It’s confession time. While I may be best known as a columnist and author who has documented and celebrated downtown Oklahoma City’s past, present and future, my earliest years were spent in New York. I was born a New Yorker, and lived there until I was eleven years old.
And the community I called home was none other than the cradle of modern suburbia – Levittown (Hicksville, New York – in the township of Oyster Bay).
Consider this excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on Levittown:
Levittown gets its name from its builder, the firm of Levitt & Sons, Inc. founded by William Levitt built the district as a planned community between 1947 and 1951. William Levitt is considered the father of modern suburbia. Levittown was the first truly mass-produced suburb and is widely regarded as the archetype for postwar suburbs throughout the country.
This was the town my mother called home throughout most of her childhood, and it’s where my parents bought their first house on a street called “Hope Lane.” The homes were an idealized reflection of suburban life in the modern world – televisions built into living room walls, one-car garages, and kitchens loaded up with cutting-edge appliances.
It’s a fuzzy memory sometimes – but one that came into clearer focus after I was recently contacted a childhood friend who lived on the same block. We were best friends, but after I moved, a valiant effort to keep in touch as pen pals faded as we became teenagers. Distractions and time take their toll.
The memories are good. Adventures at Jolly Rogers Amusement Park stand out as a favorite. I also remember trips to the “farmers’ market” – which was really a mix of food vendors and a flea market. My childhood memory of fast food does not begin with McDonald’s or Burger King, but rather the colorful burger joint down the street – Wetson’s. Carvel Ice Cream, in my memory, is still far better than anything found today at Braum’s.
Ricky and I were best of friends, running to the Mr. Softee ice cream truck as it approached our block, riding our bikes along the Levittown Parkway to buy Spiderman comics at the Grand Union shopping center, watching cartoons on WPIX, making cupcakes, playing with my electric train set, and, gasp! – pretending we ran a newspaper!
Yep. My dreams of becoming a journalist started back when I was just a kid pretending I was selling Weekly Readers in front of my home. I even had a toy printing press.
Looking back, the developers of Levittown did a lot of things right. It’s a version of suburbia that was lost somehow and replaced with a pretty boring grid of cookie-cutter houses and big box retail. And when I want to create special memories with my own kids, more often than not, we’re downtown.
There is no eloquent ending to this post… just some thoughts and memories to share on this beautiful Sunday in Oklahoma City.