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Longtime residents anchor street

June 13, 2011

by Annie Delano

In a neighborhood where college students and businesses come and go much has remained constant on Myrtle Avenue in the life of David and Maxine Ballou. After 35 years living in the same location, keeping mostly the same neighbors, and relying on the same bus routes for transportation,  the Ballous still love the Pine Hills.

What drew them here in 1978 was the affordability of the housing combined with its

David and Maxine at a family gathering (Courtesy- David and Maxine Ballou)

location in Albany. They moved from Delaware Avenue to an area that would allow them the same convenience of city living.  A retired bricklayer and his wife, a retired factory worker, the Ballous have raised three daughters, and now spend their days maintaining their home, cooking, and attending church on Sundays.

Transportation was a factor that weighed heavily when the Ballous originally bought their home in the Pine Hills. The couple has never owned a vehicle, and neither one has a driver’s license, so the three bus lines near their house were a necessity.  ”We got the Pine Hills, the Western and the 30 comes over this way,” said Maxine. “You got three buses really. The transportation is good here.”

The Ballou’s house, purchased in 1978 (Annie Delano)

David, 87, a veteran of World War II, retired after working 40 years at Powell and Minnock Brick Company on Route 144 in Coeymans. The mason carpooled to work each day with co-workers who lived nearby. He did what was necessary to provide for his family.

In all of his years working at the company, the mason only missed one day of work because of inclement weather conditions. A blizzard and massive snow fall closed the streets, preventing him from getting to his job.

Like her husband, Maxine, also understands the value of a dollar and the definition of hard work. She held the same job for more than 40 years at J. DeBeer and Son Baseball factory where she completed various tasks in service to the nation’s past time.  She rode the bus daily to the factory in West Albany those four decades until she retired at 65.

Two buses were necessary for the employee to get from

The couple at a family reunion in 2003 (Courtesy- David and Maxine Ballou)

her home to the factory each day. She would have to walk to Western Avenue and ride the bus to State Street. From there, if timed out perfectly, she would  wait a short time for the second bus to West Albany, where she was dropped her off at J. DeBeer and Son.

There, she earned $2 for every dozen balls she produced. “Some parts I liked, some parts I didn’t. I did several different things,” said the 84-year-old. At the factory, she said,  “I made them, I sold them, I stamped them, and boxed them.”

While the couple valued the bus in their working days, they value it even more now that they are in their 80′s. “It’s good for older people,” she said, “You can get to both hospitals from here, Saint Peters, and Albany Med.” Living in the neighborhood for as long as the Ballous have, has allowed them to see many changes in the Pine Hills. The bus transportation however, is the one constant.

Back in 1978 the Ballou’s paid less than $50,000 for their Myrtle Avenue home. That was a small price to pay as Pine Hills has helped in sustaining there quality of life for the past 35 years.

During their stay here, they have seen the cost of living increase before their eyes.

Advertisement for Ford Cars, shows the cost of a vehicle in the 1970’s

Advertisements, such as the car advertisement for Latham Ford found in a 1978 edition of the College of Saint Rose newspaper gives a glimpse at the cost of living.

“You could take a dollar and buy what you can with $40 or $50 now,” said the former mason, “We used to get sugar for three cents a pound…and gas used to cost 25 cents a gallon.”

Now a car costs upwards of $20,000 and a gallon of gas is hovering around $4 a gallon.

Business have also come and gone, in the Pine Hills neighborhood over the years too, including a bakery Maxine frequently visited on Madison Avenue. That post is now home to Variety Pizza, and the closest place for baked goods is a Dunkin Donuts franchise on the corner of West Lawrence. Besides the lack of fresh baked goods, neither of the Ballou’s could think of a business they needed to come to the neighborhood.  They are content here. “Everything suits me,” said Maxie .”I don’t need anything else.” -30-

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