by Tony Fusco
Independent, thickheaded, citizens of Allingtown
we never thought of ourselves as part of West Haven.
The town trucks and police hardly ever passed our
small farm, just plenty of trailer trucks rumbling
back and forth on the Boston Post Road, targets
for snowballs and local girls sitting on the top
of billboards waving to the drivers. We had our
own center, triangle green, a hub for buses that
could take you somewhere important, New Haven
Lighthouse, Savin Rock, Bridgeport. They rolled
over routes that once were trolley and train lines
The Derby New Haven Railroad, Milford–West Shore,
Yale Bowl. We waited in Faters soda shop whose
ice cream and wax bottles of syrup made the time
between transfers pass quickly. Right next door
Rocky’s Barber Shop’s a small horse on a chair
in the window lured the less than eager of the
Howdy-Doody set, and at Sal’s bar, dads could
grab a fast beer. There sat the man everyone
called the mayor of Allingtown, Mr. Tamborini,
photos on the walls of former boxers, Tony Carlo
Joe Harvey, Joey Pep. Where was West Haven?
We drove through it on the way to Savin Rock,
to Turk’s and the stock car races, Sutcliff and Gambino
red Ford number 4 and blue Dodge number 5 waged
demolition war for 50 laps in dust and oil on Friday
nights. Santa gave out gifts in the firehouse on Admiral
Street the same room Aldo took dancing lessons
where the firemen might let you climb in a pumper truck
and ring the bell. Saturdays with a dollar each in pocket
we’d walk down US 1 past the old county home
to the Forest Theater for a matinee movie, three cartoons,
the dollar covering admission and a box of snowcaps.
Forest School waited for Monday across the street, its two
entrances, one for boys the other for girls carved in stone
lintels. We went to Lincoln up the hill, built in 1925
shortly after residents voted to separate from Orange.
Manhole covers still proclaim: Property of the town
of Orange, but they are wrong. There are signs you could
read from the bus crossing the West River:
Welcome to West Haven.
But they are wrong too. Anyone that has ever lived here
knows, like we knew then, its not on any map,
yet within these lines, lies Allingtown.
(Written with memories from Connie Sacco
-Long time WH Head Librarian)
by Tony Fusco
We knew at blackberry picking time
the berries would be ready for us.
Together, we were always together
my friends, husband and wife, neighbors.
He would lead our way with his walking
stick. We with our saved strawberry baskets
meandered in the middle of the dirt road
whose path followed the West Riverbank.
Water polluted now, but not so long ago
Pristine, the water hole we called the lagoon
full of laughter and joy when the children
from the county home marched from the hot summer
dormitories’ in neat lines down the old Post Road
to relief, to swimming lessons to some natural
ground underfoot with chestnut trees to the right,
on our left, the bushes. Large branches packed full
and tight with berries, huge and black
sweet and sour juice that exploded
and squirt into dry mouths, that darkened
lips and purpled teeth.
Plenty for all, a bush for each of us.
Intent on our picking, berries drop in chunks,
overfill the containers, all others forgotten,
all things were lost in the moment.
until we met again on the road
with smiles and baskets. Pie crusts at home ready
on the kitchen counters. Lemon juice or tapioca
or both? Fresh berries pie, tasteful with tea.
We take turns, tomorrow I will bring them my pies
The neighbors are gone now, I no longer go
there, the road blocked off, broken glass
and trash strewn, once even a body dumped.
Still some summer days I imagine some full
blackberries still fall to the ground, eaten by birds
and carried high to heavens and clouds.
I remember the river and the way it was,
and smell those baked pies on the kitchen window sill.