A throwback to what made my father happy

On Long Island, at a happy place with Frank, Fran and Dory.

On Long Island, at a comforting place with Frank, Fran and Dory.

One look at this photo, and memories of what brought my father Frank joy smack me in the back of the head.

Yeah, sometimes he’d do that, too, figuratively, with just one of his parental death stares.

But not when we were tooling around the village of Stony Brook.

Our father was proud of this last stop in our family climb up the Greater New York ladder of socioeconomic progress.

Brooklyn was old school family. There was church, there were stores, there were both sets of grandparents. Life as Frank always knew it greeted him on ever street corner. But the apartment was restricting and up too many stairs for a little kid. The work company had moved from Manhattan, east to Long Island.

Levittown was a first-house escape and a new world. There were new friends, parties to play Yahtzee, barbecue burgers and drink Manhattans, a big park adjoining the backyard for my sandlot exploits. But the rooms were tiny, there was no heat in my upstairs bedroom, and his two little daughters had to share one room.

Stony Brook, ah, Stony Brook. Our next door neighbor, dear Alex Lewicki, was my dad’s guru at work. The school district was one of the best on Long Island. Four bedrooms. Somehow, the girls and the parents still decided they’d share one of them, upstairs across from the master, while I got one by myself on the first floor, with a “den/guest bedroom” next to it.

And there was the village of Stony Brook.

Our father loved driving us the couple of miles to the north shore of Long Island to walk around the quaint village.

Above, we are pictured at the duck pond. Mom Dolores — I figure she’s the one who snapped the picture — would save the old bread and rolls so we all could feed the ducks. I would skim flat stones. We’d poke around that old Grist Mill and think about what old grist mills used to do in the history of Long Island.

Just up the road was village access to the water.

The spot at the shore of the Long Island Sound had a concrete dock that stretched hundreds of yards. All of us would bring fishing poles and cast our lines down below. We’d lure flounder. Bluefish. Snappers. Fluke. So many fish to go in the bucket to bring home. My parents loved eating that freshly caught fish for dinner. Me, not so much. I didn’t even like taking them off the hook.

Down the grade was the rocky sand. I did not like to walk on the stones barefoot. Braver souls swam here. But my preferred swimming spot was another couple of miles up the road, in Old Field. At West Meadow Beach, they’d brought in sand.

But it was always the village of Stony Brook itself that had my dad’s heart. A heavy metal, motorized eagle adorned the post office store front. On the hour, it would flap its wings.

Frank loved watching those moments. I think it marked the ascent in his life.

Have you come across old pictures that make memories flood back about that time in your family life? Where do you think your parents liked living the most?

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59 thoughts on “A throwback to what made my father happy

  1. Such description. You can write your music and movie reviews, but, man, you sure have a gift of telling a story and painting a picture. Those stares… I know those. The environment of Stony Brook is easily seen, and the photo is a perfect nudge to help your readers with a little frame of reference.

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    • I commented on my LinkedIn page how folks now must remember to save all the iPhone photos for their kids. Maybe decades down the line, progress in photography will make these as quaint as our black and white family albums. Thanks, Victoria.

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      • That’s a great idea Mark! I know I save all mine and can’t even begin to think what photography will be like years down the road.
        -:)

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  2. I remember reading a book by David Halberstam called “The Fifties,” which spoke of Levittown, a place I had never before heard of. I could hear The Monkees singing “rows of houses that are all the same, and no one seems to care.” But I thought it sounded cool. If Mrs. Green has got a TV in every room, how cool! I always wanted a backyard bbq and picket fences and what appeared to be safety and security. What a neat childhood you must have had. I would read your autobiography, Mark. Get crackin’. That’s what being laid off is for… ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Mark, thank you for this window onto another world. My only understanding of Long Island is based on The Great Gatsby and Ina Garten!

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  4. oh, i love this picture so much mark, and the memories are priceless. isn’t it interesting that, even as children, we pick up many nuances/unsaid things from our parents just from their actions and emotional reactions to them? i love old pics too, i have a memory and story attached to most every one. )

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    • It’s quite amazing how all the thoughts come flooding back all these years later, Beth. The photos allow me to crystalize thoughts and feelings that have been swimming around unattended for decades.

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  5. What a great story and a lovely photo! I’ve seen several signs for grist mills and still don’t know what one is or what they do or did. I was hoping you’d elaborate. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for another great post! ๐Ÿ˜€

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    • It was a time, all right, Sandra. I forgot to mention how much I loved my little sisters’ matching ponchos, too. My mom liked to do stuff like that for them. I hope you had a great day for Oliva’s third birthday today. I am sorry that until today I was mistakingly calling her Olivia. Lo siento mucho.

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      • It was a great day Mark. Thanks for asking. And it was fun to receive bday wishes from dear friends like you! Please don’t worry. It’s a common mistake. The poor love has so many nicknames she answers to just about anything. ๐Ÿ˜‰ no te preocupes amigo mio! Buenos noches!

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  6. I loved this post so much, Mark! I think that it is always nice to reflect back on our parents’ progress, their sources of pride and the way you all were as a family impresses me, too! Mom with her bread for the birds and ducks, fishing poles and the way the eagle represented the ‘ascent’ in his climb in employment! Great memories and it is somewhat how I feel about the direction of houses I lived in, until my parents ‘reverted’ to a ‘cottage’ when they retired at age 55 and went off in a mini RV called a Transvan. To them, camping was this fun stuff of stopping to grab grandchildren or being alone, on the road from Maine to Florida to California, both the northern and southern trips taken… We have similar lives, Mark, in that I loved journalism and writing from middle school on! Smiles, Robin

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    • It is an interesting step in this life of ours when parents evolve post-kids and do their own thing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on how your mom and dad went their own way. Happy Easter weekend, my friend.

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  7. Loved your trip down memory lane. Stony Brook sounds like an idyllic location. It reminds me of growing up in North Syracuse, a beautiful village where I knew all my neighbors and enjoyed ice skating and roller skating there. It was my folks’ first home. West Amboy also had its appeal. We grew some of our own field and lived on 66 acres. (Lonely for me, though.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

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