I was one of the few, if any one, to be at that strange final game (Section I Basketball game, where MV lost at the buzzer) in 1961 and the one yesterday. I am sure there were some other Mount Vernon people who may have seen both, but I know of no one. Other then Mike Ansbro, Alan Rosenberg and Jim Finch, who I have seen at some of the games a few years ago, my generation has been long missing from not only Mount Vernon basketball, but Mount Vernon in general. It is no one’s fault, just a symptom of our time, the end of formerly enduring communities and the restless nature of Americans. Even twenty years ago, no one from our time was ever around.
Mount Vernon, like many other “bagel” suburbs, has gone through many “ups and downs” over the years. In 1945, my mother, who was a very sophisticated New Yorker, was born and bred in Manhattan, and wanted to move to Westchester. Her great friend, from their Bohemian days in Greenwich Village and who had subsequently moved to Scarsdale, advised her not to move to Mount Vernon, because it was on the decline. My parents had actually put a down payment on a very nice house off Fenimore Road in Scarsdale.
But, as things happen, my father was advised by his lawyer, Sam Miller, a partner of Scribner, Miller, where Tom Dewy had worked as a newly minted lawyer, that there was a wonderful house at the end of Prospect Avenue. It was a stone’s throw from his beautiful Tudor, “Fair Oaks,” which was located on Lorraine Avenue, right near the New Haven RR Station. (A few years late in 1948, Sam Miller wanted to sell that terrific house to my father. He told my father he was promised a job as an Assistant AG in the Justice Department when Tom Dewey was elected. My father warned him to keep his day job!)
So my father paid $41,000 for a big, old, red brick house, with six bedrooms, an outdoor porch and an upstairs billiard room. There was plenty of room for a live-in cook and housekeeper. Unfortunately, he made that decision without my mother, who from that time onward, regretted living in Mount Vernon. Personally, I loved Mount Vernon, my father could have cared less and my sister despised the city, had no real friends after Junior High School, and ran away forever. (She lives with her very rich husband in a townhouse in Belgravia, London, a large home on Nantucket Island, and has never looked back. She even went from adoring FDR to becoming a Republican!) My mother resigned herself to her fate, made many friends, was involved in UJA and AJ Congress politics, worked, on and off, in Manhattan and Westchester, painted and played world level bridge.
As it happened, I was one of the last of my “class” and background to hang around Mount Vernon. Even though we moved in 1965, I was still anchored to the area because of the “Draft,” and my decision to apply for the US Air Force’s Officer Candidate School. Because of my draft status, I couldn’t get a real job and I therefore worked as a permanent substitute at MVHS until my Air Force OCS class opened. During that period of time, I met my future wife, Linda Rosen, who was student teaching at MVHS. She had graduated Barnard College, and was finishing her Masters in Education at Columbia Teacher’s College.
To make a long story shorter, after I was married, I still kept my “hand-in” with regards to Mount Vernon sports. Even though I was running a business in Manhattan, keeping active in local White Plains politics, taking care of a house and home, by the time my second child came along, my activities, regarding Mount Vernon had peaked and started to decline severely.
By the late 1970s, most of what we knew about Mount Vernon had changed. The fight over integration in the schools, busing, the draft problems emanating from the demands of the Vietnam War, the resulting drug trafficking, the constant bomb scares at the high school and the “white flight” started to take its toll. Most of the teachers left the school system and many of the families, who could afford to move, got out.
As the years went on, I still paid attention to my home town. Some of the parents of my friends still lived there and I followed the teams and their progress. In 1993, with the death of my classmate and friend Jon Breen, I started the Jon Breen Fund and began a long relationship with MVHS. Recently, I also spent more than a year advising the City on issues regarding zoning, alternate energy, jobs and industrial development. All that effort came to naught. The leadership in Mount Vernon is, and has been, a total disaster for decades. Aside from the long decline of 4th Avenue as a shopping area, the failure of its schools, the crime, the mess at Memorial Field, the deterioration of the library and the complete erosion of its infrastructure, the worst aspect of the city is the incompetent, narrow and criminal nature of its government. The conflicts of interest, the payoffs, the investigations, the decline in its police force and the poor services are rife. It seems to have no end. Every decade or so, the City finds a new level to descend to.
Mount Vernon’s last gasp seems to have been its basketball program. Was this excruciating loss just a “bump” in the road, or a foreshadowing of the future? Bob Cimmino has been the heart and soul of this program and he has overcome an unlimited amount of obstacles. It will be interesting to see if their futures continue to be intertwined. I wouldn’t be shocked, if an opportunity came along that looked appealing, he would take it.
My guess is that when our generation disappears, the nostalgia about Mount Vernon as a wonderful place to grow up will fade quickly and the reality of the mean streets will take over completely. The new memories will be much different then ours, and as the poet has said, “Nothing lasts forever.”