June 12, 2011

Woof, woof .. Photos of Division Avenue graduates when they were children, this time with their beloved dogs

Click on photos to enlarge


Dogs were popular with early residents of our town, probably because there were so many children. Kids usually want pets and dogs are often the first choice.

Some of us got stuck with goldfish, which often died within a few days, if not hours, of arriving home from Woolworth in a plastic bubble-like bag. My home usually had a parakeet which we pretended could talk. The one we had the longest was named Gilly, after Gil Hodges of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

My mother had a friend with a thick Scottish accident. Mary Fleming's parakeet was named JoJo and he could say his name, "Wee JoJo" with an accent resembling Mary's. Or so my mom and Mary thought.

Many Levittowners had parakeets. They were inexpensive to buy and feed. I don't remember any that were taken to a vet, which was costly for dog owners. Occasionally a parakeet would escape a Levitt home and it was not rare to see one in a tree. Unlike homing pigeons, parakeets never returned to their cages.

As I recall, and this was more than 55 years ago, most of the dogs in Levittown were mutts. There were few high-class dogs of pure breed. Maybe the pooch population was a reflection of Levittowners, and I mean that in a kind way. One of the charms of our town was that there were hardly any people who put on the dog, just hard-working moms and dads, with sons who delivered newspapers and shoveled snow for spending money.

I also remember that if a family let it be known that it wanted a dog, a neighbor or three would advise them to go to the Bideawee because it had plenty of canines for adoption and the price was only a few dollars.

Sadly, I report that the venerable Bidawee now offers "Yoga with Your Dog" as well as "Mutts and Mimosas" and "Reading to Dogs". And don't get me started on the subject of pet cemeteries.

According to the kennel's website it was "Founded in 1903 by Mrs. Flora D'Auby Jenkins Kibbe. Bideawee, which means 'stay awhile' in Scottish, is one of the oldest humane organizations in the United States."

It might cause you to wonder if Bideawee was in Wee JoJo's vocabulary?

Early Levittowners depicted below with their pups are:

* Marilyn (class of 1963) and Susan Monsrud (class of 1965) in 1948 or 1949 with their dog Sparkey. Marilyn wrote: "My dad was in the Army Air Force in WW2 and found him as a little pup in an airplane hanger. He brought him home hidden in his flight jacket for the whole flight. Such a great dog."

* Marilyn Monsrud, class of 1963, and her dog Teddy in 1958 when she was 13 years old. What happened to Sparkey?

* Toni Crescenzo Gelfer, class of 1968, about four years old with her big brother Jimmy who graduated from Levittown Memorial High School in 1959.

* Tim, class of 1963, and Mitch Lavey (wearing hat) with Sarge, circa 1955. According to Tim, "I was about 10 and Mitch was eight. Sarge was a stray my dad found on a roofing job. The picture was taken on the front lawn of our 173 Orchid Road house."


Marilyn Monsrud Frese said...

Another great subject Frank! To many of us Levittown kids, our dogs were like siblings! They were such a big part of our families. An yes, we always had a parakeet or a canary too! We'd let it fly free around the house as long as all windows were closed. One quick story: My dad, till the day he died, was an avid dog lover! Back in the day of early Levittown, the DOG CATCHER would make his rounds pretty regularly. One day he picked up our dog along with a number of other super friendly mutts on our block. We ran in and told my dad, who was a tall 6'2" and a very in shape ex-GI, then turned into a super-hero figure! He ran out of the house, cut through the back yards all the way down the block (no fences were in sight back then!) with a gang of kids following him as close and as fast as we could run, and witnessed him jump onto the back of the "Dog Catchers Truck", open the double doors, and in "101 Dalmations" style, released all those sweet captured K-9's! The dogs just poured out of that truck and happily returned to their homes! The dog catcher was furious, but the deed was done. My dad was the hero of the neighborhood for a long time after that.

Anonymous said...

No doubt Sparkey had passed on to 'doggy heaven' by 1958, Frank, and I think the picture of Marilyn with her new canine love, Teddy, was taken on Marilyn's actual 13th birthday as she headed off to DA Jr. High School. The marble notebook (do they still make those?) bespeaks school, and that cute 'bows ribbons, candy and gum corsage' screamed "Happy Birthday" in 1958 as much as as it did when my own daughter turned 13 in 1989. Nice saddle shoes M, but where's the poodle on the skirt? Or was that 'out' by then ... lol.

Marilyn is such a vibrant writer of commentary on this blogsite, Frank. This story of her 'superhero dad' is priceless and just proves that those courageous veterans of WW2 and Korea were in no mood to take any nonsense from anyone, least of all the evil dog catcher ... lol. (We used to boo, hiss and give the thumbs down to the dog catcher in my neighborhood whenever we saw him on the prowl.)
Jim Ayres '63

Marilyn Monsrud Frese said...

I'm so glad to hear thet the candy corsages lasted until 1989! That had a life of it's own I guess. Don't remember the ages and sages of the corsages...there was lollipops, tootsie rolls, bubble gum, dog biscuits, come on girls....what else did we have?

Right you are Jim...it was doggy heaven (or the "farm") for good old Sparkey. Funny how when you lose a terrific dog, you think you will never find another quite as great...until you actually GET your new dog! When my last dog died at age 16, I went out the next day and got Mickey (who is now 3). In the past I figured there should be a waiting time...kind of as a sign of respect to the recently passed dog. But then I realized what the hell??? It's not like a widow going out and marrying the day after the spouse is buried! So I found Mickey by the next afternoon, and felt it was a way to honor my beloved old dog- by loving her so much and thereby missing her so much, the void had to be filled with haste.

Marble notebooks- still arond and used by loads of kids...especially in elementary school. Only now they are not just black and white...they come in loads of colors...as well as neon brights! And I believe the poodle skirts were 'out' by this time in '58. This one I was wearing (so lovely, isn't it???) was the 'quilted skirt". The next fashion statement. Do you remember in high school we (the girls) had this totally stupid fashion fancy where we would wear as many pairs of socks as we could and still get our feet into our shoes? We all looked like we had casts on our ankles! And they were wooly socks- not the cotton kind. I remember some of our mothers wouldn't let us wear more than 2 pair of socks together, so we'd sneak a couple of extra pair out and add them on at school. What else did we think make us look 'cool'??? Hey Frank- there's an idea for a blog! WHAT DID YOU DO IN HS TO MAKE YOURSELF LOOK/FEEL 'COOL'??? The guys had some pretty wild hairstyles back then...cigarettes in the tee shirt sleeves ... girls would wear their hair "set" in pin curls with a scarf tied around them...stockings with seams were a big hit.... TAPS on our shoes!!! And pennies in our loafers. So many 'cool' things to choose from. Let's hear of some more from your readers.

Anonymous said...

Cliff Fromm, Class of 1960

What you wrote is so true and memorable. My mother got our dog(s) from the Bideawee, my sister had a parakeet named Pudgee that lived for 12 or 14 years and I did shovel snow and had two paper routes for spending money, much of which I gave to my mother. My father and I also raised pigeons and had a coop in the backyard. Beth Cummings often reminds me that she remembers them so well.