.

Growing Up on Long Island

Growing up on Long Island and elsewhere, times have changed. Share your memories of childhood.

Life was a giant block party to the Baby Boomers who grew up on Long Island in the 1950s.  Popular historian Doris Kearns Goodwin remembers the open-door policy of her Rockville Centre neighbors: “we didn’t knock on doors.  We just raced in, gathering up our gang.”

The gang grew by leaps and bounds.  By 1960, Long Island’s median age was just 30, and more than half of its population was under age 20.  Communities with one-room schoolhouses at the end of the World War II – Island Trees, Plainedge, and Brentwood – now scrambled furiously to catch up with house construction and the birth rate, building dozens of new schools.  

Outside their neighborhoods and schools, young kids popped their gum, stretched their legs and raced their mouths at plenty of fun spots, including Nunley’s Amusement Park in Baldwin, and Lollipop Farm in Syosset.  Teenagers lived at Jones Beach or caught the latest cowboy or Brando flick at the old Hempstead Calderone Theater or the Rocky Point Drive-In.  By the spring of 1956, as Alan Freed’s national radio program (carried locally on WABD) blasted out tunes from Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard, rock and roll took many Long Island teens by storm.  One 14-year-old East Meadow girl – self-described as one of Elvis’s biggest and “first” fans – ran away from her parents in 1957 to Memphis to try to catch up with the crooner.  “I thought if I came here I might become his secretary or something,” she told the startled reporter that found her.

Where did you grow up?  What things do you miss most about your hometown?  What do you see as improvements?   Where did you dream of ending up when you were 12?  Are you there yet?

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Linda Schwartz December 15, 2012 at 03:42 PM
you can say that again, Frank. Times sure have changed. I remember riding my bike, playing with my friends (none of this computer stuff or text messaging, facebook. We actually talked and played face to face with my friends)
Papa Tom December 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM
When it comes to this subject, I can go on and on. But the memory of my Long Island childhood (late 60's/early 70's) that says it all is the whimsical bicycle riding that took me and my friends all over the region almost every day during the summers. Starting out from Syosset early in the morning, we would ride sidewalks all the way to Roosevelt Field, leave our bikes, unlocked, on a rack outside the entrance, and spend the entire morning and afternoon strutting around the air-conditioned stores. For less than a dollar, we'd have two slices of pizza and a soda for lunch. Then, when we'd exhausted whatever coins we had in our pockets, we'd get on our bikes and ride home in time for dinner. Most amazingly, our parents wouldn't even bat an eyelash when we told them where we'd been.
Candyee December 17, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Growing up in East Meadow in the 60's was a magical time... We walked everywhere we could or , took a bus to Jones Beach , shopping in Hempstead, Roosevelt Field, Mid Island Shopping plaza.. Before they were malls! Levittown Roller rink, Meadowbrook Movie theater, Dave Shors restaurant , Empress or Colony Diners.... Westbury , 110 Drive Ins .. No one ever bothered us.We could walk the streets at midnight . How things have changed ..so sad .
Candyee December 17, 2012 at 02:41 AM
YES , life was "one big block party".. I miss those days
North Fork Bob December 17, 2012 at 03:31 AM
New people were moving into new houses like crazy I added them to my paper route.Since Newsday gave prizes for orders my friends and I went everywhere.My new neighbors wanted their lawns mowed so my friends and I did it..Babysitting? That was my sister and her friends.We all had it made and spent money having a ball..
Marilyn December 17, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I was able to walk home from my elementary school from grades 4 to 6 alone, taking a shortcut across a school field & then cutting through my High School's parking lot. Once I was in my Junior/Senior HS, I used to walk with my friends to Roosevelt Field, Hempstead, the library etc. Before I had my license, I rode my bike home from all of my friend's homes no matter what time it was. The world has changed.....
Frank December 17, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Today, who walks home from school? What parent would let them? I used to cut through neighbors' backyards... Today, you could get shot or abducted for god's sake for doing just that! Ballfields back in the day were filled with pick-up games... Today... virtually empty unless it's organized by adults.
Gil Harris December 18, 2012 at 05:04 AM
We came to Kings Park in 1949 from N.Carolina. Believe me, things were differant then. Everyone worked in the State Hospital.There was always someone on your block to watch the kids. Baby strollers were outside Bohack while Mom was inside shopping. Everybody ran a tab til payday. Boys delivered Newsday,mowed lawns etc. Girls baby sat,etc. In 1955 I washed dishes in the Park Diner for $.35 cents per hour. Mr. McWilliams taught me how to cook on the grill and raised my salary to $.40 cents an hour. In school you were well behaved or you got punished. Everyone was addressed as Mr. or Misses. I have fond memories and could go on with stories forever. Today is tough being a child and I'm glad to be from the "old days". GOD BLESS AMERICA
jks December 18, 2012 at 11:54 PM
I grew up in Lindenhurst near the great south bay. We rode our bikes everywhere and roller skated wherever we found smooth sidewalks, After dinner kids from the neighborhood played stickball out on the street. We had chores and then played outside, if mom wanted us she would just yell for us. Life was a lot simpler and more fun.
George Mulligan December 19, 2012 at 12:52 AM
I was a young person in the 1950's. My parents moved to Port Washington from upper Manhattan because the commute to the "City" was pretty good. When I had free time we played the big three sports (baseball, basketball & football). I attended a Catholic elementary school with over 50 children per class. Disipline was one nun with a ruler. No one was aware of any dangers in the suburbs. We played all day and into the night. "Hide and Seek" was a favorite game. When I was about ten I started riding my bike the 1.5 miles to school. I also remember my mother taking driving lessons so she didn't have to push the shopping cart or baby carriage from the A & P on Port Blvd back to Salem Lane. It was an ideal time and an age of innocence. I have nothing but fond memories of growing up on Long Island.
gemi bear December 23, 2012 at 02:01 PM
My husband 'vaguely' remembers something, he was very young, so very hazing, a shooting at one of the Massapequa schools... in the late 50s' early 60s?? We can't google it, so he is not sure if it is a 'wrong' memory? Did anything happen in this area back then??? Anyhooo, I believe the biggest reason these shootings are happening are-the Lindsey and other laws in the late60s, 70s, making it ALOT HARDER to get people who are mentally ill help. YES, THERE WERE PEOPLE in institutions who should have never been in them-by relatives, 'friends' trying to get a hold of their estates, etc., and just plain evil people, but after that, so many 'ill' people are now living on the streets, etc. I used to, in the 80s work off of PARK AVE, in NYC, very nice area, but even there, we had at least 4 people on said corners who in their minds, had whole groups with them, arguing, shouting, etc. Go to worse neighborhoods, you found alot more. These people needed help. And I am sure they and others are still around. Also, forget gun laws, etc. because years ago, it was ALOT easier to get a gun. STOP HAVING THESE TRAGEDIES playing out 24/7 on the news !!! Besides feeling so bad for the people in NEWTON-they can't even TURN ON TV!! and their kids, the survivors are home-they need to go straight to Cartoon network?? =It can be seen as a GLORIFICATION for those with a sick mind.
gemi bear December 23, 2012 at 02:08 PM
YES, I know, glorification is sick. But, this shooter in Newton, (Col. movie shooter, too) he had problems, I do not know what, too many lies have come out of the news because networks have had to GET IT OUT 1ST! (like his mother was a K teacher at sandy hook-neither she nor him had anything to do with the school). My therapist, when I asked, said, he will wait to see what comes out, then he will make a comment-(to me, any person who, I am sure, asks him). These people, I can only assume, have come to the end, that they figure they are not going to live on, and what to go out famously (IMFAMOUSLY)-it does not matter it will be neg. at that point. I can only figure they figure their name will live on. We must have had 'killings' before, but, our NEWS has changed. Blame has changed too. Instead of blaming the shooter outright-HIS MOTHER-for having guns- Video games, tv. how easy it is to get guns, etc. TAKE THE BLAME BACK!!! These shooters are sick, DO NOT PUBLISH THEIR NAMES!!!
Candyee December 24, 2012 at 01:32 AM
gemi bear... I have no memory of a shooting in Massapequa schools.. ..That was a very rare occurence back then . As you say,yrs ago it was much easier to get guns but yet we did not have the tragedies as we do today .. The media has become what the Enquirer was yrs ago.. Everything , including weather ,is sensationalism !
Joe December 24, 2012 at 02:05 AM
There absolutely was a shooting in Massapequa HS back in the late 50's or early 60's. A male student brought a shotgun into the school and killed a fellow male student in the boys bathroom. I remember the incident. Recently I was having a conversation with a male who remembered the entire incident. You may be able to archive info in the old LI Press.
Jim December 24, 2012 at 04:53 AM
May 1, 1958 in Massapequa, New York. 15-year-old freshman Timothy Wall is shot to death by fellow classmate Bruce Zator in a washroom of Massapequa High School.
kenneth smith December 25, 2012 at 01:09 AM
First of all that's me in the picture at the end of the bike train. I'm Ken Smith and I sent that picture into the Levittown Museum and the Smithsonian Museum several years ago. The comment that went with this picture was " Back when the only traffic was on the sidewalk". This was taken in front of my house on Pewter Lane with my three best friends Barbara, Robert and Debbie. I was wondering how this picture came to be in this article.
Candyee December 25, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Kenneth Smith ... what a wonderful picture .. We grew up in a wonderful time.. my grandchildren will never know.. I hope you find out how this picture ended up in this article ..But I am glad it did.. BTW ....meet me at Mays..we can walk to Meadowbrook Movie theater or the roller rink ... ALL SKATE,,, then Jahns...
kenneth smith December 25, 2012 at 03:38 AM
I guess I should add a few more thoughts about about growing up on long Island. My mother was in the hospital delivering me when my father was moving us into our just finished Hicksville home. I do have a "Christmas Story" memory walking with my older brother and his friends in a snow storm and I fell down and couldn't get back up because of my cotton stuffed coat, two sweaters, and two shirts with a scarf wrapped around me with my two arms sticking straight out. We would play all kinds of basic games like marbles, baseball card flipping, Stoop ball, Running bases and dodge ball. We would eat lunch at who evers house we happened to be at when we got hungry. My Mother worked for several years when I was in my teens at the Levittown Roller Rink. This really helped me meet girls backed then since I could get in for free. I had more friends in one year then my kids have had through their whole childhood. seems all we have now is organized playing and sports. So sad. We built motorbikes, go-karts, tree houses and still found safe swimming holes to go swimming in. What I loved most of all back then was exploring, Either old barns and buildings or through the woods with my best friends. Sometimes we would just walk as far as we could through neighborhoods to try and meet new people.
Joe December 25, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Merry Christmas Ken, thanks for your memories. I suppose you shared the "Kitchen Sink" with friends at Jahn's once or twice. And we didn't ever worry about the cooties in the ice cream bowl or if our greeting was politically correct. How about our first skate boards. Where we separated a pair of American Flyers Skates and nailed the halves to the ends of a 3 foot length of a 2x4 and called it a skate board. Do you remember when the McDonalds on Hempstead Tpke, opened? When they changed the # sold sign on the bottom of the Golden Arches sign every time they went over a million or so. Wetsons, Tad's Steaks or Jolly Rogers? Bumper cars? Not enough space to list all the good times. But what I remember most was my friends. We never did anything without the usual cast of suspects until that tour of the far east interrupted everything. We are the lucky ones!
Irene Miscione December 29, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I love your picture! I grew up on the island in the 50's and 60's and those were my happiest memories ever. I remember drawing with chalk in the street to play hop-scotch, riding bikes, roller skating and playing hide and seek. It kept us busy from sunrise to sunset! We were all very active and NEVER sat around like kids today do.
michael mirra January 07, 2013 at 12:05 AM
I grew up in Old Bethpage back in the 1950's & 60's. The closest towns in 1954 were Farmingdale & Bethpage. Milk was delivered to the side door every couple pf days & the Kruge Bakery truck delivered to the house also a couple of times a week. I remember a strike when the milk trucks stopped running & there had been a bad snowstorm. About 4 of the Fathers, mine included walked through the blizzard, about 4 miles each way into downtown Bethpage so their kids could have milk. I remember as a young adult going to a place called PJ's in downtown Farmingdale that was the big surfer hangout bar in the late '60s. As a kid, I was only home for supper. I was on the street with my friends all day. The kids today are lost without electronics. It's a shame & they don't have a clue about it.
michael mirra January 07, 2013 at 12:12 AM
Joe remembers the Mc Donnalds on hempstead tpk & the sign every time they added another million. I remember that too. Bumper cars & Jolly Roger. It really brings back old times. I live in florida now & thought the only reason kids stay inside all day is because it's too hot. From what people write here, it seems like kids all over have no life anymore. I'm glad my youth was when it was & on long island. If I was a kid today, I'd be very depressed.
michael mirra January 07, 2013 at 12:24 AM
There used to be an old abandoned & overgrown dirt road that led from old bethpage through the back woods & past open fields, called the Old Motor Parkway, that the kids used to take as a shortcut that could take us by bike right into the heart of the Bethpage State Park Picnic Grounds. In the elate 50s or early 60s I remember construction begining in that area. In the early 70s they had just opened the Old Bethpage Village Restoration & I remember having the illusion of going back in time shattered when a jet plane flew overhead. In those days test jets used to practice 'breaking the sound barrier' over the long Island skys. They made an explosive noise when they went faster than the speed of sound.
michael mirra January 07, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Camille wrote about Jahns, Is Jahns still there? It was when I left Long Island in 1972. That was 40 years ago. I imagine it's gone.
michael mirra January 07, 2013 at 12:35 AM
kennith wrote>We built motorbikes, go-karts, tree houses and still found safe swimming holes to go swimming in. What I loved most of all back then was exploring, Either old barns and buildings or through the woods with my best friends. Sometimes we would just walk as far as we could through neighborhoods to try and meet new people. I hear that!!!! Generations before us also made their own games, like kick the can, etc. Electronic technology has been the destruction of this forever. The shame is that these kids will never know, or uderstand what it could have been like to be alive as a child & not a tech zombie shut in. My ex's kids don't even go to school. They are schooled by some state run computer program in Philly. God how I pitty today's youth.
michael mirra January 07, 2013 at 12:45 AM
In some parts of the country kids do still walk home from school. My ex's kids had to walk here if Florida. They only bus kids from over two miles away. My ex doesn't drive & I had to leave for work too early to drive them. A lot of kids in this neighborhood walked with them, but it's really hot here from April till school ended in May & school stars here in August & it's too hot. That's about the only outdoor execise they got though & walking 2 miles each way 5X a week was good for their health. Today these same kids go to school in their own home on a computer hook up from some ceteral school district in Phillidelphia. They have no school social life & no exercise.
michael mirra January 07, 2013 at 12:50 AM
I delivered Newsday too. I always remeberd that when I'd hear the song American Pie. "February made me shiver, with every paper I'd deliver"
Joe January 07, 2013 at 03:35 AM
Hey Mike; I remember Old Motor Parkway and the way to Bethpage Park. Buying a hot dog at the stand up the hill. Caddying, and doing a double. When I was a Sea Scout the leaders had us hike from Linden St. (SSPKY) up to the park. We took a detour to Stern's Pickle factory for some huge nickle pickles. My mouth is watering! Jahn's and Stern's are gone now. Does anyone remember opening day every April 1st Trout Fishing at the Massapequa Reservoir ? The lake would be ringed with hundreds of boys and men fishing for the stocked trout. We would ride our bikes down there at sunrise. And can you imagine we didn't have to have a cell phone because our parents knew we would be there. They would have to come and tell us, enough already it's time to come home. I also remember the milk strike. I remember a few TOBAY trucks drove upstate NY to pick up as much milk as they could put on the truck. The milk delivery became a political issue and the TOBAY highway supervisor, George Schmidt lost his job over it. Thats when government put us first!!!! Not like the, whats in it for me people in office today.
George Geiger January 18, 2013 at 10:42 PM
I grew up in Mineola in the 1950's. The Old Motor Parkway went through Mineola. My friends and I would go through a potato field and woods to get to it. On Saturday we would go to the Mineola Movie Theater to see a double feature and cartoons. It cost a quarter. We used to go to the Mineola Fair at Roosevelt Field. I had a paper route delivering "The Long Island Daily Press". We stood on the overpass at the Long Island Rail Road Station in Mineola while the steam engines went by underneath blowing coal smoke up at us. My dad opened the Bohack Super Market in Mineola. My friends and I would go to the store and he would give us a thick slice of balogna and a dill pickle. We cleared a vacant lot and made a ball field out of it. We were never in the house unless it rained and then we would play in the celler. Today, my grandchildren spend most of the their time in the house playing video games. Times sure have changed, and not for the better.
MARTIN DREW October 27, 2013 at 09:56 AM
Grew up - EAST HAMPTON - riding motorcycles through real open space ..in the woods - BEFORE - self agenda types OUTLAWED the creators of the BACK HIGHWAY TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM - You don't think DEER made all those trails YOU hijacked..do you? Those were the days ... Life / liberty in the pursuit of Happiness.

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