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Those Were the Days My Friend – We Thought They’d Never End

Group Photo in Front of Our Childhood Home in Smithtown with new owners

My brother Terry called yesterday to tell me what a great experience it was to visit our childhood home on Einstein Place. I had gone by there during my last visit to Smithtown, Long Island last month and was very impressed with how the new owners had fixed up the yard. Apparently my sister Mary Ann and her son William were visiting our parents and took a drive over to our old home.

Mary got out of the car and saw a woman shaking out a rug from the porch and called over and said she was just reminiscing about growing up on Einstein Place and next thing she knew the woman invited them in for a tour of the house.  Mary later told me she got very emotional as her childhood memories flooded through her.

I also have many wonderful and vivid memories from growing up in Smithtown back in the 1960’s. Looking back it seems like it was another lifetime.  My memories flicker through my mind like an old scratched up black and white home movie. My family left the New York City for the suburbs of  Smithtown, Long Island back in 1959 and we moved again to the next town in 197o when I started college.  I remember the big yellow bus that picked us up for school every morning on the corner of Brook Lane and Einstein Place.  Johnny, Mary and Margaret Bosco, Mike Smith, the Turner boys and the Murphy’s would all wait on that corner for the bus that took us to Sweetbrier Elementary School. We called our bus driver Chickita Banana for some reason – I just remember that tidbit for some reason.

Sure…we usually only remember the good times growing up, but I must admit I had some difficult times as well. Being a pudgy redheaded kid I got my share of teasing and had to fend off many fist fights back in those early days of childhood. That was all part of growing up and I don’t see it as a bad thing like so many people think today. Johnny Bosco and Mike Smith who lived across the street and adjacent to our corner house would gang up on me when the bus dropped us off in the afternoon.

They would push, shove and punch me around until one day I had enough and tackled Mike and slammed him to the ground and started wailing my fists on him just like the scene in A Christmas Story. Johnny tried to pull me off and I went after him as well. At least that is what I remember. They are both have since died so I can’t ask them what they remember about those early days. I don’t recall getting picked on as much after that incident except for the occasional name calling of “fatty patty” and Keooooo!

What I remember most vividly from those days is all the kids that were always outside playing in the neighborhood. Not like it is today where most children stay inside playing video games, posting to Facebook and texting on cell phones.  The culture has changed dramatically in less than 50 years and I don’t believe for the better. It truly was a different world back then – a more innocent and wholesome environment for children to grow up in – kids could be kids and not have political correctness shoved down their throats and were not subjected to blatant sex and violence on television.  As the talking heads say in their song….”how did I get here”  – well how did we get here? It happened very slowly and incrementally and our culture is continuing to be undermined and debased as Americans go about their business trying to make a living and survive in this tough economy. It’s so easy to turn a blind eye to the destruction of our culture and this great country because most people don’t want to make waves or call attention to themselves for going against political correctness.

When we weren’t in school we were riding around on our Sting Ray bikes with banana seats in search of friends to play with. A few blocks away from our house was the entrance to “the woods” where we played army and/or explored all day long. We made tree forts, shot sling shots and searched for turtles and salamanders in those woods that eventually led to a magical place called “Spooks Pond”.  Mike, Johnny and I captured box turtles, painted turtles, and Bull Frogs in the swampy pond that had 2 very small Islands in the middle of it.  Spooks pond wasn’t the best for fishing, but it was teeming with toads, frogs and turtles.  We did most of our fishing at Miller’s Pond and Weld’s Pond where we caught shiners, sun fish “sunnies”, blue gill, perch and the occasional big catfish. Catties were the big prize we all fished for, but hated to take the hook out of their mouths for fear of getting bitten with their small sharp teeth.

There was always so much to do from the moment we left our homes after breakfast in the morning until Dad whistled for us to come in for dinner. Parents didn’t worry about their kids being out playing in the neighborhood. Mom would just say…”where you going?” – We yelled back… Out to play!

I delivered the Newsday paper to make a little spending money after school and then spent it on comic books, balsa wood airplanes, vanilla sodas, ring dings and devil dogs at “the stores” around the corner from our block.  No wonder I was a pudgy kid.  Man those hostess pastries tasted great washed down with a cold bottle of Hires root beer after delivering my papers.

There was a small clump of woods next to the stores adjacent from George’s Stationary store (where the IRS building stands now) that we all called George’s Gyp Joint where we’d sneak off to smoke cigarettes pinched from our Mother’s packs. I showed up with Lark’s (yuck!) and Mike’s Mom smoked Raleigh’s. God they were strong! I can still recall that harsh tobacco taste to this day. Mike and I sat on an old tree stump in the center of that wooded area smoking and planning our next adventure. Mike was like the Eddie Haskel of the neighborhood. He was very good with his hands and could convert an old discarded lawn mower into a go cart or mini-bike in an afternoon. I can still see him zooming up and down Einstein Place on his make-shift go cart – steering with his feet on the front axle. No helmet by the way.  Yes…those were the days when kids could be kids. Mike loved working on engines and eventually became a mechanic before dieing of carbon monoxide poisoning in his foreign car garage.

Yes there was always something going on in Colonial Oaks during the decade of the sixties. After school and on weekends we played stick ball, curb ball, kick ball, stoop ball, or a game of catcher fliers up. At night it was hide & seek, ringalevio, tag, giant step, red rover, and my personal favorite “who dies the best”. Kids made up all kinds of games  and activities back then. No one stayed indoors unless they were sick or being punished for smoking or disobeying a parent – yes…kids were actually punished back then, something that happened to me on more than one occasion

It’s so hard to believe that was almost 50 years ago. I can close my eyes and still visualize Mike Smith doing wheelies down Einstein Place on his silver Sting Ray bike, Johnny Bosco shooting his pellet gun at bottles lined up in his back yard, my sister Mary Ann playing with her dolls with her best friend Mary Faye on our front stoop while the Good Humor Man rang his bells as he drove around Colonial Oaks.

My family moved to St. James (just 5 miles away) in 1970 and essentially that chapter of my life ended as I prepared to go to New York Institute of technology. For some reason the 1970’s are only a blur to me. (ya think?) I don’t have nearly the vivid memories from that decade as I do from the 60’s. I suppose its because I was focused on succeeding in college and then surviving my years in the US military. From there it was a teaching career and then I blinked and 50 years flew by and I am recently retired and sitting at my kitchen table in North Carolina writing this blog post.

Time shifted from slow motion during the 60’s to fast- forward since leaving Long Island and joining the U.S. Army in 1975.

I feel very blessed to have had such a wonderful childhood experience and will always have special memories of growing up on Einstein Place.

The only thing left as a reminder that my memories are real is our names carved into the light post that sits on the corner of Einstein and Brook lane

It’s 2012 and America is no longer the America I grew up in.


5 comments on “Those Were the Days My Friend – We Thought They’d Never End

  1. Mary Flanagan
    July 9, 2012

    Hey Patrick, Loved reading up on the old days. I was younger and didn’t go as far around the neighborhood as you did, but I do remember most of the adventures that you write about. I’m glad I was also a child of the sixties, I feel sorry for the kids today, growing up so fast, it’s sad. I vaguely remember a funny story about you coming home from the store with shiny black pointy “hoody shoes” as Mom called them, boy, did you get in alot of trouble!!!!! It’s weird what comes back to my mind. Thanks for writing down so much of the past. I’ll always be able to look back and reminisce.

  2. June Giuliani (formerly Famiglietti)
    November 22, 2015

    Just saw your blog post from 3 years ago. Boy did it bring back some great memories. I lived with my three sisters directly behind the Bosco’s on Georgetown place, smoked in the woods by George’s Luncheonette and ice skated and fished at Miller’s pond. You are most definitely right – one could not ask for a better childhood. I currently live in Virginia but remember Colonial Oaks in Smithtown with a smile permanently etched in my heart. Thank you for bringing back some terrific memories.

  3. Alan Jones
    June 17, 2016

    I find your association w/ Mike Smith of great interest. I also grew up in Smithtown (Hallock Acres) and worked with a Mike Smith at United Foreign Car on Rt 25, just east of the Terry Rd intersection, from 1970 -71. Great guy, funny memories and all. I had no further contact with him when I left that job for another and moved east to Middle Island. I must believe it’s the same man..

    • Patrick Keough
      June 17, 2016

      Yes is is the same guy Alan. He grew up across the street from me in Smithtown. One of my best childhood friends. Very sad how he ended his life. Very sad!!

  4. Paul J. Bosco
    September 2, 2017

    Hi, “Paddy”–

    Gee, I don’t remember you being all that pudgy…

    Paul Bosco here. You should have complained to me, if John picked on you. I would have made him stop. Mixed blessing that I am. i would have also (had I caught you and Mike Smith) slapped those cigarettes right out of your little mouths! And then probably make you thank me for it.

    I will try to look at some more of your blog entries. I started a blog in 2010 and am now up to two entries.

    Next time you are in Manhattan you should look up some Boscos. We are legion! Mary has just retired and is even happier than that proverbial clam. Margee (in CT) stays in touch with Mary Anne (who visited my store in a sort of stealth attack).

    Reading this entry, I was just riding along with almost exactly the same memories. I wonder how it reads to people who didn’t grow up halfway out on Long Island, as it was first being settled by NYC escapees. I think it was very different from Nassau County, which was settled a decade or so before, by people rich enough to escape the city earlier, and rich enough to buy closer to NYC, where so many of the dads worked.

    Question: What is the OPPOSITE of “politically correct?” Is it any better? And who is PC, anyway? For example, I think those Confederate statues should be moved, but leave Columbus alone!

    Spook’s Pond! I guess I last went to see it in the mid-1970s. All gone. When the Boscos moved to Einstein Place (from Albany) in 1959, the woods was about 50 feet from our door. Your house and Brook Lane were a couple years in the future. Colonial Oaks just kept spreading, as the city kept spewing its comparative malcontents into the suburbs, where they could live in houses with kids and cars, surrounded by grass and trees. Where your neighbors were next door, not upstairs and downstairs. (Why was that so different — or was it??) There is nothing unusual about the fate of Spook’s Pond. All over Long island –flat Long Island, where mountains are unknown and hills are unimpressive– nature is submerged under the ubiquitous housing developments.

    One night, probably my junior year at Stony Brook, I heard on radio WBAI a woman reading a memoir about moving to Manhattan. Which she hated. She got her first apartment, a dump looking out on the Brooklyn Bridge, and she swore she would move back home, as soon as she’d saved up the money.

    “it turned out it was the Queensboro Bridge, and I lived in that apartment for the next ten years.”

    Stony Brook, 1968-72, was a pretty exciting environment, but I knew in that instant, I would move to Manhattan the moment I graduated. In actuality, it took two weeks, because my mother needed some house painting.

    I’ve escaped the flatness and the sameness of Long Island. I mix constantly with people who are variously hued or openly Jewish or unambiguously foreign –which to me includes visitors from North Carolina. I pass in and out of buildings with my favorite things: food and art. I’ve sold stuff to Sly Stallone, I practically ran Michael Jackson out of my store and I argued with Alec Baldwin (as does everyone, eventually) for the sheer joy of taking on a master of that voluble art. (Still waiting for Tina Fey!) I wanted a life that would propagate a blog’s-worth of stories, and, pretty much, I’ve gotten it.

    But I never forget Einstein Place.

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2012 by in Book Project, Keough Journal and tagged , , , .
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