I was born in 1936 on a 100-degree-day in August, inside my parents’ house on Route 59 in Central Nyack (it’s still there, a yellow house; the last house on the right eastbound after the car dealer). My Granny and Grandpop lived farther east, down Main Street; their house is gone now, but I remember the basement had dirt floors and a couple of framed-out rooms: It was rumored to be part of the Underground Railroad.
Before my teenage years, I was employed by Reliable Meat Market on Main Street, which is now the El Cuñao Deli. I would cut the scraps off the bones for hamburger meat, and I would also make deliveries using an old red wagon. Since the market was near the top of the hill, and I was a kid with a wagon… well, let’s just say the owner used to warn me, “Now don’t go ridin’ that wagon down the hill!!” Did I listen? We’ll let that answer stay in the past.
I attended Nyack High School on North Midland Avenue, the big, brick school with a clock tower. It was within sight of the Hudson River, and I used to watch from my study hall as workers built the original Tappan Zee Bridge.
One hot day, my friends Timmy, Greg, and I decided to skip school and hit the swimming hole on the Hackensack River in neighboring West Nyack. We’d have to climb a steep hill, then walk along the railroad tracks, and after only about a hundred yards or so there was an old deer path that led down to the swimming hole. The river curved around at that point — we called it Half Moon — and because of that curve, it was a little deeper there.
Anyway, it was too hot to walk all the way from home, so we tried hitching a ride. A car stopped for us, and who was behind the wheel but the guidance counselor at the high school.
“Where you heading, boys?” he asked. One of my bolder friends answered, “It’s too hot for school — we’re going swimming.” He actually drove us there! But as we got out of the car, he warned, “I’ll let it go this time, boys, because it is so hot. But don’t let me ever catch you cutting school again!”
Another favorite spot was McDermott Milk Bar. On hot nights I’d drive over in my father’s 1950 Packard and get peach and raspberry ice cream for my dad and me.
Yeah, I had fun growing up in Nyack. And now I have great memories.
Don DeNoyelles is a 1955 graduate of Nyack High School, and is a retired heavy-equipment operator for the International Union of Operating Engineers. He lives in Pearl River.
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