graduating from DAHS, I moved into New York City and worked for Mobil
Oil. After a particularly bad winter in New York I moved to Miami Springs, Florida. Moved back to New York in 1968 and stayed for 11 years, working at LILCO in Hicksville for 11 years. Moved again to Boca Raton, Florida where I worked for IBM for 10 years, until they decided it was better for their bottom line to manufacture and distribute their PC's from the Raleigh, NC area and closed the Boca site.

At that point, I decided to work temp for a while -- as IBM was very generous when they distributed their pink slips.

That's when I decided to go to England on vacation - a dream I always had was to go by ship. I did just that -- booked passage on the QEII and sailed to England for a month. Did all my sightseeing, went up to Scotland -- and met my future husband, Brian. We were married in Delray Beach, FL in 1991. After that I sold my house and moved to London, England where I lived and worked for three years. In England we had a conversion camper and traveled all over England and Scotland, also did quite a bit of traveling through Europe.

In 1994 we came back to Florida and now live in Stuart with our dog and cat and no children. I'm sure there will be another move in our future as we are looking to downsizing and getting free of having to mow the lawn, trim the bushes, etc. In the meantime my husband and I have both been retired now about four years and are loving it, although it took a bit of getting used to for me (after 47 years of working). Our days are busy and we don't know where the time goes but it's nice not having a 9 to 5 schedule and I still keep in touch (via telephone) with Loretta Fountain who lives in Babylon and I hope to visit maybe this year.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

From Arnie Galeota '61

A reply to Karen Biro's entree...I believe you have a brother Steven. If I'm right he and I worked together at Shoe-Town in Lawrence Long Island back in 1969-70-71 I'm not really sure. To answer your question I do remember Pat Molinari and sadly I think she passed away many years ago. I too used to watch that show often. The many movements you have undertaken in your life are somewhat of a parallel to mine except I wound up with 4 sons and 3 grandsons and I never took a trip out of this country until last year. And I've moved 18 different times so you are way behind. Your trip sounds far more interesting than mine was. Mine was to Panama where all there was to do was go to casinos and chase the women..years before all that I too wound up in Florida on 2 different occasions, once in mid 90's for 3 years in the Boca Raton area, and then for 12 years through the last decade, 1998-2009 in Pompano beach. I now live in Southern Cal. but am entertaining the thought of eventually going back to Florida where the humidity is stifling but the living expenses aren't.... compared to California. If you are Steve's sister please give him my regards. If you aren't then you're still about 13 moves behind me. Lol

Timothy said...

I was in 6th grade at Northside with your brother Steve. If my memory isn't playing tricks on me, he didn't graduate in '63 with our class. Am I right about that? Did your family perhaps leave Levittown before Steve graduated?

Jean Diankoff (Harold) said...

This comment/question is for Karen Biro Hewson....You mentioned Ginny Castle in your blog. She was my childhood friend. I have not been able to locate her. Can you help me with any information that might help me find her???? My Email address is demodiva10@gmail.com

Thank you so much,
Jean Diankoff (Harold)