Erasing Memories

We all have memories of our childhood. Hopefully, more good ones than bad. And if you’re like me many of those memories are attached to where we have lived. The houses that cradled our family are still so strong in my mind.

The house where I was born and I grew up was my grandma’s big house in Washington, D.C. not far from Embassy Row. I remember running through the echoing high ceiling rooms, roller skating while holding onto the high iron fence, rummaging through the garbage out near the alleyway, and pushing the cat out the window to see if it could fly. (Oh, if I could only take that back!)

After the war and after my grandmother died we moved to an industrial town in south eastern Ohio. Our house in Steubenville was much smaller and not quite as grand as grandma’s big old mansion, but it was home and I have very fond memories of living there.

The square yellow house had a great big porch that ran the length of the front of the house with big fat balustrades and a high railing. Daddy put a porch swing at one end and mother filled the rest of the space with comfortable wicker furniture. This was the outdoor space in the summers where my brother and I and all of our friends would sit in the evenings and play canasta and laugh with our friends.

Mother filled the backyard with beautiful flowers along its borders and Daddy kept the deep green grass in the center mowed into a velvet carpet in the summer.

Now, the further the years take me away from that time in my life, the more I appreciate the days that I lived in that industrial south eastern town and the care that my parents put into that square box of a house filled with home cooked meals and family antiques.

My housing journey and the years that followed would comprise of New York City apartments, a house in the Pittsburgh suburbs, and finally a home on the shores of New Jersey where I have spent the last 42 years overlooking the beautiful Atlantic Ocean.

I have boxes on top of boxes. Boxes filled with photographs of my life in these houses of past days of living that I cherish.

They say you never can go home again. That is true. But in my case not only can I never go home again, but my houses are gone. Gone. Only in my photographs and in my memory do they exist.

My childhood home in Washington DC no longer is there. When I was in college I went back to visit my old home and it was nothing but a paved parking lot. The owners who bought the house from my father turned it into an apartment building. The tenants in the heart of Washington destroyed the building and it was eventually torn down. My pilgrimage was much too late.

The other day my cousin sent me pictures of my old home in that small industrial town that has suffered the closure of the steel mills and the businesses that were supported by the workers and the steel mills. And although it is still standing it has been torn apart into something of an old drunk, ravaged by wear and tear and hard living. Today the scenic hill overlooking the city that once was haven for all of us children and families has been turned into a ghetto. La Belle View now is anything but what its name visualizes. I didn’t even recognize it from the picture. The big porch was gone, the balustrades are no longer there and the verdant hedges lining the porch are gone and the sloping lawn that goes down to the street is grassless. The windows in the house have been changed to tiny slits like sad eyes looking out onto the deteriorating neighborhood.

I honestly wish I hadn’t seen those pictures. I didn’t want to destroy the wonderful memories I had of our beautiful house and velvet green lawn. Memories of wonderful neighbors and of my friends. And my grade school and church that have now disappeared forever, leveled to the ground for whatever reason. Gone.

One by one the childhood homes that have nurtured me have either disappeared or changed forever.

Last week I had an offer from someone who wanted to buy my New Jersey shore home. Their plans are to tear it down completely and start over and build a McMansion overlooking the ocean. Take a bulldozer and eat away at the windows and the high cathedral ceilings that have been my eyes to the outside world for all of these years. “No thank you,” I said. How much money will it take to erase my entire life’s living in homes that I have loved? To never be able to ever come back to any home that has ever given me Haven. I hate to think that that is the way I am going to walk off into the sunset.





The Barbizon Years


Recently I have reconnected with a cousin who has opened the box of memories of my life with her mother and my early years in New York City. She has taken me back to earlier times and memories of good friends.

February 1960…….

Strange how I remember so much about my life in New York and living at the Barbizon Hotel for women, but for the life of me, I can’t even envision what the lobby of that hotel looked like. I close my eyes and try to take myself back, but it has no memory photo shot of the space I walked in and out of for a year. Nothing. A total blank. Pale overly thin models walked about, in and out with their black portfolios, I remember that, but I don’t even have a clue to what that space looked like.

I remember my room in great detail. Actually, not hard because the room was just a bit wider than I was tall and not much longer. One window overlooking Lexington Avenue, a single bed against the wall and a dresser on the other that I probably could access from my bed it was so close. A sink and small closet at the end of the bed. The showers and facilities were down the hall. Basically it was my expensive closet my parents paid for so that I had secure living in New York while attending the Katherine Gibbs School on Park Avenue.

But I was not alone. That’s the way we all lived. My room was not unique. Nancy DuPont, my neighbor, Alice Blair, from Los Angeles down the hall and close by to Lynn’s room, (MCA Lew Wasserman’s daughter). They were all the same. Glorified closets.

Alice would get visits from home, her mother, and high school classmates including Nora Ephron but, for me, other than my parents once, the only other visitor I had now and then was my older cousin, Carolyn, who grew up next door to me in Steubenville. Without notice she would appear.

Carolyn lived at The Barbizon when she came to New York from Ohio and was first a Conover model and then signed with the prestigious Ford Agency. So, in my eyes, she was always the celebrity in our family. I always felt special when she came. Never a hair out of place and always dressed to perfection. She made elegance look so easy. I just remember that Carolyn was so beautiful and how important she made me feel with each visit. But looking back I now realize those visits were in between times for her. She was on her way to somewhere and needed to fill those empty minutes. Why not at the place with which she had comfortable memories and a relationship. At The Barbizon with her little cousin from Steubenville.

Over five decades have now passed for all of those mentioned in my Barbizon memory box. Each would have a story, yet unfolded, yet unscripted in that year of 1960.

I have often thought if I could, if it were possible, would I want to know my future? My answer is always the same. If I had known then all that I and the characters in my Barbizon life would go through after leaving that hotel, I may not have left.

I, for one, certainly have had my struggles as chronicled in my writings. Alice has had a wonderful life, but also with a few hiccups along the way. Carolyn was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and her glamorous life evaporated. Her mystic unveiled to the world by the worst human betrayal possible-and her life ending in poverty and pain. Nora Ephron received such great heights with her talent that was cut short too soon. All things to come in the future that perhaps had we known would have paralyzed us from going forward with our unthetered souls and hopeful plans.
Copyright 2014 Sandra Hart. All rights reserved





Who Knew?


My husband and I have often talked about our childhoods and about our years growing up and we both have come to the same conclusion. We had, in our opinions, the ‘luck of the draw’ to be born and live through the best years so far in our American history. Who knew?!

August 1957…….

The wings of Capitol Airlines were carrying me far away from the mundane existence in the steel town where I grew up. I was eighteen and I was never coming back. I was free. At last! Free to live my own dreams, on my own terms. I never wanted to think of those fourteen wasted years of my life in Ohio again.

Youth. Oh my. Youth! Such hubris. How could I have known then that those early formative years on my grandfather’s farm in Bloomingdale and later, the good fortune to live and be educated among an ethnically diversified community like the steel town of Steubenville, Ohio during the 40’s and 50’s would, in hindsight, be the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

I grew up having no fears. I can’t remember ever being afraid of anything, except maybe disobeying my parents. We never locked our shiny new blue Plymouth in the garage out back. Not even when good times brought a powder blue Cadillac convertible in its place. I knew the front door would always be unlocked when I arrived home from the YMCA Swing Haven at night and I easily traveled by myself everywhere on the bus at all hours and walked the two blocks from the bus stop to my home. I felt safe. I was safe.

Our neighbor’s doors were always open to all and it seemed we were always either delivering or on the receiving end of casserole and cake exchanges from one to the other. We genuinely cared about one another. Neighbors were extended family in our blue collar neighborhood. If ever needed, help was just next door at the neighbors house.

High school jobs were easily found for us. My first was in Denmark’s, a family owned department store, where the owner knew my name. I started at Christmas as a wrapper and worked my way up to sales in lingerie. Customers didn’t seem to be agitated during the long wait for the canister carrying their money being sucked up the vacuum tube to accounting and back again with their receipt and correct change. People had patience. We all seemed to take life in stride.

Our high school had our great football team and marching band that gave our town additional purpose and pride beyond the fact that we produced steel that was helping rebuild the country.

We didn’t have to worry about drugs back then. The worst worry for us girls was not having a date to the prom because we had to wait to be asked. The worst whispers were about the boys and ‘wild girls’ who would go to the coal pits outside of town to smoke cigarettes, drink beer and fool around or the girls that would go to “visit” their out-of-town relatives for nine months.

We studied, jitterbugged, ate square pizza and Coke, went to the drive-in and necked and had swirled ice cream with the curl on top at the local Dairy Queen and watched Ed Sullivan on our RCA televisions Sunday nights with our families.

Our parents earned a good living and were prosperous. They had hopes for the future. We as teenagers never had any doubts that we could reach and achieve our dreams. The world was ours if we were willing to work for it.

And the reality of it is, it was all true. Our generation was afforded the best environment for achieving and witnessing the greatness of the American people and their dreams. We were a town of all nationalities, all colors and I never thought or was taught there were any differences between us.

I do believe, though, that our diverse community along the Ohio River was not unique. It was a softer and more gentle time of hope for the future in America. No one thought that it would disappear. Not here.

How were any of us to know we were so very fortunate living in those special times and that this recipe for living would never be duplicated ever again.




It is really true when it is said youth is wasted on the young. When I was 17 I was emotionally arrogant with selfish dreams of leaving my hometown and my life there far behind me. I achieved my goal by going far away to college and saying goodbye to everything, including my boyfriend. My shame in this is that I didn’t tell him. I neglected or maybe just didn’t have the heart to tell him, my dreams were beyond a life in Steubenville. He thought I would be back.

But that is not the worst of it. I wrote him a “Dear John” letter from college about six weeks into my first semester. I didn’t know he had already bought a ring to surprise me at Christmas.

Hindsight eventually allowed me the privilege of seeing that I was young and just plain selfish and really, really stupid and above all, extremely insensitive. And that is not the worst of it.

A few weeks after that letter I awoke from a horrible dream that my boyfriend was driving at night down Market Street Hill, the main artery into our downtown, and was hurt in a terrible accident. The dream was so real, it was hard for me to shake off, so when my brother came to visit me from his college the next weekend, I told him about my dream.

“Sandra. It happened. I didn’t want to tell you, but he was drinking and had an accident just like you described.”

And so, my guilt about my letter and breaking this nice boy’s heart with my careless attitude about our relationship began and has never left me to this day – of being responsible for his physical and emotional hurting.

I did see him that Christmas, but only once and never again. I was told that he owned a business and finally married a local girl and had two children. Knowing him, he probably forgave me. I am sure I was the farthest thing from his mind two minutes after he met and fell in love again. But I have never forgiven myself.

This morning I got a message from my cousin that my high school boyfriend died this week. On my birthday.

The Memory Wrecking Ball

Whoosh! A great big recking ball is smashing, smashing my childhood memories. With each giant swing it is right now as I write, taking down Roosevelt Elementary School on LaBelle View in Steubenville, Ohio.  Or at least this growing pile of wreckage is playing havoc, trying to obliterate my time within its rooms.

Whoosh! The dark red brick walls that weathered six feet snow drifts, baking sun and mis-guided baseballs  rebounding  off the impressive structure. Gone.

Whoosh! The wooden floors that always smelled of linseed and Pinesol that always squeaked a chorus of ‘foot’ notes. Gone.

Whoosh! The piercing sound of the siren that let us know we had to fly up the two blocks from home as fast as our legs would allow on those days we lingered too long at breakfast. Gone.

Whoosh! My wooden desk that someone decided to immortalize with his initials “PJ” that always filled with my rubber erasure dust. Gone.

Whoosh! The cement steps we ran down at noon to go home for lunch, my girlfriends peeling off at each house they called home. Mothers would always be there with a hot lunch waiting and a kiss goodbye at the end of the hour. Gone.

Whoosh! The second floor windowsill my friend Donna and I leaned from to wave goodbye to her dad’s cousin, Dean Martin with Jerry Lewis after they visited our school. I so hoped to get discovered and go to Hollywood. Gone.

Whoosh! Gone are the memories of leaving the blue collar steel town, filled with smoke from the mills that covered the tall statue of General Von Steuben in front of the court house.

Whoosh! Whoosh! Just as easy as that. Gone.



For those of you who have read my memoir, Behind The Magic Mirror, you are familiar with the story of my life up to and until the year 2002.

I grew up in Steubenville, a gloomy Ohio Valley steel town on the banks of the Ohio River and as a young woman realized my dream of leaving the industrial grime and smoke that I grew to hate.

Attending college far away from home was not only a way out, but also during my years at school, life afforded me a break. I was asked to audition for Bert Claster, the creator of a popular children’s television show, Romper Room, syndicated throughout the world.   This occurrence changed my life forever and I began on a whirlwind of life-changing events that caused me to eventually lead a double life. My public persona was that of a successful anchorwoman, but my private life was one of personal pain and constant terror.

My mind was occupied with a stalker that had threatened my life and in searching for the truth, I discovered that it was my husband, who eventually was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. In 1980 he disappeared from the face of the Earth, never to be heard from again.

It took me eleven years to sort out the mystery of my husband’s disappearance and to also sort out my feelings when I discovered the truth.

When the ball dropped in New York’s Times Square on the Millennium and we all survived while entering the next century, I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to tell my story.

My initial plan was to combine a journal that I kept traveling the Nile River in 1984 with the story of my life and the investigation I started thereafter involving Jennings’ disappearance.

I wasn’t too sure that anyone but me would be interested in my emotional evolution during that prior journey to Egypt, so I gave my journal to several of my family and good friends to read. They encouraged me to go ahead and begin telling my story using my journal, but I decided to put it aside and just start telling my story right from the beginning as it was lived.

After years of trying not to think about my life with my husband and his death,  I thought that if and when I made the decision to validate my pain and let go of the anger that there would be a great emotional healing that would release me. That there would be a great catharsis that would set me free.

So then why was I sitting there trying to fight back not tears of joy, but of emptiness. Why was there no feeling of an end for me? An end to my life with him, a severing of the cord for once and for all. He was gone and now I could get on with my life.

But as I sat there I knew there would be no end for me, and no end for my children. How could I not have seen it before? Knowledge gives us power, but it would never give us complete closure. We can never erase the days and years he was a part of our lives. Those memories we will carry forever.

So I have traveled this long journey to discover that in the end to find answers is just part of the closure. And it is not the most important in the trilogy  of finding peace within. It is the confronting of truths and the forgiveness of  trespasses against us that brings final peace and closure.

So that is my story. That is part of who I am. The answers I had looking for closure had released me to another journey that begins for me everyday my feet hit the floor. I can’t wait to see what is around the next bend in my after-fifty road. And I thank all of you who are willing to travel with me as I experience life and living here on this planet we all are lucky enough to share together.



What words plea

Upon the page

 To tell my tale

Expose my soul

 So I can feel 

 So you can see

What I know? 



 ©Sandra Hart 2012