Throughout the time I attended Bicycle Path Elementary School in Selden, from 3rd to 6th grade, my school bus would pass by a well-worn, two-story greying farmhouse with a front porch and bay window, and a massive old tree stretching its limbs wide, nearly covering the entire yard.
Each day I would scrutinize the home as my bus lumbered by, and look for life in the darkened windows, wondering who had lived there, where did they go, and how old the house really was. I guessed hundreds of years. It looked like a house that had seen a lot of love and a lot of life. I imagined the fields once lush with corn or wheat. I swore I saw a swing hanging from the oak tree limb. I pictured children running and shrieking in the front yard, playing tag or jump rope, or whatever games they played back in their day.
It was one of the last large parcels of land on that part of the main road. It was bordered by Dare Road on the west side, and a huge lot on the east side.
Today the house is gone. The massive tree is gone, and a Walgreens and parking lot has sprouted where the field once grew wild. But the property where the house stood is untouched, a green lawn and trees and bushes neatly maintained, according to a Google Maps image.
I’ve been looking for photos of this house for a long time. I didn’t remember that it had a name. I was just searching “vintage photos old Selden buildings,” or similar wordings. I even took a screen shot of the Google map image of the parcel about two weeks ago.
Then the other night a photo and post popped up in my Facebook newsfeed of an old house in Selden. THE VERY SAME HOUSE I’d been searching for all these years.
This is a big deal to me. As my husband David said, it’s like the Universe is lining everything up for me.
On April 24, my book Ten Bucks and a Wish will be released on Amazon.com. The story tells a tale of letting go of the past to make way for the future, and at the core of this tale is this very house that once stood on the corner of Dare Road and Middle Country Road, the Norton-Dare House. In the book, it is called Drake’s Farm. And it is located in the fictitious town of Olde Westfield, not Selden, in the Town of Brookville, not Brookhaven.
And (in the book) the adjacent acreage known as the property belonging to the McCords, honors the memory of a parcel of land that once stood thick with trees and vegetation on the corner of Boyle Road and Middle Country Road. That parcel actually had a burial ground on it, and an old house and well that I explored in my younger days. Today it is a huge shopping center that the community fought hard against. But with the plaza came jobs and progress and entertainment, and new memories for people living there.
At one point in its history, Selden was named Westfield. But that changed in the mid-1800s with the arrival of an official post office, and in honor of the then Lieutenant Governor, Henry Selden. When I was younger, I’d heard of an effort to change the name back to something similar to Westfield. I guess that never happened. At least not in real life. But in Ten Bucks and a Wish, Westfield comes alive again as Olde Westfield.
I grew up in Selden, moving there from the Bronx with my family when I was seven years old, and finally leaving when I got married at 23 years old. I attended Bicycle Path Elementary, Selden Jr. High, Newfield High School, and Suffolk Community College. I worked at the local drugstore, hung out at the local bar.
I went to church faithfully at St. Margaret’s of Scotland, where I made my communion and confirmation, and where I was married. We celebrated this union at the Andrea Doria Manor. All in Selden.
The schools and church are still there. The drugstore has changed name and is now flanked by newer strip malls and shopping complexes, and anchor stores. But many of the landmarks I thought would last forever are gone, and the landscape is so different it is difficult to drive through and remember tales to share.
But this is life. This is progress. And these stores and landmarks will be changed when the youth of today come back in 30 years, trying to find the buildings they passed every day on the way to school.
So, even though Selden has succumbed to modern development in the name of progress, I’m happy that I have been able to forever preserve Selden as Olde Westfield in Ten Bucks and a Wish.
And just as Deanna Drake has the opportunity to revisit the past, and recapture her youth, so have I through Facebook. There is a group on Facebook called “You Know You are From Selden If…” and this is where I found the image of the Norton Dare House. Well, it found me. I’ve also been able to reconnect to old friends, and reminisce about the “good old days.
So here is to old times, old friends, new friends, and letting go of the past to make way for tomorrow.