Growing Up: Malverne, LI, NY 1938-45 – The Background

Patty Anne, Doody & Mother at the "Dirty House" on Atlas Ave.

Patty Anne, Doody & Mother at the “Dirty House” on Atlas Ave.

My parents moved from Massachusetts to Malverne when I was about 2 years old. We lived on Atlas Avenue and then moved into our new house at 35 Doncaster Road in 1940.

Pattie-Anne and I always referred to the Atlas Avenue house as the Dirty House. Who knows why? Probably it came from hearing our mother saying, “Don’t pick up that dirty old comb off the street.” Or “Let’s take off these dirty old socks and put some clean ones on.” Dirty and old were synonymous. We were leaving the old house, the Dirty House, to move to a new house––a small Cape Cod, but in my eyes it was huge.


Doncaster Road - circa 1940

Doncaster Road – circa 1940

35 Doncaster Road today (Google)

35 Doncaster Road today (Google)

I was known as Doody back then. Turns out when I was born the family called me Doodlebug. A cute name for a baby but eventually the whole neighborhood  knew me as Doody. My mother realized when I was about four or five, before I went to school, that it wasn’t a great name to go through life with, so the family and neighbors made an effort to call me Denny. I appreciate their success, although who knows – maybe when I started my art business many many years later I could have called it “Doody’s Doodles”.

These were the “war years”. I remember at home having blackout drills when all the lights in the neighborhood (or maybe beyond) had to be out.

FJ JR - helmet,billy club

My father, Frederick J. Hillman, dressed for Civil Defense duty

Uncle Ham (Hamilton Rice)

Uncle Ham (Hamilton Rice)

My father was one of the Civil Defense volunteers on the neighborhood watch. He wore a helmet and carried a billy club. I thought he looked so grand, but I wonder now who on earth he expected to beat over the head with this club. I think he mainly had to make sure that no one had lights on and their shades were pulled down. None the less, he seemed very important in my eyes. (He was almost drafted at one point but was never called.)

Uncle Ham (Hamilton Rice), my mother’s younger brother, was in the army and it was always thrilling when he came home on furlough. If he came in at night my mother would wake us so we could see him.

My parents had ration books. They could buy only so much sugar, coffee, cigarettes, meat, butter and gasoline, among other things. We didn’t even own a car for awhile. My father walked back and forth to the train station, maybe 6-7 blocks away. My mother walked to market––about the same distance. Sometimes the market delivered to the house. Aunt Olive (Olive Hurlbut) had a car because she needed it for work.

We went to school in Valley Stream, 1¼ miles away, even though the school in Malverne was only 4 blocks away––we were one block out of the school district. At first we had buses but during the war years we walked. We walked with our friends, but none of them was in my classes.

Ration Book

Ration Book

War Bond Stamp Book

War Bond Stamp Book

So much of our lives revolved around the war, even at school. We took our nickels, dimes and quarters there and bought .25 cent stamps which we pasted in books. Once the book was full ($18.75) we’d get a War Bond worth $25.00 when cashed 10 years later. I did have a few bonds before we were through. We also collected tin. There was a competition in the schools for which class brought in the most. We went all over collecting. All cans were washed, the bottom taken off and then each can was flattened with the lids inside. The tin foil from chewing gum and cigarette wrappers were saved. I don’t know how we lugged the cans to school in paper bags, but we did.

War Bond

The students went to the auditorium once or twice a week for whatever reason I don’t recall, although sometimes we had movies on safety. And we ALWAYS sang the “Patriotic” songs. I knew them by heart.

“Over hill, over dale as we hit the dusty trail  . . . . .” US  Army)

“Anchors Aweigh, my boys . . . . .” (US Navy)

“Off we go into the wild blue yonder . . . . .” (US Army Air Corps, now the US Air Force).

“From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli . . . . .” (US Marines).

And then we had our “outside the school” song.  Though it sounds inappropriate today, back then this was considered the “nice” version.

“Whistle while you work Hitler is jerk. Mussolini  is a weenie and the Japs are worse.”

Denny and Pattie-Anne sitting on running board of Aunt Olive's car

Denny and Pattie-Anne sitting on running board of Aunt Olive’s car

We often had air raid drills. They were typical type drills. Everyone was supposed to line up in some kind of order in the hallway, quietly and in a straight line. I think my first grade class was then supposed to go to the gym. I don’t remember because I never got there. I would see my sister, Pattie-Anne, in her line going into the auditorium where her class was supposed to sit. I would go over and stand next to her and follow her in.

This got the auditorium seating plan out of order. Her teacher would find me and tell me to get up and go with my class to the gym. I would get up and then I would smell my teacher, Miss Pitcher, coming. She always reeked of perfume. She would march me out of the auditorium and give me my scolding, a lecture about “You know where you’re supposed to go!”  And “Don’t you remember what you were told!” And “You’re not to go to the auditorium again!” By the time she was through scolding me the air raid drill was over. I probably had to stand in the corner when we got back to class.

Next time we had a drill we were once again given directions. I went out and dutifully stood in line in the hall with my class––until I saw Pattie-Anne. Once again I rushed across the hallway and stood next to her.

It just seemed logical to me that if we were going to be bombed I ought to be sitting with my sister.

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Nice blog Denny! I can’t imagine growing up in a time of war. I loved the part where you kept running over next to Anne during the air raid drills!

Great stories, Mom! I love the very young perspective you give to that period in history, and I agree that it made way more sense to be with your sister during a drill!

Denny I love it! I have especially tender feelings about you coming to me in school. That is so sweet a memory. You’ve remembered so many details I hadn’t have in mind for decades. I don’t have ANY of those great photos except the one on the running board. Would you please send me copies?!! In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the one of mom with us on the porch or of daddy in his uniform! Two things I might add this morning: Daddy was actually called up to go to war and the “Staff Club” at church (an adult couples’ group) even gave him a going away party the weekend before he was to leave for boot camp. Then end of the war came at the very last minute, just before he was sent off. I remember the family was more concerned that the folks in the club had given him a gift: a small khaki drawstring bag filled with toothpaste, shaving cream, etc. and they wondered if they should return it. They didn’t. And the reason I remember it so well was that I got to have the bag for my marbles!

Love the story. The whistle while you work song made me laugh out loud at its political incorrectness.

Of course, we as kids didn’t really know what we were singing about, nor did we know where the song even came from. I debated about posting it here, but it IS part of my early memories.

Hi, I found your blog on Google, I was looking for information about Malverne in the 1940’s. I’ve worked in town for the past 9 years and just found out that my grandfather either owned or worked at Malverne Chemist in 1940. I was trying to find out more information about the store and was wondering if you remember it. It was located at 320 Hempstead Ave.

Hi: I have been happily residing in Malverne for the past 27 years. I love seeing old pictures of Malverne homes. I came across the 1940s picture of 35 Doncaster on Google images and recognized it immediately as the home we just toured last week, as it is currently on the market. Whenever I am in an older home, I always wonder about its history, its previous owners, etc. It is a lovely home that has been very well taken care of. As I walked through it, I did indeed wonder what it was like in its younger days and who the former inhabitants might have been. That is why it was such a a thrill to read about your childhood memories of this house (the coat closet; the second floor living space). Thanks for sharing!

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