By Stuart Mitchner
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
—Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Reading that quote from a 1930 letter from Einstein to his son Eduard, I had an absurd early-20th-century vision of myself delivering Town Topics on a bicycle. Even more absurd, my route comprised the two streets we lived on during our first decade in Princeton. In reality, this would mean riding a bicycle across town from Patton Avenue to Hodge Road. Every Wednesday. While there have been times when I needed to do the honors for our current street, that was from a car. What makes the old-fashioned paper route-on-a-bicycle idea truly ridiculous is that I never met a bike I liked, and vice-versa. I honestly never really wanted or needed one, and was rarely comfortable my few times in the saddle.
Anyway, here we go. Patton Avenue, our first Princeton street, was named for the 13th president of the University, Frances Landey Patton (1843-1932), who during the Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1896 made it official, declaring that the College of New Jersey would “in all future time be known as Princeton University.’’
We lived on the top two floors of a half-stucco, half-shingled house built in the 1920s. The terror of even the bravest of paper boys, a gigantic Irish wolfhound named Troika occupied the first floor, along with his master, a stage technician at McCarter. At a yard sale advertised in Town Topics we got to know the couple next door, who performed as a duo called Smile. The wife gave piano lessons to Stalin’s granddaughter, but that’s another story I’ve told more than once before.
The most striking feature of our stretch of Patton Avenue were the sycamore trees whose roots turned the sidewalks into hazards for kids who ran before they looked, not to mention aged, bicycle-riding newsboys attempting to toss Wednesday’s paper onto porches and driveways without losing the all-important life-balance stated in Einstein’s theory. more