Irvington “Legacies” Recall Life in the Village in the Forties and Fifties

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By Barrett Seaman

The Martucci Reading Room of the Irvington Public Library was packed to the rafters Sunday afternoon for a panel discussion featuring ten of the twelve subjects of the Irvington Historical Society’s “Legacies” project. All twelve were in at least their eighties; one, Jean MacIntosh, will turn 100 later this year. All twelve had spent the better part if not all of their childhoods in Irvington in the 1940s and 1950s. They were interviewed by members of the Historical Society (IHS) over the past five months and photographed by board member Edna Kornberg, whose portraits are on display at the library along with vignettes from the extensive interviews that were conducted. Eventually, the portraits and vignettes will take book form.

The project was inspired by a similar series of interviews and photos of older residents of Truro, Massachusetts that caused IHS board member Veronica Gedrich to suggest something similar for Irvington. It didn’t take long to identify a dozen men and women whose lives amply reflected the history of the village.

The panel discussion was moderated by IHS board member Scott Mosenthal, the retired principal of Irvington High School who conducted many of the interviews. Each panel member recalled what life was like during the Great Depression, World War II and in the formative postwar years.

Jean MacIntosh was one of the pioneers in the U.S. Navy’s development of radar during the war who returned to raise four children and become involved in Irvington’s PTA, Red Cross chapter and Garden Club, among other organizations .

All five of John Morrison’s brothers served during the war, yet only his oldest brother, the last to be called up because he had been deemed the family’s sole supporter, did not come home.

Joan Lobdell, towards the end of the program, sang the Irvington High fight song. She also noted that she and John Morrison were the only surviving members of Irvington High School’s Class of 1942.

Bob Reilly, an architect, remembered the “Victory Gardens” at the top of Main Street at the entrance to what is now Fieldpoint as well as on the Columbia Nevis property.

Mary Jane D’Arrigo described life in the Depression—first on a farm in upstate New York and then Irvington—when “you grew up fast.”

Paul “Babe” Dinan recounted what it was like to be an all-round athlete in a small village high school, where he was a star running backon the football team and set a record for the 100-yard dash that stands to this day.

Mike Carney, whose uncle was the actor Art Carney of Honeymoonersfame, went on to become a renowned bandleader and still performs today.  Asked towards the end of the afternoon if he wanted to add anything, he replied, “Anybody planning a wedding.”

Bob Connick, who was joined on the panel by Marion, his wife of 65 years, recalled life in what was then known as Dublin, the Irish enclave that is now East Irvington.

Frank Gilligan took the audience on a verbal tour of Main Street in the 1950s, naming every store and residence from Broadway to the train station (with only minor additions and corrections from a thoroughly engaged audience).

At the close of the program, Irvington resident Patricia Mulvey leapt to her feet and pronounced it “the best program ever!” Her words were followed by a standing ovation from a room still packed after more than ninety minutes.

The display will remain on the walls of the Martucci Reading Room throughout the month of June. The IHS will devote its annual fundraising gala, to be held the afternoon of October 13 at the Ardsley Country Club, to the Legacy honorees, two of whom, Langdon Stevenson and Jack Lynch, were unable to attend the June 2 panel discussion.

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