The Beech Tree on Hillview Drive

During the months when school was out for the summer in the 1950's, many kids who lived on Hillview Drive in Livingston could be found gathered beneath a very large beech tree that grew in the backyard of a neighborsí home on that street. Many long, summer days were spent under that tree, and part of the hours spent there involved the use of a hoe and very small blocks of wood. Those little pieces of wood were what we pretended to be homes and stores. The hoe was used to make little roads all around the places where no grass grew under the beech tree. That old tree had lots of great big roots we could sit on in between the constructing of the roads connecting all the homes and stores scattered about. After all this construction was finished, all kinds of toy cars and trucks, some metal, some plastic, were driven over the not so smooth streets and highways that wound around the roots of the tree. While the kids who played there spent a lot of happy hours together, things didnít always go real smoothly. I remember one occasion when one of the girls who came to play went home crying to her father, accusing my brother, Phil, of running her off with the hoe. Anyone who knows Phil also knows this couldnít possibly be true. He wasnít that kind of person, and this holds true even today. Nevertheless, the father of the girl showed up at our house near suppertime that night quite upset that such a thing had been done to his only child. Our father was probably like most fathers during that period of time, you were guilty until proven otherwise. Even though there were three of us who stuck up for Phil, he got a good lecture, despite the fact that we all knew he had been falsely accused. I can still see the smirk on that girlís face a day or two later when she returned to play once again at the beech tree. She did not get a very warm welcome from those who had already gathered there to play. But the incident was soon forgotten, and we continued on as usual.

I also remember it was at the home of this same girl that my younger brother, David, and I were invited, believe it or not, to make a record. I canít remember the name of the man who had his own portable equipment he had put together himself, but as I think about it now, he must have been way ahead of his time. He had the recording equipment set up in the living room of this familyís home. The girl who had been so mad at us over the hoe incident, which by then had been forgotten, went first. After instructing us exactly how close we should stand to the microphone, one by one we sang a religious song that was carefully recorded. When the three of us had finished, he explained that he would return in a couple of weeks or so with our records. We waited anxiously for the time when he would come back, and sure enough, he was true to his word. The night he returned, he played each record for everyone to hear. Davidís song was on one side of the record he and I shared, mine was on the other, but our friend had a song on each side of her recording. I still remember how embarrassed I was when I heard my voice. I thought it was absolutely horrible. But I also remember listening to it again after we were all grown, and my, how my attitude had changed. David couldnít have been more than five years old, and when his side of the record was played again after all those years, it brought tears to my eyes. He had the sweetest little angelic voice that reminded me so much of those innocent childhood days we grew up in. I just wish my children could have known just a little of the world we knew then.

One of the families who lived on Hillview Drive was Auda Eldridge, husband Grady, and daughters, Linda and Annette. One of Audaís brothers, Buddy Carr, sometimes came to play at the beech tree on Saturday mornings. Buddy was extremely bashful, and most of the time, he would be sitting up high on a limb of the tree when the rest of us got there to play. He never joined in with whatever was taking place on the ground below him, but was content to sit and watch from up above. I canít remember a single time that he ever did anything but sit in the tree while everyone else played. He eventually got to the point he would carry on a conversation with us, but that was the limit of his participation. Buddy passed away several years ago, but I can still see him perched on the limb of the beech tree, always participating from a distance in the activities of the beech tree gang.

It was under the old beech tree that a large spool the electric company or telephone company used to hold wire had been placed to be used as a picnic table. My brother, David, and another of the beech tree gang, a boy by the name of Don Copeland, for some reason decided to turn the spool over. In the midst of whatever they were doing with the spool, somehow it got away and began to roll down the hill. It traveled first through our backyard, then our Aunt Roseís backyard, and as it picked up speed, it continued through the back yard of Aunt Sammye and Uncle Robert Lee Goodpasture where it rapidly plowed through their garden. All the time, the boys were all doing their best to try and catch up with it, but that was not to be. Panic must have been the feeling as they watched in horror what was about to take place. After almost entirely destroying the Goodpasture garden, it proceeded on, heading right for the middle of what was then Highway 42. But somehow luck was with them. Instead of ending up being the possible cause of a terrible accident on the highway, the spool hit dead center into a light pole on the bank, bringing what had become a speeding, out of control, rolling bullet to a complete halt. It must have shook the ground beneath it when it struck the light pole, and itís a wonder it didnít cut it into. Had the light pole not been there, the place the spool would have ended up, that is, if it hadnít caused an accident on the highway first, was the large, glass plate windows of Stockton and Mullinix Market on the other side of the street. Weíve laughed a lot since then about the run away spool, but it wasnít a bit funny then, especially when David and Don had to face Aunt Sammye and Uncle Robert Lee because their garden had been destroyed.

I ran into Don Copeland not too long ago, and we reminisced about the good ole days spent at our favorite place in the neighborhood. He told me that lightning had struck the beech tree several years ago, and with such force, it was split into. He said nothing remains of the tree today. It made me sad to know it was gone. It was a great place to be either by yourself, or with all the kids who came to play. Before that fateful stormy day when lightning ended the life of the tree, evidence that we all once played there could be found on the trunk. Most everyone had at one time or another carved their initials somewhere on the tree. But in my mind, the wonderful ole beech tree still stands, along with the memories of many happy hours we spent there every summer. Those were the days!


Although the beech tree on Hillview Drive isn't there anymore, the one pictured here is similar to it.