“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…?” The words of the New Year’s libation song are so well worn they often ring hollow. But not for five members of the Horace Greeley Class of ‘87 who moved back to the Chappaqua/New Castle area.
So, what made these five “townies” return? An instinct akin to what makes the swallows return to Capistrano or an elixir in the water? Inside Chappaqua wanted to know.
Here is what Ted Holmes, Lauren (Saul) Safran, Elissa (Rosenzweig) Novick, Jason Asch, and Sam Bueti graciously agreed to share with our readers. Each of their stories has a different nuance, but they all share remarkably similar sentiments and insights.
Absence Makes the Heart…
Sometimes we have to leave behind what we had in order to gain a new appreciation for it. Ted Holmes, director of sales at Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, would concur: “I didn’t really appreciate Chappaqua until now that my wife and I have kids who are going to school here and are active in the town activities and recreation.”
Jason Asch, who moved from Manhattan to Millwood in 2007, said: “Going away helped me to appreciate what I had growing up here. But I never saw myself as someone who would end up in the same town in which I grew up.”
Living in a different environment also broadened the sense of appreciation among the classmates. “Having lived in New York City, I appreciate that I had the experience of growing up in a place like Chappaqua where everyone knew his or her neighbors,” said Sam Bueti, who moved back to the New Castle area 13 years ago.
Two of the classmates, Lauren Safran and Elissa Novick had actually planned on not ever moving back to the Chappaqua area, until they “started thinking seriously about raising a family.” Said Elissa: “In hindsight I know how fortunate I was!”
Stuff of Great Memories
What was it like growing up in Chappaqua for these old classmates? Their comments all had a familiar ring, reflecting the fact that growing up in Chappaqua and the surrounding area afforded children a wonderful life experience. Most notable were the friendly neighbors with lots of kids to play with. “There was an ‘open door’ policy so kids were always welcomed to drop by,” said Lauren.
Add to the equation, fun things to do and places to visit, some of which like the old-fashioned ice-cream parlor Lickety Split no longer exist. “That was the place to hang out,” said Elissa, and was a great way to meet friends from the community.
The other classmates expressed similar sentiments. “My friends didn’t go to camp,” said Sam, “so we would organize impromptu sports leagues. I think we had more fun. Everyone played together, and we didn’t have one-on-one play dates.”
“Back then, we didn’t have the technology and toys that kids have today, so we had to be creative,” said Jason. “We had fun playing baseball and hockey in the neighborhood, and other games like Flashlight Tag and Capture the Flag.”
Another aspect of the area everyone commented on was the sense of wide open space. “That gave Chappaqua a country feel,” Ted said. Added to the mix were community activities. Ice- skating at Gedney Park, the pool club fishing at nearby ponds, and parades
helped to keep kids well occupied. Elissa especially enjoyed the Ragamuffin Parade held the week before Halloween for babies through elementary-school kids to show off their costumes.
Sam Bueti was a bit of a daredevil, it seems: “It was a different world back then, since you could ride your bike into town and even to Mount Kisco on Rt. 133.” Nowadays, the roads are quite a bit busier and more dangerous.
Those Shared School Days
What about the Chappaqua school system over 25 years ago? Not surprisingly, it was academically competitive. The five classmates all had solidly positive comments about their teachers, whom they felt had been “warm and encouraging,” as Jason put it. Lauren recalled the extracurricular activity in junior high that was phased out: ballroom dancing, for which wearing white gloves was de rigueur. Elissa praised her 8th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Cesta, who “had us reading the New York Times every night. Because of him, I went from being an average student with a C to an A student. When I got the A in his class, he pulled me aside and told me that that was the biggest grade jump of any student he had ever had.”
High school, it was agreed, was competitive. “There was a sense of pressure to excel and do well, but that’s what you would expect from a top-notch school,” said Jason.
Changed but Still “Quaint”
The five members of the Class of ‘87 all returned to live in either Chappaqua or in the general New Castle area, bringing spouses and plans to raise a family. Their lives had changed, and so had the area— more congested roads and once open land now filled with houses. The price of “progress.”
Jason put a positive spin on the changes: “A lot of people continue to want to live in the Chappaqua/New Castle area.” The heavy traffic is “a mixed blessing since it’s good for business,” although he admitted it does make driving a bit more challenging.
For Sam, other than less wide open space and more traffic and new buildings on King Street, things in Chappaqua per se seem the same. Best of all, “it still has that quaint hometown feel.”
The combination of a country feel with close proximity to Manhattan’s work and cultural opportunities is a definite draw, according to Ted: “The wonderful thing about the Chappaqua area is it sells itself, offering the best schools and services to its residents.”
While it’s expensive to live in the area, “you do get more for your money in terms of land and property and a yard as compared to southern Westchester,” said Elissa. Clearly, the Chappaqua/New Castle area “seems to have it all– closeness to New York City, a school system with a fantastic reputation, great gourmet shops and restaurants and fun stores.”
Moving back to the area has brought other measureable benefits for these members of the Class of ’87, such as closer proximity to family and friends. “It’s amazing I have so many friends I grew up with,” said Lauren. “They really ground me!”
“What was really neat is running into a lot of old friends who had also moved back to the area. We’ve picked up our friendship where we left off,” said Sam, proving that BFF is not just a “girly thing.”
When Elissa and her husband, Jason, moved in, their new neighbors brought homemade food to welcome them into the neighborhood. “Much to my surprise, some of those people were the parents of kids I had graduated Greeley with!” The feeling of coming full circle has touched these members of the Class of 1987 in another delightfully unexpected way. “What’s also made my decision to move back to the area extra special and fun,” said Sam, “is that my kids and the kids of two of my old friends attend the same school and are great friends themselves!” The sense of continuity is unmistakable: “My kids love being able to say they go to the same school as their Dad went to,” said Jason.
Ted added: “When you’re looking to buy a home, you’re moving to a community first and a way of life. So, you need to make sure the area works for you and your family.” For these five members of the Greeley Class of ‘87, who could doubt those words have the ring of a prophetic dream come true?
Vicki de Vries is a freelance writer, editor and an educator.