Our Town: Does Williston Park have a personality?

Our Town: Does Williston Park have a personality?

Last week my column focused on the impact mothers have on their child’s ambitions and their goals.  

There is a vast literature on this topic and most are familiar with it.  Since Freud’s time, psychologists have explored the impact that mothers, fathers and siblings have had on one’s development. 

But what about the impact that a town has on a child?  

Hillary Clinton’s book “It Takes a Village” was all about the crucial importance of town life. 

Maybe the best study to date on town’s was done by Wolf and Bruhn, two medical researchers. They discussed how the atmosphere of a town can influence the physical health of its town folk. In their book “The Power of Clan” they showed the relationship of community life and heart disease with the conclusion being that a close-knit and friendly town leads to a significant decrease in heart disease.  

The town was Roseto, Penn., and the population was largely Italian. 

No matter how much pasta and cheese and wine they consumed they were invulnerable to heart disease because of the protective and pleasant nature of the community. 

So let us take a look at Williston Park, attempt to determine its nature and guess at how it impacts the children that grow up within the confines of these 195 acres. 

This town was established in 1926 by New York City developer William Chatlos who wanted to establish an affordable planned community.  The Irish Americans settled in first and their essence still predominates with the lively presence of St. Aidan Church and school. The church owns the most property and biggest building and remains the spiritual center of the town. This past weekend they provided a concert to celebrate St. Patrick and St. Joseph and invited the world renowned Italian tenor Daniel Maimone and soprano Reagan Stone along with the St. Aidan Choir. 

The 2010 census tells us that Williston Park consists of 84% Caucasian, 12% Asian and 6% Hispanic.  The median household income is $108,000.  The town is firmly middle class to upper middle class and feels largely homogeneous in nature. 

But these are just statistics. The truth lies in describing what the stats mean and you do that by merely articulating how the town looks and feels.  And when you do that you wind up describing the town’s personality and  its impact on the kids that grow up here. 

I think that what you feel in Williston Park is a feeling of insular safety and predictability.  To date I have written over 150 columns for this paper over the last three years and have heard many shopkeepers tell me the reason they opened shop in Williston Park  was for that reason.  In some way it is like Stony Brook, happily stuck in a time warp. 

I recall interviewing Jan Friedman the famous television sci fi writer a few months ago at Hildebrandt’s. I  asked him if he could make up a story about Williston Park.  

He leaned back in his chair looked up at the antique doll Henry Hildebrandt and made up a story called  The Tired Magician.  It was about how Williston Park has been placed in a 1950s time warp by a magician who lives in town.  

The old magician has kept our town as charming and as safe as can be against the insidious forces of big business. The villagers do not know this but are the fortunate recipients of the old man’s magic. 

The story ended with the old magician dying but not before he transferred his magic powers to the antique high wire doll Henry Hildebrandt who remains to this day with the power to keep away all the evil.

I think that Jan Freidman’s story is magic and right on. 

I do think we are in a time warp and that is the charm of this town and why Hollywood sometimes uses Williston Park in its films in an effort  to evoke a sense of genuine Americana.  

I do believe that a town has a personality and that this personality does impact its children.  

Williston Park is a town with some wealth, with a great feeling of safety, with a sense of the past and with a sense of predictability. 

The town is named after one of the earliest Long island settlers, Samuel Willis who came here in the 17th century.  

We have all those historical homes along Hillside Avenue in East Williston, we have our Hildebrandts and we have our volunteer police force and fire department that keeps things safe. 

When children grow up in an environment like this they grow up with a sense of pride and security.  

I do not know if Henry Hildebrandt is keeping us safe but someone surely is and thank goodness for that. 

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