Picture this: You live in a small neighborhood consisting of 15 houses situated on 4 small streets with only one automobile entrance and exit, which means no thru traffic. This neighborhood is two short blocks from two banks, two supermarkets, a post office, pharmacy, delicatessen, stationery / candy store, cleaners, barbershop, liquor store, and a bar / restaurant. Just two short blocks further is a station for a train that goes south to New York City in 45 minutes or north to Albany and points west. This neighborhood is bounded on two sides by a babbling brook and one side by woods, Got it! “Location, location, location.”
Oh, and now add to this neighborhood approximately 35 active, competitive, playful boys and girls of various ages who can’t stand being indoors, give them unfettered access to most of the yard, and voilá, you’ve got Barney Park in the 40s and 50s.
I lived in Barney Park from 1943 through 1961, in the fourth house on the right past the gates. To me, it was an idyllic time and place to grow up. Back in the day, kids loved to be outdoors. Give them places to play and they will create all sorts of activities to engage in whatever the season. We were very fortunate to have generous and understanding neighbors within the park who allowed us to play in their yards. And each yard had particular aspects that were perfect for specific activities.
Most of the activities I describe were ones that occurred during my days in Barney Park, but they were certainly not unique to my time.
Because Barney Park has only on automobile entrance / exit, the street became one of our playgrounds. We used them to ride bikes; roller skate; play hop-scotch, kickball, “steal the white flag,” and curb ball; hit fly balls with a tennis racket; and sled down the hill in winter. When sledding down the hill, you had two choices when you reached the bottom. You could either go straight into the woods and see how far you could travel towards the brook, or you could make a slight right turn and go flying over the two-foot curb and down into the Briggs / Jones’s yard. For obvious reasons,
going over the curb was the preferred choice. If the street were plowed, not a problem. We would sled down the sidewalk, a more challenging feat. Your steering had to be pretty exact to avoid running into the trees along the way. And you still had those two choices at the bottom of the hill. Oh, the choices . . . and the fun! And when you added more kids to the sled that it could hold, it was even more fun!
Some years we decorated the front gate with Christmas lights and decorations. It was a joint venture among many of the residents. One time we had to climb up on the two pillars to raise the Christmas lights so a large truck could pass through the gates. Way cool!
On the Briggs / Jones and Gorrissen properties were hills we used to roll down and get a buzz (dizzy) doing it. The Briggs / Jones’s backyard had a wall that overlooked the brook. We used this wall when playing “war.” It was the high-ground advantage when shooting at the enemy below. Under their back porch, we used to smoke cigarettes when the Briggs family was away in the summer. We got caught once. Tawny, our dog, led Anna, our house-keeper, right to us. Boy, did we catch it!
When it snowed, we used to sled down the Gorrissens’ larger hill, bounce over the sidewalk and gully at the bottom, cross the street, bounce over the gully on the other side of the road and into the Briggs / Jones’s front yard. The Gorrissens also had a