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Words from the wise: Florence Banks remembers a free-roaming youth in Greenwich – Greenwich Time

Words from the wise: Florence Banks remembers a free-roaming youth in Greenwich – Greenwich Time

Florence Banks

J: What kinds of things did you do for fun growing up?

F: We used to hang down by the river all summer long. We’d be barefoot down by the (Mianus) River, sticking our feet and toes … in the sand. All summer long everyone in the neighborhood would be down by the river. When I was a kid, all the local boys got together one year and made a raft. They just made it out of trees they found and scraps and they made it right somehow. And when they built it it was really high, but when they put it in the water, it sunk down. So only the boys were on it because they made it, and us girls sat on the bank and watched them.

J: It’s funny how some things are so different now. People don’t really do that kind of stuff.

F: Oh yeah people don’t let their kids out of the house now. They’re afraid to. But when I was a kid, we had a gang. We actually had a gang. All us kids used to just hang out together and we used to travel far and wide. We’d be gone all day long getting into all kinds of trouble. My sister, she would get me and we’d go knock on everybody’s door and say, “Do you have any kids we could play with?”

J: Haha!

F: And they’d either say yes or no. And if it was yes, they’d say, “So-and-so! There’s someone here to see you!” … We would just travel far and wide … and nothing ever happened to us.

J: You must know this town inside and out then.

F: Well, Riverside anyway. Oh yeah. And we used to trespass everywhere. Many times though, people would come out of houses and bring us drinks. Sodas and things.

J: You went to school in Riverside?

F: I went to St. Catherine of Siena when it was a grammar school. I never went to Eastern. I went to St. Mary’s girls high.

J: And did you graduate from there?

F: No. I transferred. My junior and senior year in high school I spent at Greenwich. My girlfriend talked me into it. I used to have to babysit, like every weekend when I got out of school because once I got older my parents told me, “You’re gonna have to start chipping in with your babysitting money for your books.” So I would be like, paying for my own bus, for my books.

J: And you realized you should just go to public school?

F: I didn’t realize that. But my girlfriend said to me, “Why do you pay for all that tuition? You should just go to the public school; it’s a really great school.” Eventually I thought, oh well, I guess I could … But at the private school, we had to wear uniforms. I never had to buy clothes, I’d buy my uniform. You buy your uniform, you’re done. You might have had to buy stockings but you’re done. But then I went over there to the public school, now suddenly I need clothes. You can’t wear the same thing every day like you did in private school, so now all my money went into clothes. So I really didn’t save anything.

J: Did you like it better in the public school or Catholic school?

F: Well, I liked it better in the Catholic school because the classes were smaller, because the nuns lived for their students — well I guess they lived for God — but their only other diversion from their praying is their students. And that was a real shocker to me, my friends would try to explain to me: “They don’t care about you here. They don’t care about you here. They really don’t care about you here.” And I thought, “No, no, no. Your teachers are always looking out for your best.” And they’d tell me, “No they’re not. No they’re not. They’re so not.” And it took me a long time to believe that, because in Catholic school, well, the teachers really are looking out for what’s best for the students. They truly are. They’re nuns. They spend all day praying when they’re not correcting papers. So that was a real culture shock for me.

J: When you were in school, what were you thinking about for your future? What were your dreams?

F: At the time I didn’t really think too much about it. I think when I was small, I wanted to be like a folk singer.

J: Oh really? Any particular artists that really inspired you?

F: I guess the first one I was exposed to was Joan Baez and then Bob Dylan. Those were the first ones I got exposed to.

Email Jennifer Turiano at and follow her on Twitter: @jturianoGT and Instagram: @greenwichgreen.

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