The (Good) Old Days in Yonkers Weren't So Bad After All
Early 20th Century Main Street in the 'City of Gracious Living'
Ella: Notable Yonkers Resident
Hudson River Museum
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.
This column was written as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on May 8, 1993.