No House for Less than $28,000

My wife and I and pushed our one-year old in a stroller as we walked up the sidewalk of Bellwood Avenue in Sleepy Hollow on a Sunday afternoon in 1966.

Having read the real estate sections of the papers, I discouragingly muttered, “If we don’t hurry up and buy a house, there won’t be a three bedroom here for less than $28,000.” She smiled and joked, “You pessimist!”

Four years later we had enough for a down payment. Perspiration glued my shirt to my chest that day we signed up for a $30,000 mortgage on a $41,000 Dutch Colonial. Property taxes of $750 were a major concern, but the closeness of the railroad station, the abundance of young children, and the well-kept condition of the homes were appealing.

It was a different type of neighborhood then. Most people’s incomes were closer to the national median than now. Parked at the station each day were a collection of “flivers,” cars at least ten years old. Some of them had see-through fenders attributable to the ravages of rust. The sounds of their collective starting at the end of the day resembled those of a squadron of jets just before take-off. Today the station cars are of recent vintage, quiet, and many are of foreign extraction. The commuters themselves used to be middle-aged to older men wearing somber suits and felt hats. Comic relief was provided by the few who competed for the Dagwood Bumstead Award each morning by seeing how late they could be and still catch the 7:21.The appearance of the group has improved immensely with the addition of women and the more casual dress of the non-lawyers/ bankers. It no longer looks like a set for a 1950s movie.

During the spring, summer and fall on Saturday mornings, residents used to cut their own grass and rake their own leaves. Most mowers were the silent push-kind and the rakes were rakes, not blowers. Now the only do-it-yourself grass cutters on our block are three guys, including me, who qualified for Social Security years ago. After winter storms, groups of teenagers marched the streets looking for driveways to shovel. It seemed that most people then sent their children to the public schools all the way through. Now many appear to choose to a variety of private and parochial schools.

But some things haven’t changed. The river is still an inspiring sight all four seasons of the year. The town continues to have a real feel to it even though its name has changed. It is a place where you meet people you knew from youth baseball/softball leagues and back-to-school nights. You are genuinely interested in how their families are progressing as they are in yours. The Village services of garbage collection and snow removal are performed with computer-like efficiency. The neighborhood’s low-key 4th of July parade is still low-key, although cans of 25¢ beer have been replaced with bottles of Poland Springs.

One more thing hasn’t changed. You still can’t buy a house for less than $28,000.

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About the Author: Paul Phillips