Point Lookout, Long Island, New York, U.S.A.

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Take the Long Way Home
A Point Lookout Memory
Jane Rooney McGrath

The month of September has a special meaning for me. Every Labor Day weekend, the Point Lookout community celebrates the last bit of summer with the annual Children's Day races, fun at the beach, and music in the air. Towards the end of this long weekend, a hush starts to come over the town.

The frenzied beat of summer slows, and a new time of year is approaching, We begin to shift our focus to the upcoming fall season. For some, it means returning to the school calendar, sports practices, and homework. For others, it means project time, planning vacations, or a winter down in the southern states.

This fall, as the leaves on the trees start to curl and the cooler breezes pick up, I am reminded of a time growing up in Point Lookout long before the ringing and buzzing sounds of cell phones, email and texting.

In Point Lookout during the 60's and 70's, the ways in which the neighborhood communicated were simple, yet effective. Information was gathered, relayed, or intercepted I word of mouth during visits to such places as the Post Office, lGA, and the Deli. The occasional phone call was also placed. I am glad to see these methods of communication are still in use today, working just fine, alongside the higher tech options.

One form of communIcation and time keeping was the two long blasts of the fire department's horn at 6 p.m. every night. Upon hearing the "6 o'clock alarm", as we kids called it, we were expected to get on our bikes, and come home. The interrupted games of football, stickball, basketball, tag, Barbies, or Hot Wheels, would have to wait until the next day.

When I was growing up in Point Lookout, my mom would have dinner on the table very night at 6:05 p.m., sharp. My brother Peter and I were told to come home at this me, wash up, and start eating our meal. We would sit at the little table in the kitchen where Mom would delight our taste buds with such specialties as meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and peas, which in looking back, was quite good. If we finished our dinner, we would have dessert - jello (red or green), or chocolate pudding, yummy!

On one particular fall evening in September, the 6 o'clock alarm went off, and I was playing over at Parkside Drive, with a swarm of kids from that block, and other blocks in town. My bike had a flat, so I had come on foot, and would have to go home by foot...fast! My usual way home was to go over to Baldwin and Beech, make a left into the middle block, and start the dart, dash, and weave through the unoccupied "winter houses", as we called them, and come out onto Freeport.

I got about half way through my journey of hopping low fences, scaling walls, cutting through holes in hedges ..... when out of nowhere appeared a woman with grey hair worn in a bun. She was wearing a blue apron, and gripping a straw broom, kind of like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, but she did not have green skin' or a wart on her nose. She waved her broom like she was shooing away a stray animal. She said "Get out, and stay out!" "No more cutting through my yard!" Those words stick with me to this day. Luckily for me I was not hit with the broom. I bolted out of the yard, and 1 was dumped out onto Cedarhurst, I think. It was all a little confusing for a kid just trying to get home, but this is what I could piece together: it seemed that this "winter house", was not boarded up for winter after all. It was now occupied by someone who "winterized" it, and now lived there year round.

Needless to say, this scary experience was upsetting. I had to spend more travel time walking all the way around several blocks to get home. I was late for dinner, and I was going to get in trouble ... but my Mom did not get angry. She took one look at my troubled face, and asked if something was the matter. So, I told her my story over dinner. That night Mom made her famous Chicken with Rice and Everything Nice, my favorite! As we talked, Mom did the best she could to explain to a 9 year old that "things were changing a little" in Point Lookout, and I did my best to understand why I had to take the long way home and who was the old woman with the broom? Oh yeah, we had Vanilla Fudge ice cream for dessert! It doesn't get much better than that!

- Jane Rooney McGrath