from Illustrated Flushing and Vicinity
Why I Live In Flushing
by Ellis Parker Butler
This May morning, as I sit before my typewriter, I can look out of my window and see the pale green leaves of a thousand trees quivering in the sunlight, and the blue sky through the network of the upper branches, and the white clouds drifting across the blue. I can hear the breeze, in little gusts, whispering through the trees. When I close my eyes I hear the same nature sounds that I hear when I am stretched out flat on my back on some mountainside in the Catskills, a hundred and fifty miles from the heart of civilization. I am far from the rush of dusty, dirty city life. I am in a placid, beautiful country town.
My telephone rings. Someone in New York must see me. Eighteen minutes in the cleanest and most comfortable of steel cars, on a swift electric train, puts me in the very heart of Manhattan! I live in a country town that is a veritable park, and I am nearer the heart of Manhattan than those who live in the crowded tenement-beset Bronx!
I was born and raised in Iowa, in a town of 14,000 souls -- a town that was a real town, complete in itself and with as much personal character as any man or woman has. Then I came to New York, began a family, and sickened of living in a trench, with brick walls on two sides and a hot, asphalted bottom, where you got nature by leaning out of a window and twisting your neck to get a glimpse of the sky. I might have been there yet, for all that, if business had not taken me one noon to a suburban town above Manhattan. I stepped off the train and saw grassy lawns, leafy trees, charming homes and little bevys of school girls in white dresses, hatless, laughing and playful and not, as in New York, scurrying timidly for fear of the brazen mashers and loafers that lined the streets. My soul expanded, I can tell you, and I drew a deep breath. I knew then what was the difference between living and merely being alive. Those who live in places like Flushing do live. They have room to live in.
I was going to move to that above-New York village at once, but when I spoke to my friends they said "Wow!" I discovered what that meant. High rents, high costs of everything, a place for the extravagant and the fashion apes only. Then I began visiting suburbs. You know what most of them are -- flat, imitation streets, rows of cheap houses all alike, as much character as the bottom of a pie pan. And then I happened on Flushing!
The day I first visited Flushing I rented a house here. Some years later I bought one. I have lived here a dozen years or more and I never want to live elsewhere. Why?
Flushing, more than most towns around New York, has character. It is a complete town in itself.
When I live in Flushing I live in a town with a history and an inheritance of memories and meanings, not in a mere collection of houses. Flushing is no mushroom, no real estate developer's suburb. It was settled by the English a few weeks after they settled on Manhattan. It has always been a town with character. It has families that came with the first English settlers, and that came with the first Quaker settlers. It has ancient houses and still more ancient trees -- some trees that were growing before Columbus was born! Someone has said that to be a gentleman a man must begin with his great-grandfather. Flushing began to be what it is before our great-grandfathers were born.
Flushing is not only worth living in because it is a town with character and a town by itself, but it has the added advantage of being an actual part of New York City, with city police, city schools, city fire department service, city water, city sewerage systems and all that the city can give in comfort, service and protection. It has clubs, societies, banks, private schools, public schools, parochial schools, churches -- everything! It has the handsomest high school in New York, and the best equipped. It has a superb hospital.
In the spring you smell the lilacs and the magnolias; in the autumn the pleasant odor of burning leaves tells you you are not cooped up in the city where the principal nose titillation is gasoline smoke. Your children have lawns to play on, not hot streets. Your wife has neighbors, not "females in the opposite flats."
But, after all, the reason I love Flushing is not because it is the most beautiful town near New York, or the nearest real town, or the most comfortable (although it is all those), but because of the people in it. I think the best and the most friendly and the most kindly and helpful people in the world live right here in Flushing. And a town is only what its people are. You don't find that Flushing is made up of mere commuters, who rush home and eat and sleep, and then rush back to New York. You will find it filled with big-souled and big-hearted men and women who want you to be part of Flushing's life, who are in clubs and societies and organizations for helpfulness and happiness, and who will welcome you and make you one with them. You will find that all the men and women with brains and talent and wealth and good-will are in these little conspiracies, and, before you know how it has happened, some of these friends that are my friends will have welcomed you and you will be part of Flushing, and you will think, as I do, that the best part of Flushing is the people of Flushing.
People come to Flushing to live in houses; they stay because they love Flushing itself.