Skip to content

The Tenneys: Lifelong pillars of the Pine Hills

July 5, 2013

by Lauren Halligan

Come summer time, Marie and Dave Tenney take to the sidewalks with their trusty golden retriever as a companion. The paths they take may vary, but this season the Tenneys will spend their 50th summer in the neighborhood as a married couple -a couple who have lived their entire lives here and first met as children.

“We even go by our old houses on South Allen, where we lived as kids,” Marie said of their walking ritual.

Officially retired, the couple keeps busy maintaining the house, doing crossword puzzles and listening to talk radio. Dave also enjoys gardening in their backyard. Each likes history, and they keep up on current events.

Both are avid readers, although Dave prefers to read at night, while Marie is a morning reader. She still walks to the Pine Hills library weekly. When she was in high school she held a job at the old Pine Hills branch on Madison Avenue.

The couple sometimes visits Cafe Madison for breakfast or The Point for dinner. “It’s nice to have all these things right here,” Marie said.

While their children urged them to move to the suburbs, Marie said, “It’s not happening.  We’re city folks. I’m not a suburbanite by any means.

“We’re very comfortable here,” she said of the home where they raised their five children. “I love the space.”

One neighbor – who dubbed the couple historians – is glad for the Tenneys’ steadfastness.

“They are very loyal and devoted neighbors,” said Morris Street neighbor Roslyn Jefferson.

Changes in the neighborhood have not swayed the Tenneys commitment to the area.

“My mom would call the city if there were ever any issues in the neighborhood that needed attention,” said the Tenneys’ youngest daughter, Carolyn Deso. Her mom, she said, was “active in knowing what was going on in the neighborhood and voicing her opinions about the betterment of the neighborhood in meetings and Letters to the Editor.”

Marie Frink and Dave Tenney grew up together. The Frinks lived at 51 South Allen at Myrtle and the Tenneys were a few houses away at 63 South Allen.

“I had just met his sister Jeanne, and she was taking me over to her house to play,” Marie said. “Dave was out front painting the metal railing. And the rest is history.”

Marie was 16 when they started dating, although she said “We didn’t really date. Everyone just hung out.” Shortly after Marie graduated from high school, the couple married in October of 1962.

Marie and Dave Tenney on their front porch.

Marie and Dave Tenney on their front porch.

The two bought their house on Morris Street more than 40 years ago and have lived there ever since.

Once he started his life with Marie, after attending Siena College he earned his teaching degree at Saint Rose. Dave taught at a handful of schools over the years.

The couple left Albany only once while Dave was a teacher in Saint Johnsville, New York. After three brief years, they were back in the area.

Later on, he also worked at a family-owned book binding shop on Sheridan Avenue, and spent some time with the New York State Senate.

While Dave was working, Marie would stay home with the younger kids.

Later on, she earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Regents College (which is now Excelsior College). She then worked as an exam rating coordinator for the assessment unit at the college until she retired in 2010.

In 1969 they were the youngest newlyweds on the block, and today they may hold the distinction as the longest married couple there.

They originally moved  to be near the Morris Street school. “We bought this house because we wanted our kids to go to Vincentian grade school,” said Marie.

When the  school closed in the 1980s, after four of their five children attended, their youngest daughter Carolyn went to Blessed Sacrament on Central Avenue. Around this time many families moved to the suburbs.

Decades after their daughter graduated from the parish school, the two still attend 10:30 a.m. mass at Blessed Sacrament each Sunday. Marie called Blessed Sacrament “the best kept secret in the city.”

The oldest Tenney child, Margaret Burke, recalled the excitement of moving into the big ‘new’ house on Morris Street back in 1969. She walked  with her father between the old and new house in the weeks leading up to the big move. “Whenever I was going home after first grade classes at VI Grade School, I made it my business to stop by and peer in the windows of my new manse,” she said.

“We were transitioning from living in a railroad flat on Lancaster, which was actually fairly spacious,” Burke said, “but our family size grew that year, and we needed more square footage.”

All five of their children have since moved out to start their own lives and families, though most stayed in the Albany area.

The Pine Hills is “a nice place to raise a family,” Marie said, a fact to which their grown children attest.

“It was a great neighborhood,” said Deso. “There were many kids on my block with whom I played … We all played together – old and young alike. We would bike and play tag and hide-and-seek, and all of us even attempted to build a fort together behind my next door neighbor’s garage.”

Burke also recalled the big families, friends and freedom on Morris Street.

Now, the Tenneys are Mimi and Poppy to a dozen grandchildren who range in age from three to 24.

For the most part, it’s their grandchildren who keep them busy now. They babysit once a week, and are constantly attending sporting events and recitals. Each year they host a huge Christmas Eve gala at the house, a family tradition.

But walking in the neighborhood is still their most constant tradition.

“We like to walk,” said Dave, 73.

“That was our courtship,” said Marie.

She was in her 50s before she got her driver’s license, around the time her youngest was learning to drive.  “My mom took a city bus to and from work and I took the city bus to and from school in elementary and high school,” Deso said. And together they would walk to the old library branch.

That library was a focal point, said Burke: “it was a major milestone to learn to sign your name so you could get the coveted blue library card and rack up the books for the summer reading program.”

Since those days, traffic patterns have changed. For one, right after they moved into their house, the city made  two-way Morris Street into a one way street, east to west.

The camaraderie from back in the day has changed too.

“Neighbors knew each other and were friendly and happy to help out – bring the mail in, keep an eye on the house if you were out of town, take care of one’s pets, babysit. They looked out for one another,” Deso said.

Now, though, a lot of transients, including college students and working people who do not settle in, constitute the majority of Pine Hills residents, said Marie. And families are smaller than they used to be.

Back when the Tenney kids roamed the neighborhood, “we could ride our bikes from place to place and just lean them up against a building or storefront, go in and conduct business, and return to find your property untouched,” said Burke. “It was a very safe feeling, and we moved easily from one house to another, one back yard or porch to another.

“Most of the moms were home in those days, and the neighborhood flourished under the watchful eyes of all the moms making sure we minded our manners, respected property, told the truth, and crossed the street carefully after looking both ways first,” Burke said.

For Burke, “When I was a very little girl, my mother thought nothing of sending me to the store, the bank, the dry cleaner to run errands.”

A Shell Station was located on the corner across from the present day Mobil. “I thought nothing of getting the flat tires of my bike fixed there. The mechanic would take the tire off your bike and soak it in water to find the leak, patch it up, and send you on your way. I’m not sure they even charged us,” she said.

Back when Burke’s parents were kids, Dave recalled going out to play in the morning, and not coming home until nighttime. Since mothers didn’t typically work, it was safe to assume that the children were watched.

He rode all over the city on bike. As an adolescent, he was a paperboy for the Times Union, a job he kept until he was 16.

At age 6, Dave worked on a horse drawn milk wagon, from 6 a.m. until noon on Whitehall Road. At the end of his work day, he had a choice – take 30 cents pay or a quart of chocolate milk.

Even the next generation was mostly out of the house during the day. “We really did play outside for the better part of our lives if the weather was cooperative. I don’t remember having the option to stay inside really,” Burke recalled.

“The summers are those time I recall with the most fondness-days spent swimming in a friend’s pool if you were lucky and well-behaved enough to get invited, and nights of sleepovers and pizza deliveries for a midnight snack,” Burke said. ” The bike riding, popsicle eating, whispering secrets, playing board games, hopscotch, and skipping rope endlessly.”

Summer nights, she said were filled with “millions of fireflies dotting the area and we would catch them in a mayonnaise jar with holes punched in the lid,” she said.  “Families would often sit out on their front porches and night, and enjoy the warm darkness, and each others’ company.” -30-


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: