Posts Tagged ‘Twilight Zone’

It seems important for young people to have a place to congregate, somewhere convenient to “hang out” as we commonly say today. In cities it might be a street corner; in the country it could be a barn, maybe even a communal fence post. For my friends and neighbors in the Hamilton Gardens subdivision of Somerset, N.J. in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, it was the fire hydrant at the corner of Poe Avenue and Hawthorne Drive.

No matter what went on during the day, there was an unspoken expectation that after supper, by early evening we’d all gather by the friendly hydrant and talk about who knows what. Mark and Lenny and Eddie and Sylvester (later just “Sy”) and I would just stand around, passing time and talking.

I have no recollection of what our conversations were about, but probably a sizable percentage of them had to do with the Yankees and Mets, or if in the fall the Giants or the Knickerbockers (now just the Knicks). College football wasn’t the all-consuming passion back then that it is today – Rutgers and Princeton had an annual rivalry then, for goodness sake! But I suspect the Scarlet Knights, football and basketball, eased into our discussions from time to time.

The fire hydrant had no particular magic. It even was painted different colors through the years, but it served as a central location for everyone to assemble. As time passed and we boys came to the realization that, contrary to previous belief, girls didn’t have “cooties” after all, we were joined by Ann and Janet and Susan and one or two other members of the female gender whose names I can’t recall.

Winter evenings, however, the fire hydrant maintained a lonely vigil as we huddled inside our homes keeping warm and choosing from the limited range of TV programming in those days, sometimes in black and white and sometimes in “living color.” But during the spring and summer months, when light lingered longer, our parents never needed to worry about where we were. They could glance out the window and see us congregated around the fire hydrant, kids being kids thinking kids’ thoughts and saying kids’ things.

One summer evening was a bit different from all the rest. We noticed a bright light up in the distant sky, a light we initially thought was an airplane passing overhead. Except it seemed to stall, holding its position in the gathering dusk. Then it seemed to divert from its horizontal course and shoot downward for a few moments – and again hover in place. Finally it resumed its path across the sky, heading wherever unidentified flying objects tend to go.

Certainly it was an optical illusion. Perhaps our observational capacities had been influenced by “Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits,” or some science-fiction movie, but for a few brief minutes we shared a sense of certainty that we had just witnessed the appearance of a UFO. (Cue the weird music.)

Then, just as quickly our thoughts reverted to the Yankees or Mets, our summertime dice-baseball competitions, or whatever else had been occupying our minds that night. If any green men had been inhabiting that strange, unexplained light afar off, they certainly didn’t stop to visit us in Somerset. They might have proceeded to Piscataway, or Highland Park, or Woodbridge. Maybe they even went for a night at the beach 

We’ll never know.


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