By Arthur H. Gunther III
Back when, and “when” is whenever you or I hold a memory about a place or someone or thing, there was a country road in Pomona named McNamara, and though the signs still proclaim it, no longer is this a rural place. Nor is Pomona, named by apple farmer Nicholas Conklin in the 1700s, still wearing the robes of the goddess of fruit, for most of the trees are now 2x4s in suburban development.
There was a ritual in youth back “when” that included a summer walk from Hillcrest, a nearby Rockland County, N.Y., hamlet, to McNamara, early on before the day’s heat and humidity. It began off Eckerson Road onto State Street, to Hillcrest Avenue, across Rt .45 to Locust (sometimes it was the parallel Faist Drive) to Hempstead Road to Brick Church Road to Union to McNamara, where the hills and valleys, however light, caused young legs to stretch and the heart rate to quicken.
It was all worth it, for along McNamara, just before the old ASPCA animal center, were wildflowers and hay-like straw, which in the increasing warmth and bathed overnight in the wet, gave off a fragrance that Nick Conklin himself enjoyed so long ago.
For youth a bit bored by even summer recess, a walk to McNamara with or without pals brought accomplishment as well as passing the time of day. It was also ritual, and we all want that because regularity means some things in life can be put the shelf where they ought to be, and we can count on having them there and taking them down when we need to do that.
Back when McNamara still looked like it had for more than 100 years, a simple walk brought a trip to a friendly place, made that way by familiarity. Its many changes now in suburban growth and the equally major modifications and morphing in a youth’s growth to adulthood and its own journey toward sunset mean McNamara Road, now mostly in the Village of Hempstead, can only be a memory. But close the eyes, and a whiff of those wildflowers easily returns.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org