Author: Nancy Roth
Published in Communities Magazine Issue #152
When I was a toddler, my family moved from their apartment into a white clapboard house with blue shutters in Scarsdale, a New York suburb north of Manhattan. Our street, Lenox Place, was a dead end shaped like the letter “L” with a small grassy circle at one end, enabling cars to turn around. It was a close-knit neighborhood, in part because of the many children who played together not only in our leafy yards but, since there was little traffic, in the street, playing jump-rope or hopscotch, or riding our bikes around and around what we called The Circle. On July 4th, the children would have a parade up and down the street, marching to the rhythm of my brother’s drum. I have to confess that, since I was the organizer of the event, photos from that period reveal, to my embarrassment, that I usually claimed the role of drum majorette, so that I could lead the parade.
As I made my way through elementary school, I discovered that of the three “R’s” the one I loved most was the second. I wrote my first poem, a celebration of my favorite tree in our back yard, when I was in third grade. My proud father, who worked at Columbia University, took it into his office, where his secretary graciously went through the laborious process of mimeographing several copies. But it was not long before he would give her a lengthier task on my account.
My parents always looked forward to the daily newspaper, tossed on our driveway each morning by a high school lad who made his rounds on his bicycle, except on rainy days, when his mother would chauffeur him so that he stay dry as he pitched the papers out the car window. I was in fifth grade when I had an idea one afternoon, as I cycled around The Circle, and thought about all my friends who lived in the trim clapboard houses with colored shutters that lined our street: we too could have a newspaper. It was not until I was in bed with a case of the mumps a week or so later that I actually had time to do something about it, and at the same time garner some sympathy about my plight. A featured item on the front page of Vol.1, No.1, of The Lenox Place News was entitled Health Report: “Nancy Moore has the MUMPS, and is she puffed up!”
The premier issue was published in October of that year, and six more were to follow it, until apparently I ran out of steam the following April. It was not due to the economy or lack of customers: our paper was only two cents a copy. And it was certainly not due to lack of news, which was readily available when I went from house to house to interview each family . I hired my little brother, who had just learned to write, as a second reporter. He was listed as such in each issue, except during the times he was in my bad graces, when I demoted him to “distributor” and made him deliver the paper to all the neighbors. The paper was a major extracurricular project that year. It actually may have been even more important than what I learned in school, for it provided me with the satisfaction of strengthening the Lenox Place community and also gave me practice in one of the skills—writing—that was eventually to become part of my livelihood. Reading it now, I notice how tidbits of news that neighbors might have thought too trivial to share with a professional reporter were readily shared with a youngster: an incident on the commuter bus, a visiting relative, a child’s musical endeavors, a childhood illness. I also smile at the preachiness of the editor (yours truly—later to become a bona fide preacher) who campaigned on behalf of sharing Hallowe’en candy with the children at the county home who had none, and laid down a list of rules for safety during snowball fights. It’s also quite apparent from my editorializing that these were the years of scarcity just following the end of World War II.
My mother took me along to a local nursery during a shopping trip for bird seed, and must have told the proprietors about the newspaper, for they asked that an advertisement for their store be placed in the forthcoming issues, and paid for it with a set of Christmas candles in the shape of carolers, which have graced our Christmas table for at least six decades now (I could never bring myself to light them). The entrepreneurial spirit was contagious; now that Billy Smeltzer, who lived a few houses away from us, had a way to advertise it, he created a neighborhood library, with its own set of rules.
The enterprise taught me the power of the written word, which can bring people closer together and also empower those who do so, even though they may be “only children.” And the satisfaction it gave me as a writer has stayed with me all my life. My former playmates still talk fondly about our childhood on Lenox Place, and one day, we hope to have a reunion. For that reunion, we’ll need a reporter, for sure, and perhaps, another issue of The Lenox Place News, since there’s been lots of news since the last issue!
(excerpted from The Lenox Place News)
REMEMBER! Hallowe’en is a time for fun, not harmful pranks. Play only harmless tricks. BOO!
A plane swooped very low over Lenox Place on November 13. It was only stunt flying, though Feld’s chimney was in danger of getting knocked off.
We have several school orchestra members on Lenox Place. Sandra Stolle is playing the piano with Nancy Moore. Billy Smeltzer has started playing his oboe in the orchestra, and Bobby Moore plays the drum. Wouldn’t some other children like to start the free instrumental lessons offered at school?
WE WANT TO BE PROUD OF OUR STREET…….KEEP IT CLEAN.
Mr. Heck left on Friday morning to go on a hunting trip with a friend. When he got there his friend wasn’t feeling well and it rained all the time, so he returned home without even a rabbit.
Mrs. Hutchinson does not have to hang up her clothes any more. She is the owner of a new automatic General Electric Drying machine.
The boys have been making a dam across the brook in the field, with rocks and mud. They are now moving the dam because it was too shallow in the old place.
Our Lenox Place Library is coming along fine. It is a library for children from six on up. Come join it and share comments. The library will be closed this Friday as I am going to Schenectady for Thanksgiving vacation.
Lenox Place children will find that the mountains made by the snow-plow are wonderful for new sleds—unless you fall on your nose!
After caroling on Christmas Eve the carolers are invited to go to the Mingos’ house for cocoa and cookies.
There is a club in our neighborhood called the Fortnightly Boys’ Club, though it meets twice a week. The members, who are Bobby Moore, Andy Feld, and Ford Hutchinson, have been meeting in Andy’s garage. It got its name from some old membership cards Bobby got from his Aunt Inez.
FORTNIGHTLY CLUB NEWS: All members of the fortnightly club are to meet at the Club House January 1, at 4:30. Write a speech and bring it with you. Andy Feld will call each member to read his speech.
On account of the heavy snow, the Cooks had to postpone their trip to the country. They are planning to go the first weekend the roads are open.
The Combe’s car served as a shuttle car on Saturday, as most of the other cars could not get out.
Mr. Wonnacott got a drill-press in his stocking.
The Stolles entertained at an eggnog party on December 27, 1947.
A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: no one can do much good if there is not peace in the world, and to have peace we must all do our part. Help to save food by wasting less. To have peace the people in Europe must work, but workers need food. Less food means less work. We won the war, but we did not win peace. We can all help by giving to Drives unselfishly. Let’s make that our New Year’s resolution—Help bring about “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.”
The snow on Freyermuth’s hill is still too deep for coasting. The Freyermuths are glad to have the children coast if they can observe the rules of safety.
LOST—New Girl Scout wallet containing $1.00. Color—green.
A NEW YEAR, GOOD YEAR THOUGHT: We have all had such a wonderful Christmas, with presents and a big turkey dinner. But we don’t want to forget the starving people of Europe. For $10.00 we can send through CARE a package of food to some family in Europe. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Lenox Place children could earn enough money over the Christmas Holidays to send a package. Anyone who would like to join me in earning extra money to send to CARE, get in touch with Sandra Stolle.
FEED THE BIRDS: Best bird seed and suet cakes at GOLF AND LAWN!
Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to get rid of the rats. Rats are a health hazard and recently someone was taken to Grassland’s hospital for an unknown disease caused by a rat bite. So set out your rat-traps and hope they’ll work.
Jacky found Faith’s Girl Scout wallet.
Andy’s hut has not been as water-proof as presumed, and has been full of water lately. The boys are going to tear it down.
Bardy Collins is in the hospital with bronchial pneumonia.
Mrs. Collins had dinner with Count Zhukov of Russia a few days ago.
Mr. Wilson is trying to flood their pond, but every time he does it snows.
Christopher has five teeth now. Christopher is already showing the effects of being born on the 4th of July. In “fighting for liberty” a few days ago, he hit Diana in the nose and gave her a bloody nose.
Another room is being planned for the hut in Feld’s back yard. The floor is now made of cracked ice.
The F.B.I. should award Andy a special citation for detecting a Graham Road resident who got on the Scarsdale Bus which meets the 9:05 train to New York and by using the rear entrance would have avoided paying his dime, had it not been for Andy’s eagle-eye and warning cry to the bus driver, “Hey, that guy didn’t pay!”
The newest member of Billy’s library is Diane Roraback. She heartily agrees that everyone should join.
OUR LIBRARY: The Lenox Place Library is doing fine. It has 63 books to read, thanks to the children of Lenox Place who loaned them. If you have not joined the Library and want to, you have to bring two or more books to the Library. If you have a book out and you find you cannot bring it back, telephone SC 3-4406 and have it renewed. The Library one week had 15 books taken out.
The Library is open on Friday from 4;00-4:30. Have you joined the readers?
CARE Report: Sandra has collected $4.26 for the CARE packages. Contributions were given by Faith, Billy, Sandra, Janet, Nancy, and Bobby. More money is needed. Please don’t forget to give your contribution. Do it now!
COASTING: The Freyermuths are very sorry but they have had to close their hill. There have been three serious accidents, and they are responsible for any injuries. People have been too careless and there have been many crashes. Unfortunately, the thoughtlessness of some has made this necessary.
SNOWBALLING: Snowballing can be dangerous. It’s much more fun if you do it safely. Here are some helpful rules:
1. Fire only below the shoulders, never at the head.
2. Don’t make iceballs.
3. Try to keep away from houses. Houses have glass windows. CRASH!
4. Don’t snowball people who don’t want to play. It just leads to trouble!