Written by Betsy Abraham Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00
The Westbury of 50 years ago was a much different place. Doug LeClaire, a native Westbury resident and founder of Asbury Shorts, will be sharing his memories and adventures of growing up in the village during the '60s and '70s during the next meeting of the Historical Society of the Westburys.
LeClaire grew up in what he describes as “absolute suburbia,” spending his days playing sports or riding bikes with his friends until his mother called him inside for dinner. He lived in central Westbury, on Asbury Avenue between Post
Avenue and Grand Street. He remembers fondly the days of playing hide and seek in the woods along the Northern State Parkway and hanging out in what his friends called “The Corner,” which was the intersection of Liberty and Plainfield
Street. There was a strong spirit of camaraderie in the neighborhood.
“You were friends with all your neighbors and you hung out in their backyards or at their house all the time. It’s like everyone was family,” LeClaire said.
But LeClaire’s childhood was also marked by change. The Civil Rights movement was in full swing across the nation and the effects trickled into the village.
“African Americans started taking a stand and a small microcosm of that big outside world was right here in Westbury,” LeClaire says. “Everyone was trying to have their freedoms and express their anger, and sometimes it spilled into violence.”
LeClaire’s childhood years also spanned the Vietnam War. When he was a kid, the overseas war had little effect on his bike-riding and Little League filled days. But as he got older and he saw his older classmates drafted, the war began to become more real.
“When you’re 10 years old, you’re pretty protected and you don’t really think about the war," LeClaire said. "But you get older, and you get to high school and all of a sudden the Vietnam War is still not over, and you’re wondering how come."
LeClaire and his friends had to register for the draft their senior year of high school, and he remembers that some didn’t even apply to college because they thought they would be going to war. But, the United States pulled out of their involvement in 1973, sparing LeClaire from having to go overseas.
Instead, he went to the New York Institute of Technology, where he studied Communication Arts. Shortly after graduating, he premiered Asbury Shorts, an independent short film showcase in the Westbury Middle School auditorium. This year, Asbury celebrates 31 years of screening popular short films in all over the world— from Washington D.C, to Los Angeles, to London and even back to its roots at Westbury’s Piazza the past two summers.
Join LeClaire for more stories of growing up in Westbury during the Historical Society of the Westburys meeting on Nov. 17 at 2:30 p.m. at the Westbury Memorial Public Library.