May 6, 2012

Welcome to Levittown: An unexpected return to the Peytons' places

Zach Peyton in front of Division Avenue High School. His dad is a 1961 graduate and his grandfather a distinguished long-time teacher.


Class of 1961

Recently, I received a rare text from my son who is now living in Manhattan with his fiancĂ© which included a photo of a sign shot from a rear car window: “Welcome to Levittown”.

I texted back: “Looks like Hempstead Tpke.?”


“What are you doing?”

“Taking Marci to a friend’s Baby Shower”


“Somewhere on Gardiner’s Avenue… it’s in a pizzeria.”

“You know, you passed the site of Fiesta, at the corner of Hempstead Tpke. & Division Ave. The school is only a quarter mile north on Division. On the way back, you should take a picture of yourself in front. [Fat chance, I’m thinking]

Later Zach sends me a real time photo of 35 Snowbird Lane, the house I grew up in.. It’s painful to look at. Like it got stung by a giant bee all puffed up on some steroid bee toxin.

“This isn’t how it looked, right.”

“No. Hold on”

There is a folder on my desk of random old pictures. I pull 2 black & whites (‘52?) and photograph them and send them. They are pictures of kids: the true reference points in any pictures of early Levittown that reveal things. In the first one the kids (Joey Gallagher and Guy Johnson) are sitting where the driveway would be one day. In the second, there is Joey holding his baseball glove up with ball-in-pocket and standing between the bare-bone new but settled homes viewable in the background. This tech acrobatics is probably not needed as I think the house next door is still pretty much the same. Some Levitt homes, for better or worse, never get a major makeover.

“My battery is almost out” he texts. I figure that’s it.

But a short while later I get a picture of Zach standing in front of the school. I take it in. I don’t know why it matters. There’s the new generation. A young guy showing up to stand on turf his grandfather and father once walked on. The present has randomly asserted itself in the form of a gift, one of Forest’s feather landing on a field of our collective reverie.

I didn’t think to ask Zach to see if there was a jockstrap still hanging at a point way up the flag pole.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely wonderful, Jeff! Thank you for sharing> It brings back the memory of when my daughter graduated from DAHS in 1980. What a joyful day it was! Pat McDonald

Marilyn Monsrud Frese '63 said...

Know what you mean Pat... my daughter graduated from DAHS in 1983- I was '63...and I had beens working at DAHS at the time with the Athletic Director... and with Mr. Peyton still there!

Jeff- we think our kids do't realize that we too had a life at one time... filled with friends and crazy activities... cut school, got in trouble... were not always so perfect! Then they do something Zach did...stopping to take this photo.... knowing it will mean a lot to you... and we realize we really did do a good job of raising them!

Toni Crescenzo Gelfer said...

Great story
Great school,
Great looking son,
Great memories.....Thanks..Jeff

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