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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Close-knit Wallingford neighborhood packed with memories, ‘a great place to grow up’

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Close-knit Wallingford neighborhood packed with memories, ‘a great place to grow up’

WALLINGFORD —  The Ridges aren’t known to many outside of town, but for many who reside in its friendly confines, it’s their whole world.

The six-block stretch from Ridgetop Road to Ridgecrest Road is short in distance, but packed with decades of memories for residents who have remained as close as the one-story houses that line the roads of the west side neighborhood.

“My best friend growing up lived right behind me, and we’re still best friends to this day,” said former Ridges resident Colleen Murray, who grew up in the neighborhood in the late 1970s. “We still talk every day.”

The neighborhood can be accessed from either Route 68 or Highland Avenue, but there are no signs signifying the area. The Ridges is simply a nickname produced by the tightly packed streets containing similar names.

A journey through the area can take you along Ridgecrest, Ridgetop, Ridgefield, Ridgewood and 1st through 7th Ridge roads, proving confusing for some.

“I used to drive right by my house quite a few times,” said Ridges resident Shanna Pieta, who has lived on Ridgecrest for nearly two decades. “Sometimes I still do.”

Murray’s father, John Sullivan, a Ridges resident for over six decades, recalls children having to walk a mile to their bus stop on Highland Avenue. He can’t say for sure if it was due to the maze that awaited bus drivers, but based on his experience with motorists looking for their way out, it likely was a factor.

“About 50 years ago, my doorbell rang around 9 p.m. at night and a gentleman was at the door asking how to get back to Route 68,” Sullivan remembered. “He said he’d been driving an hour trying to find his way out.”

Stories of playing tennis and kickball in the road permeate the Facebook group “I grew up in The Ridges in Wallingford, CT,” which consists of roughly 200 members sharing memories dating back to the 1950s. There are stories about sledding down Highland Avenue and others about the load of candy kids would haul in on Halloween. 

Murray joyfully recalls the exclusivity of The Ridges, where everyone knew everyone and was greeted with open arms.

“It was a very tight area,” Murray explained. “Everyone was always outside. It was a great place to grow up. It’s just a comforting feeling when you go in there. Even now, people are close and all the neighbors know each other.”

Even a horrifying story of the “Shoebox Murder,” which involved a dismembered torso found on the outskirts of the neighborhood back in the late 1800s (and was eventually the headline of an episode of TLC’s “Kindred Spirits”), could be turned into a welcoming memory when you attach The Ridges to it.

“All the older kids would try to spook the younger kids,” Murray said. “I remember riding our bikes to the spot where it supposedly happened. We’d eventually wind up near Gaylord Hospital.”

Even those who have moved on to different towns or states still classify The Ridges as their home, as if it’s an identity that will never leave them. Despite the acres of woods once used as a playground for “Ridge-ites” slowly turning into more pavement and houses, the heartbeat of the neighborhood seems unchanged.

“Everyone is proud of it,” Sullivan said of those that have called the neighborhood home. “There’s so many great memories. But even now, we’re still a close-knit community. If I need anything, I can call any of my neighbors and they’ll be there.”
Twitter: @ryanchichester1