I was born and raised on Crest Drive in what was then the northern point of Briarcliff Manor. In the beginning, there were five houses on Crest Drive, two on Pine Court and three on Parkway Drive. This small group of houses was located in more or less a triangle bordered by Route 9A (originally Route 404) to the west, Old Chappaqua Road to the north, and North State Road/Route 100 to the east.
To the north of our home, we were surrounded by woods with the exception of two farms on Old Chappaqua Road. To the east and south were beautiful fields, perfectly suited for my brother Al’s and my pleasure whenever we so desired. Sometime later I learned this expanse consisted of several long-abandoned holes from the golf course of a previous resort, The Briarcliff Lodge, which was then converted to a prestigious girls’ school named Edgewood Park. One of the best features of this beautiful expanse was “The Bump.” The Bump was the best sleigh riding hill in all of town. Kids came from all over when it snowed. The Bump (although we only discovered this sometime later) was formed by what had been two tee boxes from the golf course days of long ago. Starting from the top, which was an arduous climb, you could become airborne when you sailed off The Bump, and if you gained enough speed, and the snow was packed, you could travel all the way to the brook across 9A from Saint Teresa’s Church.
I can’t really explain why Al and I felt we had a proprietary interest in our triangle, but we did. Backing up a little in time, our oldest brother, John, was in the Naval Air Force and had been on submarine patrol up and down the east coast. In June 1944, the day before his squadron of naval bombers was to fly to join the European conflict, their planes were sabotaged by two German spies. In all, nine airmen, including my brother, John, were killed. At the time of my story, our other older brother, Walt, was off earning two bronze stars in Korea.
One day we heard the dreadful news that an out-of-town builder was planning a large housing development in town. This was a whole new concept for Briarcliff. To our absolute horror we learned that they were planning this monstrosity in our beloved fields. Soon they brought in large earth–moving equipment to start the destruction. What could we possibly do? While we tried to figure that out, the first thing we could do was slow down those horrible machines.
On that first night when we were certain Mom and Dad were asleep, we snuck out our bedroom window, down over the kitchen roof, and off to the fields. We really had no idea what we were doing, but we disconnected lots of important looking things, removed a few parts, and snuck back into our bedroom. To our amazement and great glee, the next day all work was stopped. Maybe we were on to something. We now had a plan that, I have to say, we enjoyed and was very effective. Thereafter, we were on the prowl every night.
I’m not sure how we managed to not get caught, but stories soon started appearing in the Ossining Citizen Register about the Mafia, which, for some unknown reason, didn’t want this development to happen. Supposedly, even the FBI was involved at some point. At this time, Al and I were both paper boys for the Citizen Register. We couldn’t wait for our distribution man to deliver our papers so we could see what the latest news on the Mafia was. Our delivery guy said we were the most dedicated carriers on his whole route, always waiting for him.
Then one night at dinner, my Dad, probably one of the biggest, most imposing men in town, said he had received some really sad news. The builder had contacted Dad and told him that they had planned on naming one of the main roads after my brother John, but the project was now in doubt. I assume Dad didn’t see the looks of horror on our young faces, or I doubt I would have been able to relate this tale.
For reasons unknown to this day, the Mafia closed up shop, the development proceeded, and Schrade Road came into being.
Len Schrade was born and raised in Briarcliff Manor, NY. He married Wilda Barber, also from Briarcliff Manor, and settled in the Northern Virginia area, where they were married for 30 years and raised four children. Len was a CPA for over 50 years and retired in 2017. He then moved to Southport, NC, with Sally, his beloved wife of 20 years.