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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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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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