December 13, 2011

Levittown's pioneers share their memories of living in a spanking- new town

In 1947, Marilyn Monsrud Frese's first Levittown home, 45 Cornflower Road

Click on photo to enlarge

Continuing on the theme of our recent blog entry by Marilyn Monsrud Frese, here are some additional memories of living in Levittown in the early days:


The Cape Cod model that we lived in was at 45 Cornflower Road (see photo above). And Cornflower, back then, was a pretty big main drag. The buses used Cornflower as an entrance from Jerusalem Avenue My grandma, on my mother's side, would come out from Brooklyn by bus quite often.

My other grandparents, who also lived in Brooklyn next door to the other set of grandparents, made visiting for both on the same weekend very easy. They owned a car and would drive east to Levittown. So we had Bus Grandma and Car Grandma. That's what we called them when we were little. In the early 1960s both sets of grandparents ended up moving to Levittown because their homes were torn down to make way for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.


The unique cut-out design in the staircase was always a bit of interest. I recall my brother, Michael, and I sneaking a peek through these cut-outs at Christmas and so many other times to see what the grownups were up to. Every Christmas we had our pictures taken with us looking through these unique holes.

We moved in very early in Levittown's history to 7 Green Lane soon after my father returned from WWII. We began kindergarten through fourth grade while living at that address. The sidewalks were not all in yet, and the trees were just being planted. I recall we had an influx of Japanese beetles on all the trees. The boys would run up while we girls were under the newly planted saplings, and they would shake the tree so hard that it disturbed a dark cloud of beetles, and of course we girls screamed and ran away.

I also remember that since all the house occupants were about the same age with children around our age, even the grownups went sledding down the hills with us, and had block parties.

After moving away for two years, we returned to the apartment house next door to Division Avenue High School for a few years before moving into another Cape Cod nearby. Everything was within walking distance. Three village greens with playgrounds, shops, and best of all the fantastic free pools. What fun that was growing up and hanging out with our friends each summer day from sixth grade to graduation.

I fondly remember when I was new to Division Avenue and was extremely shy. I was in Mr. Dunlop's sixth grade and was seated behind Pete Cybriwsky, thank heavens. Every time Mr. Dunlop was looking for an answer I could duck behind Pete's wide shoulders or hide under my desk pretending to tie my shoe. I could go on and on.


I have vivid recollections of the radiant heating in the floors of the Levitt homes. I grew up with many cats and a few dogs. The cats absolutely adored the heating system. You could always tell where the hot spots were in the flooring during the cold months because they were continually occupied by our furry friends. It was only later when I was older that I was told that radiant heating was a unique feature of Levitt homes introduced by Levitt and Sons.


Marilyn Monsrud Frese said...

One other point to make about the first photo Frank, the one of my first Levittown house on Cornflower Rd. in 1947. If you look closely at the photo... you see my Mom at the front door- and just to the left of her you can see me playing in my playpen right there in the front yard. That's something you never see anymore- a baby left alone playing in the front yard! The world was such a lovely safe and simple place back then- at least in Levittown! Kids don't even walk to school by themselves anymore until they reach their preteens!

mark rotker said...

while living in Cortland NY after graduating from college there, I happend down a side street. Much to my surprise I found about 10 or 12 Levitt houses in a circle. I later became best of friend with one of my life heroes who lived in the "beard" homes(the name of the guy who owned the land and built the Levitt type houses)...yes, they were on a slab, and yes, they were the same shape, but you came in the front door and went up the stairs and the kitchen was in the back and no fireplace, but it was a levitt house, just reversed. The point I left out is that ..Yes, the heat was in the floors. Those houses were built in the late 50's and still had the radiant heat when I left the area in 1989