Another Andover Memory: An Overstreet Bike Ride

Doug Phelps at age six.

(Editor’s Note: As Beacon readers may have noticed, this is one of six “Andover memory” articles to have appeared in the paper since June. We invite other readers, particularly longtime area residents, to share their recollections of life in this small corner of the world. Simply send your memory to Photos are also welcome. Thanks!)

Growing up in Andover in the 1960s was a wonderful gift. The small-town values were what made it a safe place. When I was about five years old, the seven-year-old nephew of our neighbor across the street would ride his bike from his home on Lawrence Street over to North Street, to play in my grandfather’s backyard under the tall pine trees. 

We’d make roads in the dirt for our little Matchbox toy cars to travel on. Occasionally, he would take me for a ride on his bike. I’d sit on the rack over the rear wheel and stick my legs out to avoid the chain and spokes. 

Whenever we did go, my mother would warn me not to go across the highway. My grandparents referred to crossing the highway as going “overstreet,” and so my mother told me not to go overstreet.

As is the case with some youngsters, the temptation of doing what is forbidden can be overwhelming. One day, during a bike ride, we crossed the highway to get to the general store (now Ragged Mountain Physical Therapy) to buy some penny candy. It didn’t take long to get over to the store and back, but in those few minutes someone had sighted us, knew that I shouldn’t be there, and reported back to homebase.

When I walked into the kitchen upon my return, my mother announced that I had been overstreet and that I was in trouble. When I asked who told her, she replied with the well-known phrase: “A little birdie told me.” 

To this day, I don’t know who called my mother, but as I think about it, that was the right thing to do. Andover still contains within its spirit that sense of shared responsibility, of raising one’s own kids but then playing a part in raising all of the kids in town.