After my final event of the night – 11 altogether today – really, 11 – I decided to drive a few miles out of my way. I went into my old hometown of Mount Vernon, down Rte 22 from Bronxville to Lincoln Ave, around the Circle at Gramatan and onto West Lincoln, to the Southside.
It was bitterly cold out; no one out on the streets. Over Scotts Bridge (11th Ave) and down to Grimes Elementary, my old elementary school on 2nd St. It’s “new”; the Old Grimes that I attended is long gone, torn down. I wondered about all my teachers from that day: Mrs. Simonsen; Mrs. Feller; Ms. Ross and Ms. Lipsius. Mr. Zucker the principal. All over 50 years ago.
The “new” wing, opened in 1959, which housed my 1st-grade class, later became the alternative school. It was boarded up when I passed by tonight. Then I swing around to pass my parents house on S 14th Ave, alongside the overgrown lot next door. God, how I still miss them. Down to Third Street, and then across the Southside night all the way to the Hutch. Maybe an extra 7 miles out of my way; but the trip stretched 50+ years.
As a child, I visited Rye to go to the magical Playland, and to walk up to St ‘Mary’s Cemetery to visit the graves of my great-grandparents. I’d leave there to come home to MV. Role reversal tonight, I left the magical memories of childhood to return home to Rye.
There are 45 local governmental communities in Westchester, and many more hamlets with zip codes. As big as Yonkers, as small as North Salem. The Westchester of John Cheever novels was not the one I grew up in. But over the years, I’ve represented parts of 17 of the 45 towns/villages/cities. But never Mt Vernon.
I returned tonight, I observed, as the prodigal son back after years of living elsewhere. The streets are different; the streets are the same.
I thought that perhaps Rye doesn’t really need me. Nor does Bedford or Larchmont or Armonk. I do my very best for them. I eat in their restaurants, walk their streets, attend their events, work with their people, fight for their interests and become a part of their worlds. But they have so many other good and generous people that one politician can come or go. They succeed, as U2 once sang, With or Without You.
Ahh but Mt Vernon. Mt Vernon needs us all to care about its present and its future. Sharing part of its past is not enough. I came home tonight, for a late night drive, to remind myself of what it is all about. What Jesus and Moses and Buddha and the Founding Fathers all taught me. Work to help others, not just yourself.
I came home to Mt Vernon. And like the movie Titanic, the elderly Rose dreamt of that ship and its people at night, across the years. So do I. Brush Park. Hartley Park. AB Davis. City Hall Plaza. Sandford Blvd. Devonia Ave. I remember all of it at night.
Take a good look around – Bruce Springsteen sang – this is your hometown.
Senator George Latimer, a third generation Westchester native was born November 22, 1953 in Mt. Vernon to the late Stanley and Loretta (Miner) Latimer. After attending Mt. Vernon public schools, George graduated with a B.A. from Fordham University in the Bronx as well as a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from New York University’s Wagner School.
Latimer was elected to the State Senate, representing the 37th District in November of 2012. The 37th district is comprised of Bedford, Bronxville, Eastchester, Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye, Rye Brook, Tuckahoe, White Plains and Yonkers.