‘Walking up Whaleyville,’ city style

Published 7:49 pm Monday, February 23, 2015

By Billie Joy Langston

When my sister Dean and I were kids, we spent many summer days at my grandmother’s house on Sumner Street in the West Whaleyville borough of Suffolk.

Back then, in 1965, the community population consisted of elderly couples, along with many female-headed households without automobiles. Whenever it was time to “make groceries,” most of the widows did it on foot. The main road from Gran’s house was about a half-mile long with only two grocery stores to choose from, along with a gas station convenience store. After locking up the house with screens left in windows, we’d head out to the community market.

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With no sidewalks on the road or side streets, we walked behind each other like pledgees during sorority crossover week. Since the road wasn’t wide enough to walk three abreast, Dean and I had no choice but to follow Gran’s overprotective instructions to stay in line to avoid being hit by a passing vehicle.

The familiar phrase used by local residents en route to the market still vividly resonates in my memory. “Good morning, Mrs. Taylor,” a friendly widow neighbor exclaimed. “It is a fine day to ‘walk up Whaleyville’ with the girls,” she continued. “It is a fine day indeed,” Gran replied.

If you lived in or visited the Whaleyville community during years past, walking up Whaleyville was part of our culture, and it remains that way today. Just fast-forward 40-plus years to find the new addition of attractive sidewalks in West Whaleyville.

SIDEWALKS! Built in 2013, these nice, well-constructed sidewalks provide safe and ample space for two adults to walk side-by-side comfortably. If you need a break while taking a sidewalk stroll, you can even stop in to Charlie’s Barber Shop for a custom haircut.

I can’t help but wonder what Gran would think of the conveniences now available in hometown Whaleyville.

Our community continues to move progressively forward with the January 2015 grand opening of the new Whaleyville Community Center located in West Whaleyville. The center features a computer laboratory, gymnasium, state-of-the-art fitness facility, pool/game room, conference room with modern electronic devices, senior center, and activities for the entire family.

Boasting health and wellness as priorities for all of our residents, Whaleyville has great potential to be recognized as a “walking community” and leading contributor to positive work/life balance, along with offering a variety of health initiatives for everyone living in the surrounding area to enjoy.

Many years have passed since the days I walked up Whaleyville with Gran and Dean. I believe the process of positive change must include reflection on the progress achieved, gratitude to project visionaries and supporters, and acknowledgment of the faith and humility of all Whaleyville residents, past and present, who lived knowing full well that better times were coming.

Gran’s words still ring true. It’s a fine day indeed in Whaleyville.

Billie Joy Langston is a freelance writer of positive living and inspirational literature. She is a native of Suffolk. Email her at billielangstone@yahoo.com.