Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a large handsome brick home on the corner of James and Lodi streets in Syracuse. It might have been owned by the president of a local bank or someone like him. That would be about 1900 or so I think. It is at the time I was there in 1959 the house, still brick, but was definitely showing its age. The house, once quite dignified had been cut up into small flats.The neighborhood had drifted downward. Sort of Low-income housing, though with some small businesses around, and an office building across the street on James. That was not very pretentious in 1959 and I imagine now completely replaced.. I think that now the whole area has been gentrified and turned into condos.
So, what brought me to this location in 1959? Good question. Both Roy and I were getting a bit tired of living in the Infirmary, and since I now had a car, we could often ride together, or the bus service was pretty good and the location not all that far from the University. In decent weather a walk down Lodi, cross Genesee St. and up the hill to the Univ. was not a bad way to go.
The University still viewed itself as sort of in loco parentis, and undergraduates were supposed to live in only S.U. approved housing. This grated on me as I had already graduated once, and the spring semester was to be my last one there. Both Roy and I wanted to have some sort of apartment for ourselves.
I cannot recall the details of how this all worked out, but we had found such an apartment at James and Lodi. It was a two bedroom apartment with a large living-dining room, kitchen, some sort of a bath with seedy but useable furniture and basic appliances and kitchen utensils. One bedroom had once been a porch that was now enclosed, and Roy chose this one, as he always liked the temperatures colder than I did. I think the rental was about $50 a month, and in return,we did small chores such as shoveling the sidewalk and mowing the grass. Not bad for starving students. I think our landlady’s name was Comstock, a 60ish woman.
Upon spring registration, we had our housing unit approved by a friend of mine who was working on his Master’s degree and had been a lab assistant in a course I took last term. I assured him during registration that the flat was approved, and with a wink and a nod, he gave us the OK on whatever form was being processed.
At that time, HI-FI had been available on vinyl for a while and Roy had built a tube amplifier from Heathkit. Stereo had barely arrived. His father had made a humongous speaker cabinet and so with that addition to our furniture, we were able to enjoy nice sounding music. There was a laundromat nearby which was handy for clothes washing. Also a neighborhood grocery store down the street on Lodi. I remember that they made their own bulk sausage which sold for I think, 35 cents a pound. It had a pretty good taste, though was about one third grease. If we had lye, we could have made soap, but probably would attract all the neighborhood dogs after taking a shower, so I suppose the grease added a bit more to the pollution of Onondaga Lake.
So, we had our own flat, were able to make basic meals, and invite friends over to listen to music, have a beer or two and maybe enjoy a take-away pizza from a nearby Italian restaurant. Perhaps washed down with some cheap Chianti wine. You know, the bottle with the wicker wrap around it.
And, being red-blooded young men we could also have our girlfriends over to spend time with us, though this did call for some consideration of each other’s schedules and personal wishes.
Wednesday February 25, 1959 was a beautiful clear winter day, one I will certainly will not forget. Of course you have seen where this narrative is going. Yes, Marge and I both had a free afternoon, and we spent it making love. This time, the real deal together in bed, not just sort of adolescent groping in the front seat of a small car. Words escape me trying to describe the emotional as well as physical joy of finally being able to express our love for each other, body and soul. The last sounds trite but it was true.
We had made a major step into the unknown world of adult-hood.
We both loved each other then and I still love Marge now even though she is physically gone. She lives on in my memories, especially those of our little flat on James and Lodi.