The fact that Babe has addressed several of his last letters to 500 Lexington Avenue has always amused me a bit. The last letter I posted included the “500 Lexington Avenue” address, but as you can see from his dog tag, his address was 491 Lexington. I find it amusing because I think it’s another small reminder of Babe’s age when he was inducted into the army. He was only 18, just months out of high school.
A little later in the series of letters, he’ll note that he addresses them to “500 Lexington” because, “it looks and sounds much better than 491.” Priceless. I also think it’s funny because in the 1940 census, Mount Kisco tallied 5,941 people — and, apparently, in a town that size, it doesn’t matter how precise the mailing address is.
I’ve included a Google Street View image of the house that stands at that address now. Functionally, it’s the same as the house I remember, but it’s changed in so many ways.
When I was a youngster and visited my grandmother, Babe’s mother, at that house, the trees you see in front to the left were not there. Instead, there was a parking lot that could accommodate five or six cars with tall row of hedges. The lot was for my Uncle Vin’s insurance business, which he ran out of the first floor of the house. Up the front porch, and the door on the right was Uncle Vin’s office.
We never went in through the front; we went through the back door, just down the left side of the house as we are looking at it in the picture. A few steps up into a modest back porch, then into the kitchen where I remember the smell of escarole soup would greet us. My grandmother and my Uncle Bob (“Bib”) lived on the first floor of the house.
They rented the second floor to the Cuffs, an Irish family of five — Mr. and Mrs., and their three children, Jimmy, Lisa and Frankie.
Just outside the back door, in the yard to the left of the house, was a beautiful grape arbor that shaded a long red picnic table. My parents spoke of large family meals under that grape arbor, with several courses of food — the salad, the fish, the pasta. There must have been meals like that when I was very young, but I don’t remember them.
This, of course, was the house where my mother was raised. Walk straight back to the back of this yard, into the woods, down a hill, over a brook, up the wooded hillside and you’d emerge in the backyard of my father’s house on Spring Street.