29 Hickory Drive

On September 11 — after nearly 60 years in Westport –Barbara Stalling moved away. Her kids are scattered around the country. For the 1st time in almost 6 decades, no Stallings live here.

Her son David — who’s in Berkeley, California — posted a remembrance on his blog, Out Into the Wilds. Here’s part of what he wrote:

29 Hickory Drive
Westport, CT  06880

Those 29 letters and numbers evoke strong, happy memories of home.

My parents bought the place in 1956 when the average cost of a new home was $11,700, the average annual income was $4,450, and the cost of gas was 22 cents per gallon. My dad was 32, my mom was 23.

It’s a single story ranch-style house with a living room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and a separate 2-car garage (although I can’t ever remember a car being in there) near the end of a dead-end road. The backyard, where a small brook still runs, was swampy  — but my parents filled it in with rock and dirt. It became the neighborhood playground.

29 Hickory Drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister Sue and brothers Ed and Bob obviously moved in before me. I arrived in 1960. Tim came along 6 years later. And there we all lived, 7 of us, along with the dogs (Ginger, Brandy, Dallas and Oakley). We laughed, cried, fought, loved, learned, grew. My siblings and I eventually moved out. My parents remained. My father died in the house in 2003, at 79.

Yesterday my mom moved out of the place, also at 79. She moved into a wonderful retirement home in Trumbull.

I don’t yet know what will become of the place. I imagine someone will buy it, tear it down, and put up something new.  But oh, if that house could talk!

David Stalling and his son Cory.

Some random memories come to mind:

Sharing a small bedroom with 3 brothers (Sue had her own room, and we called her the “queen”). Always having to wait to use the bathroom. Always feeling rushed in the bathroom because someone else was waiting.

The rotary phone on the wall that still remains. The “cobblers bench” coffee table that still remains with scratches and crayon marks from several generations of Stalling kids (the same bench my friend Bryan Keith cracked when he jumped on top of it during a toga party. I think my mom is still upset about that.)

Waking up on occasion to find large striped bass in the bathtub, caught by my dad the night before, and placed in the tub to be kept wet so as not to lose weight for contest weigh-ins held by the Westport Striped Bass Club. My mom hung laundry out to dry in the backyard.

Ed Stalling and a striper.

My dad ran a TV and radio repair shop out of the garage, and it was full of televisions, electronic equipment and giant tubes. The garage always had a unique odor from the frequent soldering of wires.

My brother Ed played drums in the garage and hated being disturbed. I had many drum sticks thrown at me for taunting him.

We also had a CB Radio in the garage. My handle was Goo-Goo Eyes (my favorite striper fishing plug). While I was being a wise-ass to some truckers one night I didn’t realize everything I said was being broadcast over our television. My father heard everything. My CB days came to an end.

The Stalling garage outside…

We built a deluxe tree house in a big white ash which I fell out of once, making one of my frequent visits to the hospital. I had many adventures in the woodlot behind the house, across the brook, where we sometimes held secret meetings of the “Mustard Club” which required putting mustard on our noses.

Danny Deluca was the neighborhood bully until my sister beat him up. We played kickball on the street, and organized huge games of hide-and-go-seek in the evenings. In the winters we sledded on the neighborhood hills, played hockey on local ponds, and dug snow forts in the big piles left by plows.

When the roads were covered in snow and ice we’d hide out near stop signs and (unbeknownst to the drivers) grab on to the bumpers of cars to “skitch” our way around.  In the summer we built go-carts and bombed down the hills. I organized a few fairs in our yard, to raise money for multiple sclerosis, and built a store on wheels to sell lemonade, soda and candy.

…and in.

The kitchen always smelled good from mom’s ham, macaroni salad and apple pie. The outside water hose hung on the house near the kitchen window, where my dad once got hit by lightning. We would climb onto the roof, run fast, and make the six-foot or so jump from house roof to garage roof. I once caught the bedroom on fire while waxing my cross-country skis.

My brother Bob and I often fought and got booted out of the house. Once, thinking we were banned from home, we “survived” by stealing hot dogs off the neighbor’s grill. Mopsy Akey would sit on the stone wall between our house and the Ragus, where she knew I could see her from the bedroom window, and tease me by showing me her underwear.

From the house I could walk to Burr Farms Elementary School, then Long Lots Junior High, and then Staples High School. I could also walk or ride my bike to Burying Hill Beach, Sherwood Island, Compo, and the Saugatuck Reservoir (where I once got caught poaching trout).

And the trees! The huge white ash trees, sugar maples, red oaks, white pines and hemlocks. And of course the hickories. It’s where I first fell in love with trees, and learned all I could about them. I dug up small trees on camping trips to northern Connecticut, and planted them in the yard when I got home. Some are still there, and have grown fairly large – rooted, like an anchor, to the land I grew up on.

It’s my home – a home that has been saturated with nearly 60 years of life and love.

It has always been home to me, and always will be.  Thomas Wolfe wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but that’s not entirely true: All I have to do is close my eyes and remember.

(To read David’s entire blog post, click here.)

18 responses to “29 Hickory Drive

  1. David’s heartwarming memories, turn this house into a home. I can feel, breath, and live his experiences through his words. What a beautiful childhood! I hope someone purchases this home and raises another happy family there.

  2. Thanks for those great memories of yours

  3. We all have memories like this, but few can put it into words as eloquently as David. Thank you for reminding me of all the things that I take for granted and think will never end.

  4. Great story…well told.
    🙂

  5. Falling out of tree houses, skitching behind cars, jumping from roof to roof, dad getting hit by lightning…Holy crap! Its a wonder the Stallings made it out of Westport alive! Great read, thanks for sharing.

  6. Timothy Woodruff

    Great Post and a blast to read. Crusher Garage!

  7. I can close my eyes and share similar memories. Thanks David for opening all our eyes as a reminder of simpler times as children growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

  8. Those are great stories Dave from the great days of our childhood. I hope that your mom will be very happy and loved in her new home. My best to you and your whole family.
    Mike Nuzzo

  9. LAKE GIRL FROM NY

    What a great story. I grew up in the same era and could relate to so many of your memories. Thank you for the trip down memory lane, it gave me goose bumps.

  10. Wait a sec….ONE bathroom???? Wow!

  11. thanks for sharing! As one of the many “expats” that reads Dan’s blog i find particular enjoyment in the posts that bring back that not so distant past of mine and others’ childhood in our shared and beloved zip code. My folks left a dozen years ago. One has now passed and the other in a facility, so i’m engaged in the wistful archeology of processing a family’s “stuff”, much of which still has the power to transport me to Westport, despite a distance of 3000 miles. I too enjoy seeing familiar names here, as if our collective psychic home has been re-lit again in the etherworld of Dan’s 06880.

  12. Thanks to all for the wonderful comments and memories, and thanks for posting this Dan! Yes, Don: Imagine having one bathroom! Oh, the rough, brutal and horrible conditions we survived through back in the day! 🙂 Well said Doug: O6880 has become my favorite blog in the entire crazy internet world — it’s like an ongoing, nonstop nostalgic reunion and visit home. I recommend that all of us who can donate what we can to Dan’s amazing efforts to ensure this wonderful site continues. I sure plan to! Thanks, again, Dan!

  13. Wonderful stories and wonderfully written.

  14. Wow, it’s been awhile since I visited some of those memories.

    Skitching? Check
    Falling out of tree forts? Check
    Walking or bike riding absolutely everywhere? Check
    Emulating Evil Kneivel with my bike and home built jump ramp? Check
    Knowing every inch of the woods and stream behind my house in Westport? Check
    Growing up on a dead end street filled with kids whose names most every townie recognizes? Check
    Camping WITH Stalling boys in various locales, summer and winter (boy scouts!)? Check
    Believing I had the greatest childhood a kid could ask for? CHECK!!

    Thanks Dave for bringing me back.

  15. I have many stories about the Stalling brothers over the years. The Bounty Hunter Stories from Bob’s high school years are classics and really should be written down (and maybe sealed for 100 years).

    Love you guys! Someday I need to sit down with Sue and hear what it was like to grow up with all you guys.

    Best regards to your Mother, who surely must have achieved Sainthood status by now.

    Oh and Bob, I still consider you instrumental in getting me and Scott together, and will never forget you telling me that you “know everyone who is 24 and went to Staples.”

  16. Thanks for sharing some of your great memories we can all relate to!
    Feels like I was in a time machine because of your honest descriptions.

  17. Just spent four days cleaning out 29 Hickory Drive. Yea, we all have to do this eventually. Yea, it’s tough. Yea, it’s a lesson in perspective. But to be able to do this amidst this great blog post and these great memories helped make a tough thing a bit more fun and interesting. Thanks Dan, Dave, and all! Eddie Stalling (one of the infamous Stalling Brothers)

  18. Thanks for posting Dan. Dave, thanks for the wonderful perspective. I too have fond memories of that house, of skitching, biking around Westport and traipsing through various streams and woods, many of which are now gone to development. yes you can go home, in your minds eye!