Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Touring Donna Parker's "Summerfield"

On Friday, I met and lunched with Martin Levin, husband of the late Marcia Martin, author of the Donna Parker series. After lunch, Martin gave me a tour of Rye, New York, the setting of the fictional Summerfield, New Jersey, where Donna lives.

We saw Donna's home--incidentally the Levin's home from 1950-57-- a white frame Dutch colonial with black shutters on a shady street. Here Donna lived with her mother and father, Grace and Sam Parker and her little brother Jimmy. Amazingly, it looked just as I pictured Donna's house! Here too, Marcia Martin penned Donna's story, sitting in bed with a yellow legal pad balanced on her knees.

Martin also showed me the stone high school Donna attended, at least for one book, Donna Parker Takes a Giant Step. I also saw The Sweet Shop, the malt shop that is the backdrop for dates, lunches and conversations--as well as some rowdinesss. Called Poppy's, it's on the main drag in Rye and still boasts a long counter with red leather swivel seats.

Rye is on Long Island Sound, a lovely body of water naturally left out of descriptions of Summerfield, New Jersey. But as Martin Levin pointed out, little has changed in Rye since the 1950s. The town is clearly more upscale than it would have been in Donna's day, but it still has an idyllic, small town flavor, with many streets of modest frame homes, a big public library and a central shopping district.

It was a treat--a thrill--to actually meet Marcia's husband and hear stories about the connections between the Donna Parker series and Marcia's life. I had no idea how autobiographical the books were.

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