October 4, 2011

The dads of Levittown's Daisy Lane were teamwork personified in the old days


Levittown was built primarily to provide affordable single family homes for the men returning from World War II. My dad and many of the men on our block, Daisy Lane, fit this description. They had “served for the duration” and were ready for the home ownership that Levittown offered. The habits they formed during their service carried over to the way they worked with each other on the block.

I remember one particularly heavy snow fall. Our street was just off Orchid Road, a “major” thoroughfare in Levittown. My how it has shrunk since I was 13-years old. Anyway, the town plows would work to clear the major streets first and then get to the side streets eventually.

This timetable didn't suit the men of the block, and after each had cleared his own driveway (if he had one – more on this later) or walkway, there was the street itself keeping them from getting out to the plowed network of roads. Their solution? A bottle of Schenley's whiskey stuck in the snow a few feet from the intersection with Orchid Road, some shovels and a lot of military style teamwork. With that bottle as incentive, the street was soon cleared and they all enjoyed a well earned reward.

I mentioned the driveways earlier. These same ex-GI's pooled their resources to build driveways and walkways for their houses. Remember that the original package came with a flagstone path from the front door to the sidewalk. Well when it was time to upgrade to concrete, the men of the block agreed on a time table and each dug out (or assigned the job to an offspring) his own path and on the agreed upon Saturday they had a cement truck make a drop to each house; they helped each other finish the walks and driveways. They saved a lot of money by ordering an entire truckload of concrete, and of course, being part of the team gave them motivation to finish the job.

Do you recall that the upstairs area, with its counterbalanced trap door, was unfinished? A popular project was to finish that space into living space. First the area needed electrical wiring. Enter the team concept again. The school district offered an Adult Ed class on wiring a Levittown attic. Twelve weeks, 12 enrollees. Each week the class was held at another class member's home. Wives were assigned the task of providing coffee and cake, while the class went upstairs and, under the guidance of the licensed electrician/teacher, installed the wiring on that house according to code. I remember this because that's how my dad wired my upstairs bedroom.

Our garage was built using the same team concept. After I finished digging out the footing, which was not a team job, Dad hired a carpenter and ordered the lumber and other things he needed to build his garage. One weekend, the carpenter arrived along with the rest of the men on the block and, with the carpenter's directions, they put the garage up in two days. I guess that this was what on old-time barn raising was like.

Dad had a strong sense of community pride. Do you remember the hedges at the foot of the main entrance to DAHS? Well, the weekend they were planted, some vandals came by on Saturday night and pulled them out. Dad saw this on his way to church the next morning and came back after church and replanted them. They might still be there. That's the way a lot of the Levittown dads felt about their town.

I want to name these men because they were such a good example and because so many of them had children who went to Division. There was my dad, Dewain, and Gene Sherman, Irv Weiner, Noel Heineke, Dick McCarthy, Bob Waddle and Bill Condon. These men and many of our teachers were veterans who developed some worthwhile values during their service. Let's remember them.

Photo by Marilyn Monsrud Frese '63

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such an inspiring story by Dewain! Enjoyed it a lot, especially the carry over of teamwork training in the military to hometown teamwork...

Dottie Caggiano, class of 1960