Growing Up On Sumter Avenue

Remembering East Williston in Times Gone By

Memories from an interview with Mrs. Patricia Hurleigh


By Robert Smith


Many of us moved to East Williston with young families or began them here in this wonderful suburban setting.  Very few of us grew up here and then came back to live in the very houses in which we had grown up.  Pat and Bob Hurleigh live on Sumter Avenue.  Pat was born in Mineola; her father, Fred Diesing, and engineer, designed the house in 1951.  They moved in the following year.  Her mother, Margaret, had been looking after her own mother, who was ill, and had little input into the design and building, so the side door to the house was in the dining room!


“We were one of the first newer houses on the block”, explained Pat.  “From our house to near Roslyn Road was all empty lot.  Directly across the street from us was Fritz the Florists, which eventually become the East Williston Florists (now moved to Mineola).

“I loved to play in the field where the gladioli grew in spring in a mass of fabulous colors.  It was empty lot across from us part of the way to Roslyn Road.  Those lots were owned by the people who lived on Ogden Street, but eventually they were divided and sold off and houses were built across from us on Sumter Avenue.  I remember that my father wanted to buy an adjacent lot with a neighbor and share it between them, which would have added considerably to what we already have…but the neighbor declined.  At that time, the price was $10,000 for a 50 x 100 lot!”


“We had a lot of fun growing up on this block.  The Ball Family owned the big old farmhouse to the west of us.  Then the Brunner Family bought it and it is actually still owned by the second Mrs. Brunner, who is now in a nursing home.  I used to play with Mrs. Brunner’s daughters, Carol and Susan, the Hartman kids at the other end of the Sumter, and Sheila Mohrman, who also grew up in East Williston.  One summer, we decided to put on the play “Cinderella”.  We rehearsed in a shed at the back of the Brunner property.  It had an attic and made a wonderful clubhouse.  That’s how we spent a good part of that summer.  The next year, we put on a circus!  We entertained ourselves.  There were no “play dates” or appointments made for us.  My mother would say ‘Get out of the house and don’t come back until………’.  We spent the summer outside running around playing kick-ball, putting on plays and circuses, and climbing trees.  There were great old trees at Northside.  If there were any threatening things, my mother never let us know about them.  She was a teacher and she wanted her summer free of kids.  ‘Go play at your friends’ houses’, she would say.  All the children on Sumter spent all day outside.  Winter was a great time too.  Contrary to what people say now, it seemed that those snowfalls of my youth were bigger.  The snow drifts would be banked against the garage door.  We would pull our sleds over to Sagamore Avenue and go down the hill.  You wouldn’t do that today.  There was only a plumber’s supply place at the end so few, if any, trucks or traffic appeared.  We would also go over to the golf course for sledding.”


Over the years Mrs. Hurleigh taught kindergarten and then seventh and eighth grade math in the Mineola school system.  She retired two years ago.  Her own mother, Margaret Viviani Diesing, taught in the Mineola Junior High School for forty years. 


While Pat herself went to school at Corpus Christi and Our Lady of Mercy Academy, her children went to the East Williston schools.  “We bought the house from my mother when she decided she wanted to alternate between her place in Florida and Sound Beach.  We made some changes.  The side door no longer opens into the dining room…and now we have central air-conditioning.”





Note from Robert Smith:  If you were born in East Williston or came here as a child, and would like to share your memories with us, please leave a message at the Village Hall with your name and phone number.  I will get back to you.