Columns

Column: Time-traveling back to Oceanside

The car I was sitting in along with my two sisters, Debbie and Joanne, suddenly stopped. “There it is!” Debbie announced.

“Where?” I asked, puzzled.

“There!” she answered, pointing to the house we had stopped in front of.

And there it was — 2910 Davis St. The house we had lived in some 40 years earlier was right there, and I hadn’t even recognized it. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed we were on our old street had Debbie not announced it as we turned onto it.

Sometimes the past can be staring you right in the face and you don’t see it.

Such a strange experience. It’s sort of like stepping back into a time machine.

It should be noted that this particular trip to visit our old house in Oceanside was my first time on that street since we moved from there in 1979. So much had changed. Not only was our old house unrecognizable, but the whole street was! Everything, and I mean everything, about the street — and our old house — was nicer. Much nicer.

Not only that, but everything seemed smaller now. The streets seemed much narrower than I remembered.

Then again, it’s all perspective. When you’re a young kid, I suppose, things look bigger to you.

My family had moved to Oceanside the summer before I entered third grade and we lived there until moving to East Meadow halfway through my sophomore year in high school.

Debbie and I made a subsequent visit to Davis Street one afternoon during the pandemic just to get out of the house, take a drive and once again see — and marvel, really — at what our old neighborhood looks like. Once in Oceanside, we passed the junior high school I attended and the soccer field I played games on, even years later for the Oceanside men’s soccer team. I understand that building is no longer a school.

Next to it sits the property upon which I went to school when I was in sixth grade. That building is no longer there. I’m not sure what that land is now used for, although we saw school buses parked there.

Then we turned onto Long Beach Road. I recognized the old buildings that had been there for many years, but of course the businesses and stores had changed. Sadly, those old-time candy stores — you know the ones that sold newspapers, magazines and smelled like egg creams — are not there any more. As a kid, I used to love going in there to peruse through the endless array of sports magazines and plunk down my 25 cents — was it really 25 cents!? — for a Hershey bar.

Soon we found ourselves sitting in a truck in front of our old house, just staring as memories came flooding back. An elderly gentleman who evidently lives there then arrived home and, taking no notice of us, made his way up the driveway and into the side entrance. Debbie and I both later admitted we wished he had engaged us in conversation so we could tell him we lived in this house many years ago. Perhaps he would have asked if we would like to see what it looks like inside. We would have jumped at the chance. I would love to have seen the living room and the upstairs rooms I lived in before eventually moving into a small basement room where I had my very own, small, black-and-white TV.

I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why I am nostalgic about the 1970s. It really wasn’t a good decade, with the energy crisis, job layoffs, inflation, the Vietnam War, Watergate, etc. I do have bad memories of those times, including when I played an entire soccer season while I had mononucleosis (and later strep throat at the same time!) without knowing it.

Still, I have good memories, too. For the years we lived there, from 1973 to ’79, Davis Street was my own sports complex, of sorts. With no other kids my age on the block, I often had to make my own fun, shooting baskets in our driveway, pitching Spaldings off our backyard stoop (and sometimes getting yelled at when the ball took a bad bounce and hit the back door).

The more I think about it, though, just like that old TV program “The Wonder Years,” those were the wonder years for me. Perhaps that is what it is, just a reminder of simpler, more innocent times.