By: Jeff Perlman Editor in Chief
My dad liked to move around a lot.
My mom called him the wanderer and so I attended four elementary schools before we “settled” in Stony Brook, New York before I attended sixth grade. I was always the new kid in school and the new kid on the block. While that presents challenges it also encourages you to become friendly because let’s face it, it’s no fun eating alone in the lunch room.
So while I never became what they used to call “outgoing” I did learn to talk to people and that has come in handy throughout my life.
We lived in a neighborhood known as the “M” section on Moss Hill Place. Every street in the subdivision—built by Levitt Homes—started with the letter “M.” Most of my friends lived in the “S” section (so did comedian Kevin James and his brother Gary Valentine who were classmates.)
My dad got a good deal on the home in 1975. He remembers paying a little under $40,000 for the house. We had moved from Flushing, Queens N.Y. a few years before, lured by ads in the paper by Levitt promising a suburban paradise if you could come up with a $500 to $1,500 down payment.
The “M” section was a nice place, but our house was a fixer-upper and when we visited it was literally trashed. An old man and his sister lived in the home along with several cats. The man was gone for a few days when his sister passed away inside the house. Apparently, many of the cats were locked inside what would become my room. You could imagine the odor when we took a tour.
But it was a nice neighborhood and my parents made our little house on Moss Hill Place a warm and inviting home.
My dad took one garage and built a den, which had stucco and paneling—remember paneling?
We had all of the 70s-style stuff inside the house, burnt orange carpeting, interesting wallpaper and wall-unit air conditioning units and a funky fan system that didn’t seem to do anything but circulate hot air.
On warm days, we would petition my dad to turn on the small AC unit in my room. This required diplomatic and lawyer-like skills, which would also come in handy in later years. Most often, he would relent and we would fire up the AC and stick our faces right in front to cool off. My younger sister Sharon would sleep on the floor of my room on those nights until she was about 12 and they got her a unit of her own.
We had one phone line, which my sister was on non-stop, making it difficult to call home and reach anything other than a busy signal. Call waiting didn’t exist, at least not in our house. We had a rotary dial phone with a cord so private phone conversations were just about impossible. It’s not fun calling a girl’s house and being forced to whisper so your mom and sister don’t hear.
My dad was a pharmacist who owned his own store and he worked long hours. On nights he was home my mom would cook—mostly good stuff but also liver– which we secretly fed to our dog Rusty– a rescue.
When he wasn’t home, we ate TV dinners and tater tots. We loved those Swanson meals and Morton’s chicken. We ate on metal trays and watched TV shows like the Flintstones, Jetsons and Bewitched. After school, it was Mike Douglas in the winter and when we had better weather we were out playing ball until it was dark. There were tons of kids outside and we played stickball, football, street hockey and basketball on my narrow driveway. When I fell in love with tennis I would hit against the garage until my mom would gently urge me to do something else because she thought the house was going to fall down.
Being in suburbia, there was not much to walk to, but we did walk to the nearby Waldbaum’s Shopping Center and were thrilled when a Loews Triplex and a bowling alley opened.
My dad sold that house when I went off to college to Oswego, NY. I think he got triple his money—not too bad.
Eastern Long Island and Stony Brook were great places to grow up—close to New York City, great schools, cute little towns such as Port Jefferson nearby.
I was blessed—even if we had no central air.
Editor’s Note: We would love to hear from our reader’s about your special homes, whether it’s a first home, a childhood house or a favorite relatives domain we urge you to share. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
By: Jeff Perlman Editor in Chief