Edgerton Street’s eldest residents sat in the shade reminiscing as its youngest residents played volleyball with a net erected across the street.
More than 100 people were expected to turn out for the dead-end street’s annual block party Saturday afternoon, but it was still early as Peter Franzoni and John Hansen traded stories.
Franzoni is one of the longest-established residents of the street, though his time there has a gap.
“I was here 1939 to 1959,” he said. “Then I came back here in 1973 to the present. … It’s a nice place to raise your kids. I was in Mendon — really no place to ride their bikes. And, of course, we liked the schools, the local schools.”
Franzoni was one of the founders of the neighborhood’s block party, which reached its 40th year this weekend.
The street was closed to traffic at Lafayette Street, above which it dead-ends. Admission was $7, which organizers said was being used to pay for meat and insurance, with any leftover proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Residents on the even-numbered side of the street took responsibility for salads while those with odd-numbered addresses handled desserts and appetizers. The event was promoted in private Facebook group and 105 people RSVPed.
In addition to the food, numerous children’s games were set up, and the evening was scheduled to conclude with ice cream and a showing of “Trolls” on a large-screen TV in the street’s biggest living room.
Residents say they hold the block party to celebrate and maintain the sense of community that makes their neighborhood special.
“I moved here in ‘75, and right away you could feel it,” said Patrick Canty. “We are family. The Bakers would take you in and Doc McDonald — just a great street.”
Despite the nearby Dana School closing and single-family houses giving way to apartments in much of the surrounding neighborhoods, residents say Edgerton Street has kept its character.
“It’s like the real world starts at Lafayette (Street),” Ned Pike said. “From Lafayette up, it’s our own little universe.”
Pike grew up on the street and his father — Roger Pike — still lives there. George McGurl said he was more of a newcomer, having lived on the street 22 years. McGurl said he was at first surprised by how close-knit the neighborhood was, but quickly came to appreciate it.
“I had a heart issue a few weeks back and the whole neighborhood was mowing my lawn,” he said. “It was incredible. … This is what people ought to see. This is what neighborhoods ought to be.”
Because it was the 40th anniversary, a number of former residents came back. Stan Munsat lived in the neighborhood from when he was three years old to when he graduated high school in 1956. His father founded Munsat Jewelers. Munsat now lives in North Carolina, but was visiting his sister-in-law in Woodstock when he heard about the party.
“I remember that the whole street was one big playground,” Munsat said. “Kids didn’t have play dates back in those days. Come home from school, go out in the street…”
Munsat was interrupted by a discussion of one of the first televisions on the street being shot by a BB gun, and then recalled playing kick the can.
“Everybody’s yard was open,” he said. “You didn’t need to know who owned it. The parents didn’t worry about where the kids were — it didn’t occur to them.”
Munsat said he walked to school and couldn’t remember getting a snow day.
“We didn’t have the traffic,” Franzoni said. “You could ride your tricycle on Woodstock Avenue — which I did.”
One of the greatest residents of Edgerton Street, according to Hansen, was journalist Harry Levins, who Hansen remembered for penning a column in the Rutland Herald about how boring Rutland’s Fourth of July celebration was. Levins wrote that the holiday’s excitement in Rutland fell somewhere between “Arbor Day and Millard Fillmore’s birthday.”
“That was a Harry Levins line,” Hansen said. “He was very talented.”
Levins went on to write for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.