Monday, October 26, 2015

Growing Up in Larchmont New York in the baby boomer '50's

Recently I attended The Town of Larchmont, NY 125th Anniversary dinner at The Shore Club.  Since I was born and raised there (but did not settle there, god forbid.  Who stayed there?) I went and it was ok, not all that much fun mainly due to the fact that who knew who anyone else was?  My childhood bestie could have passed me right by and we both would not have known each other.  But, I must say that driving through this area known as Larchmont Manor was absolutely breathtaking.  Whenever I return I manage to visit the park during the daytime hours. But, dusk is truly magical.  Quiet and calm,  dreamy and moonlit. Even if the event was a bit whatever, it got me to thinking about my enchanting little village, just one mile square, 20 miles north of NYC.
(My family's residence in Larchmont, NY spanned from 1902 to 1960)

Here are some landmarks that I was lucky enough to cut my teeth on.

Fountain Square - we lived right across the street from this gem.  I used to walk my cocker spaniel in my baby carriage over there for a dip.  No dogs allowed, except of course, for Snoopy.

Manor Beach - Each and every summer day, once I could get around on my own, I would walk down the 2 blocks to the beach.  Every day.   That's the Kerr's house in the background...divine! 
The Good Humor Man - Mel sold ice creams through the hole in the fence at the beach..
 Ten cents for an iced fruit and Fifteen for a special such as Toasted Almond.  That was a big day, spending Fifteen cents on a TA.  Long after Mel was gone, or I had moved every time I saw an ice cream truck, I'd think MEL!!!  Loved that Mel.  
When the beach became old, I  would walk home to chill, and maybe later on, pick up a friend and stop by the Horseshoe Harbor Yacht Club, above, to harass the launch boys for a ride.  We would then retire to the porch rockers to enjoy our Orange Crush out of the vending machine. Icy cold of course.  I can still taste it to this day.  Like ice.
This is a view of the Manor Beach and Point in addition to the Horseshoe Harbor Yacht club to the right.  The point was a great place to walk out to when at the beach to find sea horses and star fish in the rock pools.  Manor Park is over to the far right side.  (Thank you Manor Park Society for preserving this bit of heaven for all these years)  And now I think I know why it was called Horseshoe Harbor...duhhhhhhhhh
The Manor Inn, above, was kitty corner to our house.  Formerly known as The Belvedere Hotel, by the 50's it was an old folks home.  Pretty nice place to be old, with water views.  Never mind about the sirens at night.
 Saw Old Yeller here.  I cried.    Our very own Larchmont Cinema.
St John's Episcopal Church across from our house.  Took ballet and ballroom there.  Honey Adams Dance School (still going strong)

One of the steady old gazebos in Manor Park.  Much photographed and painted. Good hangout, along with the rocks of course.  And I have explored every inch of them.
 Another destination.  Red Bridge, although what's with the color, it's not red anymore.  Hmmm was it ever? Great trick or treating zone..we'd sometimes collect  as much as $5 in the 1950's, that's a fortune.  Still is!  That's actor Walter Slezak's house to the left.  He was the generous one.
One of 3 pagodas in Manor Park.  I think this is probably one of the most painted and photographed scenes ever.  Or is that my imagination?  My father claims to have slept there one night as a teen...up under the umbrella.  I say, highly unlikely Dad.
 St Augustine's Church and School.  Married in the church in 1968, and went to the school a long time ago, along with my sisters and brother.  Dad too.  Still hold a grudge against one nun in particular!
 Small map of the Manor.

Walter and Jean Kerr's house - former NYT Theater reviewer and Jean, author of Please Don't Eat the Daisies.  Jean would drive over to Fountain Square in her convertible to park and write, with her music blasting.  Cool mom, I always thought.  If you read the book, you know that she was the mother of 6.  Posting this because, well, have you ever??  Front windows view LI Sound.

 She cheerfully acknowledged doing most of her writing in the family car, parked several blocks away from the scrambling chaos of several children and pets (''There is nothing to do but write, after I get the glove compartment tidied up'').

This is the guy who made it all possible for me to live my most cherished childhood.  Peter Christian Weisz who emigrated from Germany (with my Grandmother Barbara)  and settled in Larchmont at the turn of the 20th century.

To wrap this up, one of my Larchmont friends asked me recently if I had one word to describe growing up in Larchmont.  I stopped and thought for a minute or two.  Many thoughts ran through my head both positive and negative and believe me there were lots of negatives. I finally replied, magical.  Yes, it was magical.

 Life was a lot simpler then.
From the NYT:

PHYLLIS McGINLEY, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who lived in Larchmont for years, immortalized the village in her poem, ''I Know a Village'':
I know a village full of bees.
And gardens lit by canna torches
Where all the streets are named for trees
And people visit on their porches.
So enthralled was she that the last line reads:
And I'd not willingly, I think
Exchange it for Arcadia or Camelot.
High praise indeed for the one-square mile village along the shores of Long Island Sound. Interesting also, considering that Larchmont is often perceived as the quintessential old-world, old-money suburb. And as such, has come in for its share of good-natured ribbing.
Over the years, Joan Rivers has got tremendous mileage doing comedy routines on her supposedly stultifying teen-age years in Larchmont. And Jean Kerr wrote that suburban paean, ''Please Don't Eat the Daises,'' while living in Larchmont.
She and her husband, Walter, the theater critic, moved to Larchmont in the 1940's. Now a widow, Ms. Kerr still resides in the village, in a Gothic-style carriage house a stone's throw from the Sound, near the privately owned 12.6-acre Manor Park.


  1. Did you know the Killileas, who lived next door to the Kerrs? Marie Killilea spoke about Larchmont often in "With Love From Karen." It sounds and looks magical all right.

    1. Actually yes I did...they lived right behind the Kerr's home with a sign that said Sursum Corda. (Lift up your Hearts) I was there last year and the sign remains. I remember Karen also, although I did not know them personally (I believe son Rory was a year or two older than me.) They lived right across from the Manor Beach and the hole in the fence that I chatted about referring to Mel the ice cream man.