September 28, 2011

Stories wanted for book about Levittown homes

The original kitchen Levittown kitchen in 1952. Sandy Adams' home, 83 Horn Lane.

From Polly Dwyer, president of the Levittown Historical Society

We are finally going to get going on printing our book "Home Sweet Levittown Home". Below are two samples of our stories. We wonder if any of your blog readers would like to add memories of artifacts of their Levitt home to be considered in our book. We have approximately 40 stories so far.

I do enjoy the happy and interesting memories of your blog readership.

Send stories or questions to Jean Fontana:
• • •

From “Cool” to Hot:
Pool Tags, the Admiral TV Set, and the York Heater
Joan Cohen Shaw

I remember the pool tags fondly; I even saved some from my parents' house. I always wore mine on my wrist, but it seems, looking back, that the "cooler" kids wore them around their ankles.

Each year I bugged my parents about when they were going to pick up the tags at Levittown Hall, and waited anxiously for the pool to open for what I considered the first "official" day of summer. We wondered each year what shape the tag would take and what color the band would be. I liked when the tags were metal; the plastic ones didn't make that same jingling sound. My pool was the Carman Avenue pool. I always took care to make sure the lifeguard at the gate saw the tag, to avoid getting yelled at, or worse, not being allowed in -- a horrifying thought for a kid! Despite that, I also remember passing the tag surreptitiously through the fence to a friend who didn't have one, hoping not to get caught. I loved the pool, and I also loved stopping at Carvel afterward, because it had air conditioning. I believe it was the first store on Carman Avenue to have it.

I don't remember the Venetian blinds in the living room, but I certainly remember the Admiral TV set in the staircase wall and the knotty-pine paneling on that wall. It had a hidden panel for the control knobs that I liked to play with -- usually messing up the horizontal or vertical hold in the process. The set took a while to warm up, which seemed like forever to me. I was fascinated with the "guts" of the TV, all those tubes that could be seen from inside the staircase closet. My favorite shows were "Lassie," "Bonanza," and "My Mother the Car." I was sad when my parents removed it and sheet-rocked over the paneling, even though we were finally getting a color TV.

I also remember the York heater or, at least, the cover, quite well. It was a favorite spot in the house. The original cover was still there when I sold the house; it just needed a coat of paint to spruce it up. We all gravitated to the warmth radiating from it: damp mittens and dish towels went on top, as did cold hands. My mom kept a kitchen stool in front of it, and I spent plenty of time sitting in that cozy spot. It talked to us too -- the metal always made a distinctive popping sound whenever the heater went on.

Summer Fun and Concerns
John Tanner, class of 1960

In the 1950s, air conditioners were viewed as a luxury, and as trips to Jones Beach were somewhat of a rarity, the community pool was the “cool-off ” place for kids on hot summer days. In order to enter the pool you had to produce a pool tag. In order to get one, each year residents would bring their electric bill to Levittown Hall where these tags were issued. Kids in adjoining communities were often jealous of these pools and would try various ways to sneak in.

Polio was “the” dreaded disease of post-war America and there were all sorts of theories on how it was spread. Many believed that you could catch it by frequenting public places like swimming pools where lots of germs could be shared in both the air and water. Parents feared for their children as polio not only crippled and killed but also too many victims of this disease wound up paralyzed in iron lungs. Hence there were alerts from time to time to avoid our beloved community pools until Dr. Jonas E. Salk discovered a lifesaving vaccine in 1955.

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