Updated: Oct 15, 2020
By Cathy Sheehan Slade
When I think of my childhood in the 50’s and 60’s, I think that life could not have been any better. Who could have asked for anything better than living in a neighborhood with so many young families, tons of kids, caring adults, plenty of open space, and a golf course for a backyard.
I grew up on Poplar Street by the George Wright Golf Course. My parents were George and Ethel Sheehan, and I was the oldest of nine children.
In the days of telephone party lines and Mothers who stayed at home, we were blessed to have so many friends in such close proximity. The only time we needed a telephone was on a rainy day to ask a friend or two over our house. Otherwise, we walked down the street, knocking on our friend’s doors to come out to play. And play we did – outdoors in the fresh air, with no adult supervision. We could do that back in the day.
The golf course provided plenty of space for us to enjoy physical activities and adventure. We would look for errant golf balls, head to the Pro Shop, and sell our treasures as used golf balls. Then we would head right over to dining area to buy snacks.
We weren’t supposed to be on the course, and we would run when Bill Hackett, the motorcycle cop, came around. We didn’t do anything wrong, and management knew we were around, but we had fun running from him.
Golf course provided a lot of outdoor space that we took advantage of for sports. Behind my house on Poplar Street, Hautevale Street and Beech Street were two swamps where we skated and played hockey in the winter. During the rest of the year, we would play hide and seek in this area that was filled with trees and tall grass.
Located beside this play area was open space that we knew was once a sandlot baseball diamond. It was referred to as the Nursery; we played baseball and many other games here. Next to this area was a small, well-maintained space by the first hole where we gathered to engage in a variety of activities. We also hung around the two tennis courts by the club house, and walked freely around the course, except when Police Officer Hackett felt like exercising his motorcycle.
In those days, golfers walked the entire course, and boys could earn some money by caddying. No way could a girl caddy! We also practiced on the putting green and nobody bothered us, because we were serious about playing golf.
We would climb a fence by the second fairway to go to Swedes Pond to play in the woods and fish with homemade fishing poles. For bait, we would find worms or use bread and any leftover scraps of food we could take from home. We considered ourselves lucky if anyone had left-over bacon on a Saturday morning. Of course, we never caught anything that was suitable for eating, but we had fun.
We would skate at Swedes Pond at night, accompanied by our parents. There was a small building there, where we would change into our skates, get warm and drink hot cocoa.
This area is now occupied by High Point Village Shopping Center and Stony Brook Housing, and we didn’t like losing a good outdoor play area.
Life was fun then, when we could play freely outdoors without adult supervision. It was a time when you would know every family in the neighborhood, and people watched out for neighborhood children. There were many safe havens. It was truly a different time.