Saturday, May 12, 2018

Nostalgia -- New Haven

I've always associated Connecticut with my mother's family.  My maternal grandmother was born in Bridgeport.  She also retired there --in Old Lyme -- after the death of her husband.  My aunt Charlotte and uncle Hank lived in Old Saybrook during most of my childhood.  My Aunt Clare has a home in Guilford.  I actually lived in New Haven for a semester when my dad was a visiting professor at Yale. My 2nd cousin, uncle, grandfather, and great grandfather all attended Yale.  My father's former student, Bob Adair, was provost there. 

On 5/11/18 I had an audition in New Haven, so I decided to look up my old neighborhood.  

I remembered it was near a big red bluff.  I didn't remember how very close it was.  This is a view of East Rock, very close to my old house.

I didn't find the house using the bluff, though, I found it by searching for my old school, Worthington Hooker, in google maps. That's what led me there

As I approached the school, I crossed Whitney way.  That immediately rang a bell.  That was the large busy street nearby that I wasn't allowed to cross.

The school looked cheerier and better maintained than I remembered.  It looks like the bricks were recently cleaned and pointed and the windows look new.

I remember thinking it was a large school, but now it looks like it has about 8 classrooms, which seems small to me.  

When I was there, I was in second semester of 4th grade.  This meant that I missed learning Wisconsin geography back home in Wisconsin.  I seem to recall, though, that the math course was slightly more advanced than the one in Wisconsin -- that they were doing long division, which wasn't started until 5th grade back home.

There was a lady working in the garden there.  She said it's now a k-2 school and 4th graders are in an "upper school," whatever that is.

I couldn't remember the name of the street where I lived, but I did remember what the walk was like to get there, so I think I found it.  I think this was it, 165 Cold Spring St.:

It's a corner house.  I didn't remember that part, but it is the same color as it was.  I also remember that one of my schoolmates said it looked like a cuckoo clock because of the double doors out onto the roof over the front porch.  I don't think we ever went out those doors, though, because there was no railing around balcony.

It seemed like a very exciting house when I was a kid, because the whole third floor was a play area, with toys still in it, from the family that normally lived there.  In my home back in Wisconsin, the top floor was an unfinished attic, without a floor -- except for a very small area.  You couldn't really go up there.  It was dark, filthy, and dangerous -- as you could step through the ceiling below.

I guess going up to the third floor seemed like a huge adventure, because I seemingly never explored the neighborhood to discover the huge park only a block away.  More about that later.

I remember thinking that I lived 2 blocks from school, but if I went two blocks away I got to a very long block that I just didn't remember at all, so I think, when I said 2 blocks, I meant that I had to walk a very short distance along Canner St to get to the school.  I was very literal minded. Now I would say it was one block -- really very close.

The house also came with a white parakeet named Julius.  We left our own canary at home.  I don't remember the name of our canary, but I do remember Julius's name.  He was allowed to fly around the house -- or at least he sometimes managed to.  I remember him getting into my dad's hair.  He had quite a personality. Birds have always been my most successful pets. I have one now too.

On the way to my house, I think I noticed a significant house

I think this was Susan Pollack's house.  I wasn't a very social kid. I had a hard time making friends, but I wanted to be friends with her.  I remember thinking that she lived in a very large house indeed.  That made me feel she was important, I guess -- but, as I was driving around the neighborhood, I saw some amazing mansions not far away, across from the park that I apparently wasn't adventurous enough to walk to.

The other thing about Susan Pollack was that she had a microscope.

One afternoon, I managed to get in to see the microscope. I was really excited about finally getting to visit this possible friend. I forgot to call my mom and tell her where I was.  

That turned out to be the afternoon that my grandmother, my mom's mom, had a massive heart attack while visiting my mom.  My mom was frantic to find me and very upset that I hadn't told her where I was -- so my adventure turned into a major disaster.  I never visited Susan again.  This was before the days of cell phones. I would have had to ask Susan's mom if I could call my mom to say where I was and I was too shy to make that request.  

One of my reasons for posting this blog is to try to find Susan.  I wonder if somehow she'll hear about me through this. I've found that blogs sometimes do lead to finding people.

Later, though, the family we were renting from came back and we rented Susan's house.  I was disappointed that the microscope case was still out, but not the microscope.  I guess they were afraid that we would break it.  

Given that I was so fascinated with that microscope, I'm surprised I never got one.  My parents were normally pretty good about getting educational stuff like that for me.  I probably wasn't assertive enough to keep asking for it.  Maybe I would be a biologist or doctor now if I had been more assertive as a kid.

Anyway, now I am adventurous enough to go explore a park and I had a car with me, so I drove around and found a parking lot where you could hike up to the top of "East Rock," the big red bluff that I remembered. 

This was a copper beech, just getting its leaves in, near the parking lot.  

Copper beeches were a big deal to me coming from Wisconsin, because we didn't have them.  My mom said she had investigated getting one for our yard, but was told that Wisconsin was too cold for them. I wonder now, with global warming, whether you could get away with having one there.  They're magnificent trees.

There was actually a road to the top of East Rock, but I was in the mood for a walk

I'm usually in the mood for a walk.  

There were also trails, but I was wearing sandals that were only suitable for a road -- plus I had bare legs, which makes me worry about ticks, so I stayed on the road even though it was longer.  I didn't take one of the water bottles from my car, because I figured there would be a bathroom with water at the top. Also someone told me it would be only 20 minutes to the top. Mistake.

Well, there were chemical toilets at the top, which was some relief, but no water.  Also it was longer than 20 minutes, because I took the long way, and I couldn't walk very fast in those sandals,  They were slightly dressy.  I ended up very thirsty, but fortunately didn't pass out.

It was really a lovely day.  Here are some photos and videos from the top

And still photos

In the photo on the left, you can see the bridge over Mill River, that led to the parking lot where I parked.  Some of this stuff did look familiar, so I'm thinking my parents did take me to this park when I was in 4th grade.  Now, though, given that this was all walking distance from my house, I would have been going up on my own frequently on foot.

At the top was a civil war memorial

It looks like you used to be able to go to the top of this tower, but now it's gated off. Presumably it's too dangerous, or possibly they're afraid of vandalism. I think it may have been open when I was in 4th grade.  The view would be even better from the top of the tower.

So this little trip has turned into a rather long blog -- as if this was important or something.  I guess because New Haven is near Old Saybrook, and when we lived there we saw Uncle Hank, who just died,  and aunt Charlotte, and their children, more often -- it suddenly seems very relevant.  I've been to New Haven for an audition before and not gone to hunt up the old house.

My cousin Kate said she recognized the house.

All in all, it was a very short part of my life, but I reconnected.

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