“Summer In The City”

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In the summer of 1958, when I was eleven, my mother, siblings and I spent two months with my grandparents. They lived in Buffalo, New York and also had a summer farm in Pike, New York. We traveled by train, arriving in Buffalo hot and tired, ready to spend time there until we all decamped to Pike. Above is a piece of the map illustrating my grandparents’ house and the adjacent streets.

We lived in a neighborhood with no sidewalks.  The area had pretensions of being in the country and forbid any commercial enterprises. To my amazement my grandparents’ house had a long sidewalk in front and sidewalks forming grids in each direction. I promptly put on my aunt’s discarded roller skates and learned how to race up and down the walks. Most wonderfully of all, the house was two blocks from Hertel Avenue. Hertel Avenue, a commercial street, offered candy and comic books. My eight year old brother and I could not believe it when the adults said we were allowed to walk up to Hertel Avenue on our own. So for our time in the city I skated around and around a four block circle and  occasionally walked up to Hertel Avenue.

The benefits of this kind of neighborhood over the one I lived in made a lasting impression on me. When I first bought a home of my own, I insisted on sidewalks and a corner store. When we moved to Connecticut, I again listed sidewalks as a non-negotiable feature. Since much of Connecticut has the same prejudice against sidewalks, this limited us somewhat. Still we found our home, sidewalks galore, with stores and shops an easy walk away. No more “planned communities” for me.

 

30 thoughts on ““Summer In The City”

  1. We have pavements (sidewalks) on our road in Beetley, and all the surrounding village roads too. But they run out once on the main road, so it is not advisable to try to walk on those, facing oncoming traffic. We have no shops for candy and comics, or for anything else. To get to one, we have to drive at least three miles, or take a very long walk across fields.
    I don’t mind too much. For 60 years, I lived with pavements on every single street, and shops on all four corners.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Who knew sidewalks could be so important??? I grew up in a small town in Tennessee. Our street was also a state highway and had few cross streets. We had a sidewalk from the city limit to the center of town, but it was seldom used. Nobody walked. 25 years ago, when I started walking in the morning, I used that sidewalk for exercise when I went to visit my parents. It was fun to walk in my hometown on sidewalks I had never used.

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    1. I walked everywhere as a kid, it was just that there were no stores. There were definitely a lot of shortcuts through woods and other peoples’ yards. We knew them all.

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  3. I agree – sidewalks are a non-negotiable feature for my neighbourhood. In fact, anytime we move we look at walkscore.com to see what the walk, bike, and transit scores are for the area. If it’s too low we won’t live there.

    It’s paid off especially now during the pandemic. It is so important to be able to walk or bike to the store or bike to work. Yes, our transit system is operating but the less I have to share a small metal box with other people the better.

    I grew up in a place like you did, it sounds. There was a general store a mile or so away from home if I really wanted to walk somewhere but otherwise there was nothing. And our dirt road had no sidewalks at all. There were benefits to being that far from things, but I would much rather have had the mobility my son had in his early teens to what I had.

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      1. The really crazy thing is that my grandparents never had a car or knew how to drive yet they always managed to live without one first in a town of less than 2,000 and later in one of less than 300. Sure, sometimes family would drive them to a supermarket but they always lived within walking distance from anything they needed – a couple of small markets, a drug store, and for me the library and swimming pool. In the early 80’s they even got regional public transit that you could take 1-2 times a week to go to a supermarket, department store, or later when it was built, a shopping mall. Looking back I’m pretty sure that this informed my attitude about public transit as much as getting around by bike in my early teens informed my attitudes about utility cycling.

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        1. Wow – I never thought of that but of course that makes sense. I wondered why some VERY posh neighbourhoods here had transit and of course that must be why!

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  4. It sounds lovely, Elizabeth. I learned to roller skate on the street. At that time we were living in a small town in the Western Cape, called George. I fancied myself as Flashdance on roller skates.

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  5. My grandparents lived in a similar scene. We were allowed to walk to the corner store to get my grandmother’s shopping, with wicker basket in hand & of course she always gave us coins to pick our own bag of lollies (candy) as a special treat. We knew all her neighbors & the couple who owned the shop, we loved it! 😀
    Bless you,
    Jennifer

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