Chapter 6: Stacy, 1970

At fifteen, Stacy is still yearning for “something” to happen. Teen life isn’t like what her sister experienced (formal dances and dates at the soda shop). Instead it’s a group of kids hanging out “talking about how bored they were.” Until the day she meets Greg Martinez, cousin of Stacy and her friend Julie’s nemesis, Richie. Richie’s a bloviating showoff, but Greg is something else: not only cute and athletic, but interested in some of the same offbeat things as Stacy–things Julie is always trying to get her to stop talking about in front of boys.

Greg’s presence signals that the regular summer Saturday night teen hang at the Arboria Park playground will be more fun than usual. As her friends sip beer, smoke pot, and make out on the playground equipment, Stacy and Greg are watching the stars and talking about all kinds of things. Too bad he’s only visiting for the weekend.

The Arboria Park teens listen to AM Top 40 radio at their gathering, but Stacy and Greg learn they’ve both discovered hard rock music through older siblings living interesting lives in New York City. Stacy even confides that she’d like to learn to play electric guitar. Free-form progressive FM rock radio is making its way into the scene in 1970. Compare the kinds of songs Stacy’s friends are listening to and the kinds Stacy and Greg seek out:


No Sugar Tonight   The Guess Who

Fire and Rain   James Taylor

Ride Captain Ride     Blues Image

Let It Rain    Eric Clapton

Make Me Smile   Chicago

Lola          The Kinks

All Right Now       Free

Mama Told Me Not to Come    Three Dog Night



 Kick Out the Jams    MC5

T.V Eye    The Stooges

Angel    Jimi Hendrix

Cry Baby    Janis Joplin

Paranoid     Black Sabbath

Midnight Rambler   Rolling Stones

Man Who Sold the World     David Bowie


Chapter 5: Stacy, 1968

A year of international upheaval and change is reflected in Stacy’s own life, though she initially views the summer of 1968 as “boring.” She’s edged into the teen years but not enough to really matter, except for making some cash babysitting for people other than her sister. This includes new black neighbors, just some of the people she’s hanging out with regularly of whom her mom decidedly does not approve.

Mary’s working and taking college courses at night, Don’s about to be sent to Vietnam, and Olga has a boyfriend. Daisy and her roommate, Helena, smoke weed and host parties featuring the guitar-playing grad student Arch, who Stacy worries is up to some “funny business” with her sister. As she spies on Mary and her friends (while taking guitar lessons from Daisy), Stacy is also keeping track of what’s going on at the neighboring Oakley farm. It’s about to be developed into a subdivision nicer and fancier than Arboria Park, and Stacy’s mother Evelyn is lobbying for the family to move there. Because the only thing flower child Daisy and uptight Evelyn agree on is that Arboria Park is nothing but “houses made of ticky tacky.”

Before summer is over, Stacy’s loyalties are tested: to her family, to her new friends, and to her neighborhood. While many American cities are in flames, the only fire Stacy sees is when the Oakley farmhouse is put to the torch by the new developers. But she also observes the symptoms of “white flight” in Arboria Park and how sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll are tearing generations apart, even within her own family.

Some songs from 1968:

Hey Jude/Revolution            The Beatles

Dock of the Bay           Otis Redding

Sunshine of Your Love           Cream

Midnight Confessions              The Grassroots

Born to Be Wild                         Steppenwolf

Jumpin’ Jack Flash                     Rolling Stones

I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight            Boyce & Hart

Time Has Come Today               Chambers Brothers

Think            Aretha Franklin


Chapter 4: Stacy, 1967

It’s 1967.The word “love” is on everyone’s lips; love songs dominate the charts. The Beatles claim it’s all you need.

But it’s definitely not the Summer of Love over at Mary and Don’s house. In fact, Mary doesn’t even want to accompany Don, who has joined the Air Force, to his training destination. Stacy, who’s just trying to rush through her last year before reaching her ultimate goal of being a teenager, still hopes they’ll work it out. But she can also see why things aren’t going well.

As Stacy hangs out at Mary’s looking after her toddler niece, Autumn, she’s also getting to watch TV shows her mother doesn’t want her exposed to (like Dark Shadows), listen to Bob Dylan, and meet Mary’s newest neighbors–flaky hippie Daisy and the gorgeous, exotic Olga. Olga is from Spain and married to a control freak; like Mary she’s yearning to break free. Maybe Olga’s listening to Englebert Humperdinck sing “Release Me (Let Me Love Again)” as she hustles to get dinner on the table before her demanding husband gets home.

At home, brother Tommy has announced he’s joined the National Guard and a traveling theater troupe, angering his parents by refusing to attend college. Stacy just wants to support her siblings and keep her own toe-hold in the wider world of adults and cultural changes. As she listens to Mary’s new Dylan album, she thinks “She Belongs to Me” could relate to her sister’s life. But maybe “Subterranean Homesick Blues” sums up the discordant summer of ’67 for Stacy’s family overall.

Some of the great love songs from the Summer of Love:

Dedicated to the One I Love                       The Mamas and the Papas

Somebody to Love                                        Jefferson Airplane

Happy Together                                             The Turtles

Friday on My Mind                                       The Easy Beats

To Sir With Love                                            Lulu

Expressway to Your Heart                           Soul Survivors

Here Comes My Baby                                   The Tremeloes

I Was Made to Love Her                              Stevie Wonder

I’m a Believer                                                 The Monkees

Light My Fire                                                  The Doors

Gimme Some Lovin’                                      Spencer Davis Group

Baby I Love You                                              Aretha Franklin


Chapter 3: Stacy, 1964

1964 is a year of real change for Stacy and her family, the world at large, and definitely the music charts.

Stacy’s disgruntled again, this time on behalf of her older sister, Mary. Newly graduated from high school, Mary is being forced to wed her boyfriend, Don, after becoming pregnant. Though euphemisms are used in front of Stacy and arguments between Mary and her parents primarily take place after Stacy is supposedly asleep,  she’s nine “but not stupid” and understands  what’s going on—to a point.

What she can’t figure out is why no one is happier about the marriage and why the wedding is scaled down. Enamored of the ideas of love, marriage, and fancy white dresses and cakes, Stacy is annoyed that everyone is treating her sister as though she’s committed a crime rather than celebrating the event with lavish gifts and good wishes. She’s also puzzled by Mary’s lack of enthusiasm about getting to move into her own home (though a visit to the new house in “the Pines,” the least desirable part of Arboria Park, provides a partial explanation).

As Stacy feels things changing too quickly and confusingly, she’s not alone. The nation has weathered the Kennedy assassination and is embroiled in a war that isn’t a war; civil unrest and cultural clashes are regular happenings. The changes even affect something as simple as how Mary’s future husband wears his hair; while Stacy has admired him for looking like teen idol Ricky Nelson, he’s now growing out his hair into a Beatles do.

The pull of tradition is strong, but so is the rush toward change. Mary’s church wedding illustrates the price of rebellion (and its possible rewards), as Stacy’s brothers clown around and the priest is unable to hide his disapproval. A reception at the Halloran house divides along generational lines: Mary and Don’s friends in one room and the adults of both families in another. (The Halloran siblings improvise their own places to be.) Stacy’s attempt to be supportive of Don reveals him to be both bitter and resigned to his fate (while exhibiting some rather old-fashioned notions of gender roles for someone attempting to look like Paul McCartney).

Stacy’s brothers Tommy and Matt have prepared a musical surprise to send the couple off on their honeymoon, leaving Stacy with a good feeling (and a small bouquet of flowers), but when Don’s mother makes a rude remark, Stacy decides she’s had enough of adult sanctimony and stages a protest, complete with foul language picked up by spying on Mary’s new “white trash” neighbors.

We need only to look at the pop music charts to see how dynamic and fluid the world was becoming in 1964. The Beatles dominated, with lots of Top 10 hits, and they brought along a number of other British Invasion bands  like the Animals, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Kinks, and the Dave Clark Five. The black music of Motown was also becoming a vital chart presence, with the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Mary Wells, among others, scoring hits. The Beach Boys, the Ventures, and Jan & Dean kept the sunny California beach/surf tunes going. Roy Orbison updated the ‘50s sound while girl and boy groups singing about death and accidents lingered on. But while American teens had this wealth of new sounds to listen to, the music of their parents’ generation was still hanging on by its fingernails, with Dean Martin crooning away and Louis Armstrong belting out a top show tune. If Mary and Don were listening to the radio in Don’s ’56 Pontiac as they sped away on their honeymoon, what they heard probably reflected the tumult of the last few months of their lives—and the months to come.

Top 10 Songs of 1964

I Want to Hold Your Hand             The Beatles

She Loves You                                   The Beatles

Hello, Dolly                                        Louis Armstrong

I Get Around                                      The Beach Boys

Everybody Loves Somebody       Dean Martin

My Guy                                                 Mary Wells

We’ll Sing in the Sunshine          Gale Garnett

Last Kiss                                               J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers

Where Did Our Love Go                                The Supremes


Chapter 2: Stacy, 1963

By 1963, Stacy has a bit more freedom to roam, but it’s still not enough. She’s curious about what’s beyond the spaces she’s allowed to inhabit. It’s a similar time in the U.S. as a whole. Events outside the country intrude; things are mostly going pretty well but are a bit unsettling.

Stacy gets a chance to defy her parents when she and her friends follow some older boys down to “the woods” across a creek from their neighborhood. It’s a fun adventure, but also a dangerous one: The children are trespassing on a farm owned by Mrs. Ramsey. Though Stacy doesn’t believe the woman is a witch (as one of her friends does), she realizes quickly that their presence on the farm is not welcome.

Just a few weeks after Stacy’s adventure, President Kennedy will be assassinated and the world will become a less certain place. Lines and boundaries will be drawn, just as Stacy experiences being grounded by her parents and fears that even her limited freedoms could be coming to an end. But there are also larger opportunities and changes afoot: Stacy’s dad correctly interprets Stacy’s longings even as he must rein in her impulses. He realizes she’s ready to learn a lot more about the world around her; past and present, good and bad. Many young people in this era were waking up to the world beyond the safe spaces where they were raised in the 1950s, even as films like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds portrayed how danger lurked in the most innocuous places.

Music doesn’t play a big role in this chapter, but things were in flux there as well. A lot of pop music had been neutered since the rock’n’roll rebellion of the 1950s; sugary-sweet girl groups like the Chiffons and the Angels and clean-cut pop idols like Bobby Vinton dominated the charts. But things were stirring: Though the Beatles and the British Invasion were still a few months away from conquering America, the Beach Boys, the Kingsmen, and Paul Revere and the Raiders were making stabs at the big time. Folk music was seeping out of the cafes of New York City into the mainstream, with Bob Dylan’s socially consciousness anthems sharing chart space with Lesley Gore’s teenage laments.

But Lesley was doing more than just whining about a spoiled party. She was also throwing down some proto-feminist warnings to go along with the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963. (Joan Jett would cover the song in the punk era several years later.) And as Stacy spends a hard week of being grounded, stuck in her room or her back yard, she may well be longing to tell her parents “Don’t tell me what to do. You don’t own me.”


Top songs of 1963

It’s My Party       Lesley Gore

Surfin USA       Beach Boys

Blue Velvet          Bobby Vinton

He’s So Fine             The Chiffons

My Boyfriend’s Back           The Angels

Blowin in the Wind              Peter Paul and Mary

Louie Louie               The Kingsmen

Be My Baby              The Ronettes


Chapter 1: Stacy, 1960

Chapter 1 of Arboria Park takes place in 1960, when Stacy is only five and just learning that there’s life beyond the yard to which she’s largely confined. Until the fateful afternoon described, she’s always thought that everyone she didn’t know was pretty  much like everyone she did. It’s the beginning of an expanding view of the world–one her parents sometimes wish she didn’t have to have.

This is the first of a series of posts describing the world in Arboria Park. I always start with the music, and there will be a playlist for each chapter. This video has the Top 10 songs of the year, and a bit about movies, TV, and sports as well:





The Number 1 song of the year, “Theme from A Summer Place,” could be what Stacy’s mom Evelyn listens to on the radio while she’s doing dishes or sewing. Stacy’s older sister Mary is probably swooning over Elvis and looking forward to dancing to songs by the Drifters and Brenda Lee at her first high school dance.

As Stacy notes in the chapter, her sports-mad brothers Tommy and Matt like to watch car races on TV with dad Tom. They also might have watched the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series a few weeks after Stacy’s adventure on Arbor Circle, or the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Green Bay Packers for the NFL championship (this was before the Super Bowl existed!).

Just a few weeks later as well, John F. Kennedy would be elected president.

As the Johnny Preston song in the video illustrates, there was also plenty of racism around. Since it was built in part for Air Force families, Arboria Park would not have had deed or covenant restrictions against African American families moving in, but it is likely that in 1960 the neighborhood was primarily if not entirely white.

1960 happens to be the time of my own earliest memories. My brother was born that year, and my father took me downtown to buy him a teddy bear. We also got a new car that year (replacing the Studebaker pictured on the cover of Arboria Park), a silver Rambler station wagon with fins! It also had a roof rack like the station wagon featured in the video below:



Stacy mentions riding in the back of the station wagon, but she’s much more impressed with the Volkswagen Beetle that speeds down her street blasting Bobby Rydell’s “Wild One.”




Fun facts: I actually did bring a “diamond” to kindergarten (and got scolded), and my friend Davy and I threw rocks down a manhole once.



Arboria inspirations (3): Farms and what they become

Fictional Arboria Park, like its real-life counterpart Rodney Village, is surrounded by two farms. The Park is built on part of the Ramsey farm and orchard along a creek. Also to the west is another farm that, in the course of the story, becomes the housing development Oakley Estates.

In real life, the Kesselring farm was to the west of Rodney Village, just outside the city of Dover. After we moved out of the Village, our new house in an Oakley Estates-type development was directly across from the Kesselrings’ farmhouse. A new elementary school, which opened the year we moved, had been built on the edge of the Kesselrings’ land. One day my mother was walking our dog near the school and paused to admire a patch of daffodils. Mildred Kesselring happened to be working in her garden that day, and she and Mom got to talking. This led to a lifelong friendship. The incident was the inspiration for Stacy meeting Mrs. Ramsey in 1987 when she stops to admire her azaleas.

Another farm, long owned by a family named Howell, was across a creek to the south called Howell’s Branch, where my husband and his brother had their first nautical adventure in an old rowboat. Elizabeth Howell Goggin did not want her land developed after her death. So, like Mrs. Ramsey in the book, she donated it to the county for parkland.

Mrs. Kesselring was also determined not to lose any more of their family’s land for development unless it was for a positive purpose like the school. Her son has tried to be true to her wishes, selling land only for a Boy Scout camp and a recreation center.

He may also have thought doing so would protect the rest of the farm from the road being proposed to connect the growing west side of Dover to the highway. In the State Department of Transportation study of the area, the historic farm and the school were noted as impediments to placing the road near my family’s house. The lovely Brecknock Park on the Howell property blocked it from being built further south.

So the only viable route (according to the highway planners) was behind the Kesselring farm and through the edge of Rodney Village. Houses along the creek were demolished, and the road is still being worked on. Here is what it looks like now:

Brecknock Park contains a playground, athletic fields, and some lovely trails along the creek:

Here is Mrs. Howell’s old house, and some of the farm’s outbuildings.

Here is another old tenant house on the property:


This was an old mill along Howell’s Branch. It could have been the Ramsey cider mill that burns down in the 1950s:


Here you can see the remaining Rodney Village houses beyond the trees and the road under construction. This could be where Stacy and her friends run across the creek in 1963 after being scared away by Mrs. Ramsey, whom they believe is a witch: