Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Fotos (March 28, 2014) -- Lexington Drive Neighborhood (1970)

On Wednesday of this week I posted a photograph of our family home in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.  We moved into that home in July 1965.  We moved from Concord, NH to Cinnaminson, NJ because my father was transferred by Sears Roebuck from store management to the Eastern Territorial Office of Sears on Roosevelt Boulevard in northeast Philadelphia.  Cinnaminson was just across the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge from northeast Philly and so we moved into a brand new development when we left New Hampshire for New Jersey.  The home pictured in Wednesday's post was the third and last home my parents bought.

Today I post two photographs of the neighborhood of Lexington Drive in Cinnaminson.  They are both taken in about 1970, just a little over five years after we moved into the just-built home at 505 Lexington Drive. I find a few interesting things about these period photographs that I took with my Pentax 35mm camera during my first "photography phase." They are black & white photos because I was developing and printing the film myself.  Color film was more popular and common then, but much more difficult and expensive to process at home.

As a little additional background to these photographs and this neighborhood . . . The homes pictured are all only five or fewer years old.  This "development," as these newly created neighborhoods of homes were commonly known,  was called "Ivywood" and was located on the other side of a main road  (Pomona Rd.) from an older development known as "Ivystone." Both developments sat on sandy soil that was previously devoted to peach orchards.  The top soil (such as there was when the development began) was probably scraped off and sold so it could be marketed to new homeowners who need top soil to grow grass.  Many of the new homeowners in Ivywood did indeed buy top soil soon after moving in!

The neighborhood looking from our home to the far end of the street.

The neighborhood shown in these photos was part of the still growing, post WWII middle-class expansion into suburban areas close to major cities. Established, new, and aspiring middle-class families wanted new homes with some small piece of land in neighborhoods where children could play and move about safely.

When we moved into our home on Lexington Drive in July 1965, our home was one of only three or so on the street that were completed.  In fact, we had to move into a motel for several days when we arrived from NH while some punch list items necessary for an occupancy permit were finalized.  The street eventually (and at the time of these photos) had about 13 or 14 homes on it.  When we moved in the asphalt-paved street ended just before our driveway.  The rest of the road was dirt and gravel through what was still an active construction zone. We had no grass, just some raked dirt and we spent time raking and gathering stones from the yard before we had grass seed placed on it.  [That was after we obtained a bit of missing top soil to give the grass seeds a chance!]

One of the things I noted right away when I selected this photograph, is that almost every home has at least two cars. This is a very distinct difference from just a few years earlier when most middle-class families had a single car for the family.  No doubt this was driven [no pun intended] by the fact that there were no grocery stores or other retail businesses within any reasonable distance of these developments and so families had to drive out for almost everything they needed.  Gasoline also sold for less than 30 cents per gallon at the time and there were constant "gas wars" with give-aways and Green Stamps to lure customers in to "fill 'er up" while getting the windows washed, the oil checked and the tire pressure measured.

The neighborhood backyards taken from our backyard and looking in the same direction as the photo above.

A look at the backyards is also interesting. You can see how the backyards from one street back up to the yards on the next street. It would have provided a huge open greenspace, but everyone (understandably) wanted to define the limits of their hard-earned property and make it their own with a variety of "improvements" -- different style fences, pools (in-ground and above), garden sheds, swing sets, basketball hoops with cement dribbling slabs, etc. The variety of plantings is still too immature to make out, but they were there -- from the ornamental to the edible. This was believed to be middle-class suburban life at its best -- and in many respects it was. Kids populated the neighborhood and roamed not in gangs, but as playmates. The outdoors was the place to be whenever school was not in session and as long as the street lights had not come on -- which commanded most kids home.

Perhaps I need to take a trip and record the changes that have been wrought in this neighborhood over the last five decades.

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Photographs by the author.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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