By Joseph Caplan
In the second half of the 1950's, as a young boy, I stood mesmerized by the string of box cars that traversed the railroad bridge.
Like other families in the city's first ward, I lived within the shadow of the span. The playground of our grammar school, Mount Carmel Square and Pulaski Park shared views of the structure. I learned to count the number of engines, tanker cars, freight cars, and trumped the total when a rare weathered red double caboose terminated the train.
There was a vitality to the neighborhood, as smartly dressed women perused the showcase windows of Schwartz's and Slote's.
Teenagers met at the Book and Record, sportsmen plied rods and reels at Wolf's Sporting Goods, and novice fathers examined the rows of tricycles at Haber's Toy Store.
Yet, the prolific rail convoys tested the bridge everyday, and improved my mathematical acumen as I began to track the ratio of tanker to freight cars. Poughkeepsie it seemed was the center of the universe.
In the first half of the 1960's our family moved to the eighth ward, with a different school and a different world view. Urban Renewal paved Main Street, the stigma of urban blight consumed downtown, and engines no longer strained to pull the multi-hued freight cars across the span.
Developers built extravagant retail malls, the municipality widened Route 9, while the state depopulated the local hospital.
The smartly tailored suit I wore to shop at Luckey Platt as a child was replaced with frayed jeans to shop TeePeeDashery as a teen.
A metaphor, of course, for the transition of the local neighborhood character into disarray. But fortunately, not everyone was jaded. Enter the Walkway over the Hudson Board.
In the first half of the new millennium as a young senior citizen, I stand mesmerized by the string of pedestrians that traverse the railroad bridge daily. I once again relish the glint of sunlight between the structural braces of the bridge, and acknowledge with a wry grin when a double stroller passes, that all is well again within our neck of the woods.
You might simply inhale the atmosphere of exuberance on the span or invigorate your spirit of imagination with the view. I routinely celebrate with a drive past the former barber shop on Washington Street where I, when a youngster, was shorn fastidiously to sport a mean crew cut.
To serve in their Walkway Ambassador Role simply volunteer at the www.walkway.org site.
Image by John Roze, courtesy WOH.
Previously printed in Van Wyck Gazette 2011 Spring Issue