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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

South Jersey Roots

                                                                             

Just returned home from a joyous occasion; the 80th birthday party of Terri Lewis; a neighbor from the The ‘Boro; short for my hometown of Willingboro, NJ.  This octogenarian whose youthful energy and appearance belies her age, was being celebrated by her children, grandchildren, extended family, friends and neighbors. As I walked into the catering hall which held what looked to be 100 or so smiling and laughing people, I found myself in a twilight zone experience, a time travel journey. No way were these people from my past in our 40’s and 50’s and their parents in their 70’s and 80’s. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we answered the call of the Good Humor and Mr. Softee trucks and oohed and ahhed at the 4th of July fireworks and watched movies at The Fox Theater and hung out at The Willingboro Plaza, enjoying banana splits at the Woolworth counter (the price was based on popping one of the balloons that hung over the counter and seeing what number appeared on the slip of paper contained within it ) and pedaled bikes through Mill Creek Park, up and down streets within sections of the town (one of the original Levittowns…sister towns in NY and PA) with names beginning with various letters of the alphabet,  (I grew up in Pennypacker Park and all the street names began with the letter ‘P’, )and spent all summer long turning into virtual prunes from being in the pool from sun-up to sun down and went sledding on the hill at Levitt Junior High?  Sitting at the table with Kathy Bradley and her Dad and the Etters whose daughter Denice and I grew up together, we reminsced about ‘remember when’?  Kathy and I laughed when I commented that it was truly amazing that any of us had functional brain cells, since like many children of the 60’s, a summertime twilight activity was chasing after the bug spray truck and riding our bikes through the wafting mist… 

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I shared with Kathy about my Mom’s butterfly stories since her passing and she cried in remembrance of her own beloved mother who had died in the 1990’s.

The catering hall was on the grounds of the former home of the Super 130 drive-in where my family would go for an evening of entertainment; my sister Jan and myself clad in our p.j.’s, playing on swings and sliding board pre-movie.

After a sweet time with these blast from the past folks who were pivotal in my childhood, I took  a trip down memory lane which I knew would be more bitter than sweet by driving on Pheasant Lane.   I fully anticipated being dismayed, since I had been there 5 years or so ago, but when I slowly drifted past 123 (my home address), I cried when I saw what had become of the house my parents had taken such good care of.  Unkempt grass and shrubs, broken down walls and windows in dis-repair….even if people are not financially able to make renovations, it felt sad to think that these folks didn’t care enough about themselves to keep up with the place.  My parents had beautiful roses, tulips and forsythia, holly bushes and pussy willows…fruit and veggie gardens, in which strawberries lay like a carpet in the earth and zucchini the size of baseball bats would flourish. My mom used to make the most wonderful chocolate chip zucchini bread. I can still smell the aroma wafting forth from the kitchen. As I drove by, I hoped that the tears would symbolically water the ground that cried out in neglect.

I am grateful for my Garden State roots and have learned the poignant truth..that you really CAN go home again, knowing that you carry it with you, just like transplanting a plant..you take some of the old soil into the new pot, so that it can grow full and lush and beautiful.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Linda

    This is a wonderful article about long abiding friendships and honoring our past and acknowledging that we carry home with us where ever we go.

    What has happened to Willingboro is a disgrace. I living and worked in the Boro from 1971 to 1984. It was a vibrant community where nearly everyone took care of their homes; and if you didn’t the township would and add it to your tax bill. I spent many of summers with my little son at Millcreek park kiddie pool in the shape of a whale equipped with it own sprinkler. Our little group of 5 moms would round up our kids, our picnic baskets in mid-morning a head over to the park. There was a covered picnic area, a great little playgound and of course the pool. We would stay until it was clearly afternoon nap time and look forward to the next day. We would walk the bike trails in the Autumn and ice skate and sled in the Winter and play a little tennis in the Spring. Willingboro was a wonderful multi-racial, interfaith community where all could thrive. When a new job took me too far to commute, I had to leave the Boro behind.

    I too had a recent chance to re-visit Willingboro. I was shocked to see too many broken down houses, rumors of drug infested neighborhoods and “Park Posse’s”. What self respecting GANG call’s itself the Twin Hills or Country Club POSSE. But they do.

    I can’t help but wonder where the township government was when this wonderful community slid down the hill to become the place most people no longer want to live.

  • http://www.liveinjoy.org Edie Weinstein

    Linda:

    Our paths may have crossed, since I was a lifeguard at the kiddie pool in 1976 and 1977. I forgot to mention in the story that I was also a lifeguard, swim instructor and swim team coach for 3 summers…worked at Buckingham, Twin Hills and Pennypacker pools…such an important part of my growing up years. I had an amazing childhood. We used to go to Rancocas Woods, riding our bikes there, as well as the penny candy store.

    Yes, it is sad that way the town has fallen apart. My take is that environment is a reflection of the way people feel about themselves.

    Thank you for sharing your stories here.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Denise

    Thanks for sharing this, Edie. It was really great to see you after all these years; I only wish your parents could have been with us, too. I have wonderful memories of them; they always had time and a smile for the runt of the litter who was too young to hang out with all the older kids most of the time. I had forgotten some of the things you mentioned about growing up in the ‘boro, so in addition to mom’s party, reading your blog was my own trip down memory lane. Remembering all the fun we had back then, it seems impossible to me that we’re not kids anymore. Willingboro has changed a lot since then, and while it’s sad that it’s not the “same” place, I’ll always remember it with fondness; as home, as the place where innocence still existed, and where we all had the freedom to live, laugh, and learn together. I’ve taken those experiences with me into adulthood, where they’ve served me well over the years, and I’m grateful for the people, places, and memories of a happy, carefree childhood. I hope I’ve been successful in passing on some of that sense of “home” to my daughter, as well.

  • http://www.liveinjoy.org Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

    How beautiful, Denise. I never thought of you as a ‘runt’ (: I enjoyed time at your backyard pool too. Willingboro did feel like a special place to grow up. Thank you for remembering my parents so fondly. They really were wonderful people. In our front window, they had a ‘helping hand’ sign that made our house a safe place for kids to go in case they felt they were in danger.

    Hugs,

    Edie <3

  • http://jargontalk.livejournal.com/ JargonTalk

    You did it again, Edie…

    You took me back to softer, gentler times, and even though my roots are more broadly spread over the US and outside, it was good to take a few minutes and reminisce about them and of those gentler times. One never loses them.

    Many thanks, my dear friend!

    <3

  • http://www.liveinjoy.org Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

    Glad you liked it, John. When I gaze backward through the looking glass of time, things I had taken for granted feel all the more precious. I have been back in touch with friends from childhood and adolescence; many through the marvels of modern technology and the phenom of facebook:)
    <3

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment roslyn Leeds

    Thank you for sharing such good memories of Willingboro. We lived there from 1963 till 1989 our children went to school and have some good memories also. I guess the people that took over town council didn’t really care about town only their pockets. But I thank you for making me remember some of the best years of our lives.

    Ros Leeds

  • http://www.liveinjoy.org Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

    Glad you liked it, Ros. Perhaps leadership had something to do with it AND people are still responsible for their choices for how they maintain their environment. My father grew up in South Philly during the Depression and folks had little money in his neighborhood and yet, he would tell me that they took pride in their little corner of the universe, sweeping the sidewalk in front of their ‘stoop’, planting flowers in the windowboxes.

    Blissings,

    Edie <3

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