My Old Man’s Flagpole
by Bob Samuels
When I see the flagpole in Nyack’s Memorial Park I think of my late father and smile. He donated a pole to the village for the spot. I am, perhaps, the only living soul who remembers that utterly trivial and obscure fact.
My old man was a city guy who never should have owned a house but in 1950 he was feeling flush so he and my stepmother took the leap and bought a big Victorian on Tallman Place in Nyack. To me and my stepmother, Louise, it was a wonderful place to live. He enjoyed it too but he never stopped worrying about all the complicated and costly things that could go wrong. He was brilliant in many ways, but a mechanical dolt. If something broke, he wanted to be able to call a super or landlord.
The metal flagpole on the side lawn troubled him from the day we moved in. It was about two-stories tall, and covered in aluminum colored paint. It obviously wasn’t built in a flagpole factory. Some earlier homeowner had assembled it by screwing three old pipes together. It was firmly anchored it to the ground but my father worried that one day it would fly apart or topple over and kill or injure someone. All of the many friends and neighbors he asked to look at it told him it looked safe.
These were exciting times for our family. My father’s most successful book, His Eye is on The Sparrow, was a best seller. It is the life story of the great African-American singer-actress Ethel Waters, as she told to it to him, Charles Samuels. I was starting my freshman year in Nyack High School, then widely considered New York State’s best.
My stepmother got involved in village politics. Although today’s Nyackers might have a hard time grasping it, back then the village was solidly Republican. There was a Nyack Democratic party but it was stodgy and played ball with the GOP in exchange for a few political crumbs. One fall day, in a stunning surprise vote, Louise and her cohorts took over the local Democratic committee.
My father started enjoying the house more when he discovered that I had some mechanical ability (it took very little to impress him in that department). From then on it was, “Bobby, can you fix this?” Four years later, when I went into the Air Force after high school, I wondered how they’d do without me. It didn’t take long to find out. They soon sold the house and moved into a large apartment on the Upper Westside of Manhattan. It had a bedroom for me and, best of all for him, a landlord and a building superintendent.
Our old house is still there, with its tower and wide porch looking out toward the river, but the flagpole is gone. A family friend, a former Nyack’s Park Commissioner who has passed away, told me that my father had donated it to the village. For years it stood in Memorial Park. It still stirs my memory.
Writer Robert C. Samuels, is a former New York City newspaperman and a longtime Rocklander. He lives in Piermont where he is active in village affairs. His book, “Blue Water, White Water.” highly praised by The New York Times. The Nyack Villager and many other publications, is available in various formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble online and iTunes.