by MyRye.com Reader Alan Beechey
“There was a brave girl of Connecticut
Who flagged the express with her pecticut,
Which her elders defined
As presence of mind,
But deplorable absence of ecticut.”
A limerick that’s typical of the wit and inventiveness of the immortal Ogden Nash, the twentieth century’s most popular American writer of light verse.
Ogden did us the favor of being born here in Rye, in 1902, on Milton Point. He was baptized at Christ’s Church, and when he was two years old, his wealthy family took possession of a sizeable house called “Ramaqua,” which stood on nearly fifty acres close to the Port Chester border (until I-287 barreled through Rye). The Nashes made frequent appearances in the society sections of local newspapers as well as the New York Times, and shortly after they left Rye, in 1917, Ogden’s first published poem appeared in The Rye Chronicle. (His parents returned later: they’re buried in Greenwood Union Cemetery.)
I’d say Nash, who died in 1971, is our most famous native son. How many other former residents have appeared on a U.S. postage stamp? (Yes, all right, Amelia Earhart, but she didn’t move here until she was in her thirties.) But apart from a poem on the wall of the Reading Room, what do we have to show for it?
So last year, I wrote to the Mayor to ask that the next time the council needed a name for something – a road, a building, a coyote center – they’d consider a long-overdue honor for Ogden. There’s an Ogden Nash Street in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, for example. Why can’t we have one here?
And then, just last month, the possibility arose that ownership of the Rye Town Park, an anomalous holdover that sits in neither half of the bifurcated Town of Rye, might pass to the City. Well, what happens to the name, in that case? “Rye Town Park,” despite its historic associations, would become inaccurate. “Rye City Park” might be seen as insensitive. Both are a bit obvious and, frankly, boring; they sound like placeholder names on a developer’s blueprint, waiting for something more creative.
Ogden Nash Park” would be a wonderful way to recognize Rye’s lost literary heritage. It’s appropriate: Ogden was born before there was any distinction between Town and City, and although we haven’t yet pinpointed his exact place of birth, it must be within a mile or so of the park, which he’d have seen come to life during his childhood. And after so much contention over the management of the RTP, what better way to remind us that the park is a place of recreation and diversion than by naming it after a man whose poetry was suffused with fun and humor, a man who wanted to make us laugh?
I think we should do it anyway, no matter what happens to the administration of the park, and I’ve suggested this to the Mayor and the RTP Commission. (There’s an Amelia Earhart Park near Miami.)
Alan Beechey is a writer and mystery novelist who moved to Forest Avenue eight years ago. He is working on a celebration of Ogden Nash that will take place at the Rye Arts Center later this year.