We moved to Brockley Drive in Delmar in 1948. This is across Delaware Avenue from the present high school. At the time it was a new 10-house development, the last street on public water supply. Further west, behind Meyers’ funeral home, was a 90-acre sheep field — with sheep in it.
Meyers occupies what was the farm house associated with the sheep field. The large, aged barn still stood by the farmhouse. Stable inside in the gloom was “Black Beauty,” an aged black Shetland pony. My next door neighbor, Ruthie, about 12 years old, took care of the daily needs of the pony for the city dwelling owner. She was also allowed to hitch the pony to the buggy and take us younger kids for a ride.
The poor old creature usually drew us across the meadows where the high school and bus garage stand today. But sometimes we drove on the streets and went in other directions. To the Slingerlands Elementary School for example. This was a long round-about drive because Brockley Drive was not yet cut through the woods to Orchard Avenue. But we did do it, and that might mean a trip to Charlie Sander’s store at The Tool Gate. The picture above shows a gas pump. I do not recall ever seeing a car gas up there. However, it was certainly a place to visit if you wanted candy, soda or smokes.
Charlie lived in the fancy, big Victorian seen in the background of the image. Years later, this was town down. I have always felt willfully, by a new owner with no appreciation for the past. Given the many Victorian homes now proudly occupied by Slingerlands residents, I feel this philistine was guilty of a crime against humanity, by such willful destruction.
Once Charlie allowed Ruthie to hitch up his own pony to his own buggy, as we kids joy-rode to the Slingerlands elementary School playing fields and had a fun time. It was a nice thing for Charlie to do and I remember him fondly for doing so. Given today’s emphasis on legal liability, I guess I grew up in a kinder, gentler era.
Across New Scotland Road from Charlie’s was the Toll Gate itself. This building shared the Post Office, today Trustco Bank and of court Art Zautner’s restaurant. Which incidentally has not changed its décor one bit since 1950. Perhaps that restaurant should be restored as an historic site.
Pre-teen kids of my era seldom had enough money for an ice cream cone in their pockets. But there was one thing we could usually buy. I well remember one hot summer day when we parked out bieks near the door and went into the blessed air conditioned shade, clubbing together our pennies to buy — “daiquiris.”
These were not the rum and fruit drinks you are thinking of. For one thing, we were 12 years old, under-aged. No, they were a green, cold, wet, sweet relief from summer’s sunny assault. Best of all, a small cocktail glass cost just 3 cents.
As I said, I guess I grew up in a kinder gentler era.
— R. E. Mulligan,