March 11, 2012

Levittown's symbolic water tower lingers in our memories


If anything is a symbol of Levittown, New York it is the huge water tower at the corner of Azalea Road and Hilltop Road. It could be seen from miles away and was used as a landmark if someone became lost either walking or driving. Toni Crescenzo Gelfer, class of 1968, described it as "Omnipresent."

A 2009 photo of the structure by Tom Urban was recently the topic of a spirited discussion on Facebook. Several Division Avenue High School graduates from the 1960s participated, Tom among them, contributing information and remembrances.

Originally, the water tower was a checkerboard red and white. Eventually, it was painted green, as it appears in Urban's photo, but the people I asked did not recall when the colors were changed.

Some of the boys climbed to the top on dares or under the influence of spirits. This was the highest point in our town, Levittown's answer to the Empire State Building.

I moved to Levittown as a 12-year old in late 1954 and spent countless hours in the water tower's shadow, playing basketball. Mark Scope who went to Levittown Memorial High School also played hoops there. I have a vivid recollection that someone climbed the tower and painted "Scope Sucks" in large letters.

Here are comments posted on Facebook:

Susan Weldon (Division Avenue High class of 1960) wrote: I was there when the cops caught Warren Zaretsky on the top of the tower. When one of them stated, "This is illegal young man", Warren answered "no shit Sherlock".

Urban (1960) wrote: If you sat on the walkway that ran around the top of the tower you could see Wantagh Parkway winding towards Jones Beach. On a clear night it was peaceful. You could also clearly see the police cars at the North Village Green should they head your way.

He also stated: I cringe when I remember some "bad boys" unscrewing the bulbs on the very top. P.S. the access cover on the very top was not locked. Dangerous if you were to fall in but very tempting for green food dye around St. Patty's Day. Never materialized but tempting just the same....."very Bad Boys". And I yelled at my kids for missing curfew.

Your blogger replied to Urban: How many of the guys urinated over the side of the tower? It would seem like the natural thing to do for Levittown boys we knew, right Tom?

Tom Urban replied: Never did that Frank. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Walt Linder (1961) mentioned: I think my brother Paul did the water tower also. My parents had to go to the police station to get him.

Leslie Sands Bell (1968) remembers: the tower had raindrops (condensation) hitting us as we walked to the swimming pool on Azalea Road. It was refreshing!

Jeff Peyton (1961) commented: the late Al Baldwin (1961) had a prized red dome he had retrieved off the catwalk and made it into a lamp.

Jim McGrath (1960) bragged: Didn't spend much time at the tower. Was spending my time parked in Abbey Lane School's parking lot.


Anonymous said...

From Marilee Flamm Kubart, class of 1961: I lived on Cherrytree Lane and passed by the Levittown Water Tower often during my growing up years in Levittown. There used to be handball & basketball courts at the bottom on one side...and a Little League Baseball field on the other side. I used to go there often to watch my brother, Gene, play. And I walked by the tower on the way to Sunday School or church at the Levittown Community Church. When I was old enough to drive, I would drive by it on the way to my friend, Roberta Filandro's house on Primrose Lane. A lot of things look different now in Levittown, but that big old water tower still looks the same.

Anonymous said...

Rich Humbert, class of 1960 wrote...Like Tom I "didn't" urinate off the top either. His words bring back memories of the soft ocean breezes at night and the view.

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