This is a continuation of my earlier blog that showed how the neighborhood I grew up in was formed. The focus of that earlier blog was on the streets, homes, and occupants. But this one is more focused on my experiences during my elementary school years. That’s why it starts in 1954 instead of 1955 when the earlier blog ended.
Prior to going to school my “world” just included the small neighborhood around me. I was too young to travel beyond it. We only had one car, so when my mother needed to go shopping we all got dressed and rode with my dad into Waterbury where he got out at the main gate of Scovill’s and my mother drove us home. There was only myself and my sister, a year younger, so it was fairly easy for my mother to take us shopping. We had a large garden next to the house which supplied us with peas, beans, carrots, beets, asparagus, rhubarb, cucumbers, two kinds of squash (yellow crookneck and butternut), musk melons, corn, swiss chard, tomatoes, and perhaps a few other things. We also had a couple of peach trees, a few apple trees, two pear trees, and a grape arbor. And there were abundant blueberries growing next to the pond and in the woods beyond it. Some of these items we ate fresh in season, and the rest was canned or frozen for use during the rest of the year.
Milk was delivered right to our back door. So the only things we needed to shopping for were baking products (flour, sugar, etc.), meats, cereal (Wheaties!), snacks (Hydrox cookies!), and a few other things. Our favorite place was Pat’s Superette (before it became an IGA), especially when hamburger was on sale – 3 lbs for $.99! The only other times we went out was for church on Sunday or to visit relatives on occasion. So my world was pretty small.
That all changed when I started school in September of 1954. Alcott School only had one classroom per grade in those days, but that was sufficient to house all the school children from the entire north end of town. The south and west ends of town had three schools at the time, Frisbie School being the largest. The others were Lewis School (the former South School) and Woodtick School. These smaller two schools only had a few rooms each, but together with Frisbie School were sufficient.
My first grade class at Alcott had perhaps 20 students in it, but new students would join each year until my final year there in 1960-61 (I went to Wolcott High School for my 8th grade year). So meeting new kids my age, learning where they lived relative to me, and eventually being able to meet them outside of the classroom setting greatly expanded my world. Here are some of the ones I still remember from 60 years ago:
· Jackie Markot – Wolcott Road (the only one from my original neighborhood)
· Jimmy LaFrance – corner of Spindle Hill and Cedar Ave
· Gary Booker – up the street from Jimmy (he was the class artist)
· Jay Pikell – Wolcott Road down around the corner from Woodtick Road
· Louise and Marie Clement (twins) – Allentown Road
· Louise Clement (cousin of the above) – Spindle Hill Road
· Don Therkildsen – Center Street
· Jann Lindsay – Catering Road
· Karen Wooster – Ranslow Drive
· Bob Schrager – Janet Drive
· Al Forte (Alfred Anthony John Forte III!) – Boundline Road
· Jeannie Wilson – Woodtick Road
· Bobby Fehrs – Woodtick Road
· Cynthia Harrington – Averyll Ave (and just one day younger than I)
· Chuck Hoadley – Long Swamp Road
· Darlene Petosa – Woodtick Road
Most, but not all of these were part of my 1st grade class, a few came in the years following. For example, I believe that Darlene moved to Wolcott around my 3rd grade year. But as you can see, the students came from all over the northern half of Wolcott. Although the population of the town was perhaps 4000 in those days, only a quarter or so if the people lived in the northern portion. So our friends might be somewhat scattered, but we were close knit nonetheless. Since we spent every school day for seven years in the company of the same group of kids, most of us remained close even through high school when we had different classes and moved around the building all day.
Of course my circle of friends was not limited to classmates the same age. Since my best friend in the neighborhood was my cousin Dave and he was a year behind me in school (but only 6 months younger), we had a neighborhood group of guys that included some of his classmates as well such as Bobby Merchant, Roger Norton, and others.
Before I started school, my small neighborhood and my small circle of friends were essentially the same. Now I had in addition a larger neighborhood and a larger circle of friends, as well as my group of classmates and the entire northern end of town as the outermost circle.
The growth in Wolcott was very uneven. If you look at a map of the town, new roads and neighborhoods in the south end of town (such as Garrigus Court and all the other roads off of Todd Road) and in the west end of town (such as the large group of streets between Laurel Lane and Lancewood Lane) were all being built in the 1950s. New streets in the north end of town (such as the Cancellaro Drive group of streets) tend to date from the 1960s and later. So our group of North Wolcott kids tended to be pretty stable and cohesive throughout my elementary years. But those of us who were a part of it developed friendships some of which still last until today.