Sunday, November 17, 2013

Photo-of-the-Week #133 - The First Home (I Remember), Clifton, New Jersey, September 2013

34 Stanley Street, Clifton, New Jersey
Some people never leave their hometown or the area they were raised. Some people leave the area, but return home frequently to spend time with their parents, family and friends. Some people are raised in families where the parents occupation requires them to move frequently, like the military, and they never establish deep roots. And some people just leave, ultimately sever all ties with their hometown and never look back. I am one of the people of the last description. I grew up and lived all but a couple years in my hometown of Clifton, New Jersey then left at age 22, for several reasons, and never looked back. As I jokingly describe my hometown to others, Clifton was a small farming community of close to 100,000 population 12 miles west of New York City. To others who are in the know (they are from New Jersey) I grew up between exits 153 and 154.

A few weeks back I posted a photo of the home I believed was the second place I lived with my parents and I have very scant memories of. The memories are probably a cross between old photos I haven't seen in over 50 years, recalling discussions of the place and minute images that are more dreamlike than real. The home pictured above is 34 Stanley Street in Clifton. This was the first home my parents owned and we moved to this house when I was not yet four years old. I know that because one of the first events I remember happening in that home was the birth of my first of two sisters. The year was either later in 1948 or the very beginning of 1949.

On my September road trip to New Jersey, one of my missions was to visit and take photos of all the homes I lived in, the schools I attended and other important places from my youth. I accomplished that goal. This being the first house I truly remember as a child. I actually remember the names of most of the neighbors within several houses on either side of my block and the kids I played with. I remember several of the kids I went to Public School #5 with. I remember the Bobink Village Shopping Center that was brand new and only about four blocks from our house with a supermarket that was smaller than a current day Walgreen drugstore. I have a vast array of very vivid memories of the approximately 4 1/2 to 5 years at this house.

Physically, the house looks very much the way it did when I last lived there. The white asbestos shingles have been replaced, the color has changed, and the small, young tree in the front yard has grown to a large, mature shade tree. When we moved in there was a fairly large farm that made up the back border of our property. That was sold and developed into more homes before we left the neighborhood and now there are large mature trees lining the back of the property. It was a very small house with only a small living room, eat-in kitchen, a small bedroom my sister and I shared and an only slightly larger master bedroom. We had only one small bathroom and the heat for the entire house came through a grate in the center foyer that was over a coal fired furnace in the basement (that was later converted to an oil burning furnace). My father built a great recreation room in the basement that was the size of half of the house and housed my Lionel electric trains and his home drafting table. The other half of the basement was where the coal bin was originally, the laundry area with the old ringer washing machine my mother had and my father's workshop. The dormer on the front of the house was added about a year before we moved to our next home.

It was just the four of us at that time. We left when I was nine years old and my sister was five years old. From everything I remember it was a happy home and one where I felt secure. I didn't realize how small it was because I really didn't have much of a frame of reference. It was where I saw the "Northern Lights" (the Aurora Borealis). It was where I learned to ride a bicycle and suffered a severely cut hand from a push lawnmower my cousin and I were fooling around with that caused an infection to set in and rage up my arm. I still have the remnant of the scar on my right hand. Needless to say, this part of my history is very rich in memories, life lessons and as a place where I began to form into the person I would eventually become.

Have you returned to your roots? Have you revisited the home or homes you grew up in? Have you relived the events and dreams that launched you into who you have become? Some people don't want to go back to those places in their lives. But, I think it can be a very cathartic experience. I probably won't revisit these places again during the rest of my life. I have the photos and they stimulate the memories. I hope, if you haven't already, that you make the effort to go back and review your personal history. 

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