WINTER IN PALISADES: Looking Back
I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but having lived in Palisades all my life, it doesn't seem as if winters are quite what they used to be. I attended Palisades Grammar School from kindergarten through 7th grade. The first few years were spent in the "old school," now the Palisades Community Center. We could bring our lunch or have the good fortune of eating a lunch that was prepared by Mrs. Groetz, a wonderful woman, who lived on Rt. 340. I really liked Mrs. Groetz because she always let me have seconds. The "old school," as we called it, housed four classes then.
Recently, Alice Gerard and I were discussing the anniversary of the Palisades Library. I mentioned that I could remember just before they opened the library at its present location, that the grammar school children were marched in single file to the library with arms filled with books, where we deposited not only the books, but the wonderful stuffed birds. I would imagine that by today's standards, the school would have been charged with Child Labor Law violations.
Anyway, getting back to the way winters used to be, I vividly remember several snowstorms where the wind created snow drifts that were up to the top of my parents' car, a 1950 Buick. Of course, children remember things more vividly and memory has a way of embellishing the actual facts.
As the County Highway Superintendent and the past Town Highway Superintendent, I recall the Town's dump truck coming down Closter Road and spreading cinders along the road for traction. In those days, the Highway Departments didn't use salt, or sand for that matter, and used cinders from the power plant in Haverstraw acquired at no cost. Those cinders may have given a little traction, but snow and ice remained on the road for days.
If it didn't happen to be a workday, my father would fire up his pickup truck, a Dodge quarter ton, five window pickup. He would then attach a large 3/4" hemp rope and put knots in the rope every 10 feet. All the local kids would lie on their sleds behind the truck and hold on to the rope as he towed us down from Rockleigh on to the County road (Piermont Road or Rt. 340). We would then be towed up Oak Tree Road as the chains on the truck would throw hunks of snow and ice out from behind it while trying to climb the slippery hill. After a few rounds, we would all go to my house where my mother would have prepared hot chocolate.
I was the second Town Highway Superintendent to come from Palisades; the first Superintendent was Mr. Brown, who lived in what became the Thayer House on Closter Road and as an aside, he ran the Palisades cemetery. He'd pay the gravediggers with bottles of whiskey (so it's said).
Of course, Palisades has changed significantly and, with the addition of the “development” and the additional houses on Oak Tree Road, Swan Street and the other sub-divisions throughout the hamlet, people need to have the roads cleared as soon as possible to get to work in the city or elsewhere.
I certainly miss the more rural flavor of our community from the old 40's and 50's. In those days, my relatives would refer to Palisades as “up in the country,” when they came to visit us. Palisades was certainly a great place to grow up; we were only 12 miles from the George Washington Bridge, but might as well have been 80 miles away in the Catskills. I’ve always been pleased and proud to be a Palisadian.