The (Good) Old Days in Yonkers Weren't So Bad After All
Ella: Notable Yonkers Resident
Hudson River Museum
Early 20th Century Main Street in the 'City of Gracious Living'
Yonkers, N.Y., was a bustling community in the '30s and '40s when I grew up in what my folks told me was "The City of Gracious Living." Recently, however, I read in the New York Times that it's now referred to as "Beirut-on-the-Hudson."
Yonkers had its share of corruption and crime in those days, but, as kids, we roamed every neighborhood -- from the Hudson River to Mount Vernon and the Bronx to Hastings-on-Hudson -- freely, without fear.
Poor, But Happy
Ours was a poor neighborhood, aggravated by the depression and suffering -- along with everybody else -- from the effects of World War II. We were poor, sure, but we were happy.
When I look back at those "good old days" I muse about the times we expropriated the forbidden fruit from the trees and vines all over town, the times we tied the trolley ropes -- so that when the car hit a depression in the road - the rope wouldn't feed out, thus stopping the trolley car dead in its tracks.
A few from our depressed neighborhood turned out fairly well, a few didn't. In any case, most of us -- somehow -- grew up to be honest, upstanding citizens.
A Runyonesque Flavor
Although some of our street-corner conversations in those days had a Runyonesque flavor, we weren't bad kids.
We were city folks; no one I knew owned a car. The trolley took us everywhere we wanted to go. We didn't own our homes, either; we lived in rented flats in aging apartment houses. We rarely worried about money. How could we? We had none to worry about!
Fibber McGee & Molly
There was no TV in those days, only radio. Everybody listened to the radio; it offered a cornucopia of shows ranging from such scurrilous entrées as Fibber McGee & Molly, The Shadow, Inner Sanctum, Lights Out ... the list goes on and on.
I look back now at that time as the halcyon days, days when everybody on the block knew one another, days when it was safe to walk the streets at any time of day or night, days when it was safe to leave the apartment door unlocked.
When I look at how the world has "progressed" over the last few decades, I can't help but be concerned about our future.
Our Finest Hour
The Great Depression and World War II were great tragedies, sure; we had financial disasters ... we had Hitler (and Tojo) and Mussolini. But, in many ways, it was our finest hour.
Our tourists back then didn't have to worry about being accosted, mugged and murdered at every turn; we didn't have Los Angeles-style "race riots;" we didn't have mass murderers around every corner; nor did we have religious freaks creating havoc.
Let's put our heads together and find a way to make our streets safe again.
Let's help the downtrodden, get our kids off drugs and into schools or good jobs, and create a better quality of life for everyone.
Let's live our lives in peace and comfort, and set things right for those who've been left behind.
Rodney King asked, "Can't we all get along?" I think we can, if we want.
The Last Trolley Ride in Yonkers in November 1952
Yonkers Today: Daylighting of the Saw Mill River at Larkin Plaza
Strolling Down Warburton Avenue in Yonkers Late '40s/early '50s On Our Way to Genung's Around the Corner On Main Street
Yonkers Resident Ella Fitzgerald: 'Someone to Watch Over Me'
Historic pictures of Yonkers, New York
The Andrews Sisters Sing 'The Ferry Boat Serenade'
More Pictures of Yonkers -- North Broaday, Getty Square
The Good Old Days by a Yonkers Favorite: Bing Crosby
More by this Author
None of us is getting any younger, of course. As we age we tend to become a little nostalgic. We long for "the good old days." We notice how things have changed. Here I muse about a few changes.
This story tells how a big brother who didn't make it to high school taught his college-educated little brother (through his own innate common sense) more than any teacher or professor he ever had.
This is the third of four "playing" reports on Norwalk, Conn., area golf courses -- this one on Sterling Farms Golf Club, a Stamford municipal course. It was written for The Hour newspaper in 1999.