click on photo to enlarge
By FRANK BARNING
There are several hundred photos of early Levittown in my collection. The one posted here today is one of my absolute favorites.
The girl perched on the hood of the 1959 Plymouth is Toni Crescenzo Gelfer, Division Avenue High School class of 1968. She figures the picture was taken in 1967 on Kingfisher Road, across the street from her house.
You don't need much more information because the picture speaks for itself. It should hang in a prominent place in the Levittown Historical Society's museum. To me, early Levittown is not just about houses and schools being constructed, it's about the people who made it a community. And kids like Toni who are now in their 60s cling fondly to memories of simpler times and experiences that shaped their lives.
The picture could be called, "Early Levittown Girl with Windblown Hair." Look at the snow on the ground, the barren late winter or early spring trees, cars that are now considered vintage and well cared for and loved homes. The houses are basic Levitt and Sons ranch models, not the giant construction jobs that dot 2011 Levittown.
This is typical of the streets upon which we early Levittowners roamed, perhaps first on bicycles and later our first automobiles. Can't you feel the crisp chill in the air? For many of us, the first cars we drove were in about the same condition as this '59 Plymouth. All that mattered was that we had "wheels".
TONY CRESCENZO GELFER'S MEMORIES
My now husband, Howard Gelfer, bought that '59 Plymouth Belvedere from DAHS graduate Herbie Blades for what he remembers was the sum of $15. Howard and some friends pushed it home because, I think, it had push buttons and was stuck in reverse. It had been rumored to have rolled over at one time.
Eventually, the car had a complete makeover, new door from a junkyard, Earl Scheib paint job and his dad did the entire inside in black tuck and roll upholstery with the finishing touch of a new reverberator for the AM radio.
It seems Herbie had lent that car to other underclassmen because I was in it six months before riding around with a bunch of kids. We stopped at Lum's and I went in with someone. When I finally started dating Howard, he told me the first time he ever saw me was walking into Lum's with that other person and something clicked and he knew we'd be together. Very corny, but true and it came to pass he got the car and the girl.
Photo courtesy of Toni Crescenzo Gelfer. She has an extensive collection of Levittown and 1950s memorabilia in her home in San Antonio, Texas. You can find Toni on Facebook.