My wife has been asking me what I want for Christmas. I don’t really need anything but when I walked past the Hudson Post Office recently, I thought of a few things.
My sister, brother and I grew up almost next door to the post office, which sits on the corner of South Fourth and Union streets. For young kids in the “go-out-and play” era, the post office and the Columbia County Courthouse across the street were our playgrounds.
The Post Office looks exactly the same as it did in the mid-1960s. Its interior still smells of paper and glue. Your footsteps reverberate across the terrazzo and marble floor and your voice echos up to the high ceiling. Outside, the Classic Revival architecture with columns (the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998) gives a stately look.
In other words, it was a perfect place to run through to see if you’d get caught, which we usually did. When we were escorted out, we’d sit on the cool granite steps on the Union Street entrance and watch people come and go. It was there that we learned of great scientific advances from a neighborhood girl.
I won’t name this person because I don’t know if she still lives in the area. She was several years older than my siblings and I (we were five, six and eight). She had a reputation as being tough — and she was. When she saw us on the steps she'd join us, which made us nervous until she began telling amazing lies.
We didn’t know she was lying. To us, she was an oracle opening our eyes to wonders unknown. She declared that there were socks that could make you fly, sneakers that had rockets to make you super fast, and underwear that would make you invisible. She had many more stories of mind-blowing space-age technologies. Every time we asked where her flying socks were, she said she had just checked, and they would arrive at the post office next week.
I can’t remember the face of the person telling these tales but man, I remember those flying socks. In my five-year-old mind, I imagined them as having little wings on the ankles, like Mercury. I never questioned our truth teller why someone would make flying socks instead of, say, a flying shirt, which seemed easier to control in flight. I just knew it was going to be very cool to get a pair and fly over Hudson.
We asked our parents to buy us these futuristic devices. I can’t remember their response but it was probably something like “stay away from her.”
What motivated Flying Sock Girl to tell us these stories rather than speaking to us with her fists, as she did with others? Maybe it was the new U.S. space program or that the Jetsons were on prime time TV. Still, this wasn’t your typical neighborhood bully script.
Today, whenever I see those post office steps, I recall her fanciful tales. So I am asking my wife for a pair of flying socks for Christmas. More than 50 years after I first heard of them, they have to be a real thing, right? My size is large. Red would be nice but I'll take them in whatever color they have.