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.