Thursday, April 7, 2011
The Changing Scenery of a town named Colchester!
Life was simple for me growing up in Colchester. It was not troublesome to travel through the center during the week. However, when the weekend arrived look out. It was totally different. I will explain shortly. I'll keep you in suspense. I'm talking about the years prior to Route 2 passing around and about Colchester. As mentioned in an earlier blog there was one stoplight. Traffic in the mornings was very light and I can recall cars opening their windows and the driver yelling out "good morning, say hello to mom and dad when you get home". I can also recall the older high school friends when I was still in Middle School and how they mentored me and "protected" me for some reason or another. They had my back as they say today. I feel it was out of respect for my family and what we meant to others perhaps. It's something I've appreciated over the years. Maybe it was my attitude toward life even then that my older friends appreciated.
At the bottom of Halls Hill there was one gas station at the time. It was "George's Flying A" I believe. After I would deliver papers my older friends; Bob, Oscar, Tom, and others would eventually teach me how to pump gas, check oil, wash windows, and just have great conversation when there were no customers. It was a time that I look back at and I appreciate what they and others did for me in my early teens. It was also unique in that my older friends took the time to shape who I am today. I occasionally run into them and to this day remind them of how I still appreciate all they did for me in my early developmental years. That was true mentoring and at it's best.
One of the funniest stories I will share with you the reader of this blog series is my "slide down Halls Hill Road". You might ask before I tell the story "what do you mean by your slide down Halls Hill Road"? It has nothing to do with icy conditions or snowy conditions. Year's ago town's would repair the roads in small towns in a unique way. They would have oil trucks spray oil on the road and the the sand truck would spread sand over the oil. Well in my wisdom I thought it would be cool to ride my bike over the fresh oil to get the wells shiny black. I didn't know that as soon as I hit the oil that I would go for the longest slide of my life on oil. I didn't get hurt at all but oh did I get covered with tar. If you ask Bob, Oscar, and others that worked at the gas station my nickname they would tell you "Tar Baby". I was covered in oil, from head to toe. The "gunk" cleaner as I recall was my best friend. It was the mechanics "friend" so to speak that helped clean me up. It's one of those funny stories that I'll re-tell occasionally. It was not the brightest things I've done in my life but it sure is one of the easiest to tell since there was "no harm, no foul" as the saying goes.
Colchester was a one pizza place town. Dino's Pizza. It was located in between the now vacant Jack's Auto and the newly renovated "Old Fire House" next to Bacon Academy. I can recall my brush with fame one night in my teens as we sat in front on the old stone steps waiting for our 75 cent small pizza. I believe we bought three and got one free during that time so myself and my high school buddies very astute at general mathematics figured out if we chipped in we could get four pizzas for $2.25. One of us would buy the soda and it always somehow came out even. That particular late afternoon we were sitting out their waiting for them as I've said and a nice car pulled up in front. I noticed it as a distinguished athletic looking man came strutting out of a car. I look and to my surprise it was "Arnold Palmer", the great Arnold Palmer. I was speechless and didn't say anything. He was only in their for a short period of time and as he came out I can remember saying "You are Arnold Palmer aren't you?" He said "I sure am". He smiled and said "thanks for recognizing me" and drove off. I later found out that he was staying at a cabin on Savin's Farm on Old Route 2 (Norwich Avenue). We didn't bother asking for an autograph and probably my buddies had no idea who he was I just think to this day it was cool to see the great Arnold Palmer so up close and personal as they say today. I also can say that he was playing in then the Greater Hartford Open that was being held at the Wethersfield Country Club. It may have been called the Insurance City Open at that time.
I'm writing about the past not to revisit it but to let you know that it's important to spend time with your loved ones, family members, friends, and to really appreciate what you have or want to have. Today's life has gotten way to fast, way to hectic at times. Taking time to have a dinner with your whole family more than once a week should be a priority. It's important, it was for me and it continues to be something I enjoy when I can with remaining family.
Colchester a sleepy little town as I said of about 2,500 to 3,000 people. It was just too far from Hartford especially without the new Route 2. Well that all changed in the mid to late 60's. It was once said that "Harry's Place" would not survive if Route 2 were put in, well you know that answer to that statement. Getting back to pre-route 2. Traffic on Sunday was outrageous. The beach traffic had to travel through Colchester. It's a reason why I think Colchester has grown so much. We were discovered in the mid-1980's as a place not too far from Hartford and very affordable to build our dream home. After all I can attest to that I thought I was going to be the next Donald Trump when I opened my own real estate company known as Donald Jay Levine Realty, Inc. For those that didn't know that I'll write more about that some other time.
Colchester also had the "Connecticut Dragway". It was a 1/4 mile track where on Sunday's people from far and near traveled through Colchester, onto route 16, to Buckley Hill Road and out to where Consumer Protection Agency has a car testing company. It was great to see the cars come by on trailers and occasionally stop at the local restaurants to eat, and as kids we would marvel at the "funny cars" and "dragsters". Colchester was very crowded on Saturday's and Sunday's in the summer.
Each and every one of these "stories", factual in nature from my point of view can be expanded up but for later times. It was a fun town to live in as I think back, but one that didn't really have too much. We had "Food Fair" which became "Tri-Town" foods and now "CVS". We had "Leo's Esso" now Exxon but now Mark's Auto Parts. Of course Bacon Academy (1803 version) was there and yes it was used for two sixth grade classrooms when our schools were being renovated. I attended 6th grade for part of the year down at Old Bacon Academy. The present day Gilbertie's was the Chestnut Lodge. It was our restaurant. Out on Route 85 was the "Rainbow Restaurant" and the Colchester Theater. On Lake Hayward Road was the "Hayward Restaurant".
It was totally different to live here and as I ramble on I'll keep writing fun and interesting things. Getting back to the developing town it was a place where we knew one another well. We knew how to push each other to get better and we knew that it was important to get over things or life would be difficult. That's just me thinking out loud. I am who I am because I was shaped by family, friends, and experiences. I write to get others to not only read these words from the past, present, and thoughts of the future, but to think how important it is to step back and to think what's we need to do to become better at whatever we want to be better at. If that doesn't make sense simply put is don't get caught up losing track of what's important in life. To me family, friends, and life are the ultimate.
Life passes by so quickly and I have much to accomplish and if I can help others on a grander scale I will do so. Keep being the best you can be and keep trying no matter how tough or how easy things are. Always remember to work just as hard no matter what.
I leave today with this last thought. I failed miserably in my opinion when I was studying to be an "Urban Sociologist" at the University of Connecticut in the early 70's. I said to myself then "what are you doing?" I now realize all I learned there was not wasted. I have that knowledge within the confines of my gray matter and look forward to getting it out for the development of "Everyone's Shadow Is The Same Color". In essence whatever I've thought to fail at I've used in the future. It usually comes full circle.
Until I write again, live life to it's fullest, do the best you can for family and friends, and don't take anything for granted.
Posted by Donald J. Levine at 6:28 PM