Last week I talked about the homes we grew up in. This week I want to follow up that discussion by talking about the neighborhood we grew up in. Did you grow up in the city, on a farm, or the suburbs? Our stories will all be different depending on where we lived.
Use the following questions to help you get started. I have found that it only takes a small reminiscence to poke a hole in your memory dam:
- Take some time and describe what your neighborhood was like.
- What were some of the significant local places around your neighborhood, schools, or parks?
- If you lived in a city, did you play in vacant lots or alleys.
- Talk about the kids that lived nearby.
- What kinds of games did you play?
The Street Where I Lived
I lived on a quiet street that didn’t go anywhere. The only reason people drove on our street was because they lived there! It was a short street with maybe only 30-35 houses.
When my street was developed and the houses were built in the 1920s, two maple trees were planted in the front of each house between the sidewalk and the street (park strip). It seems like the developers started planting trees at each end of the street and by the time they reached our house they had to plant three trees, our house was in the exact middle of the street. We were the only house on the street with three trees in front. When I was growing up (1960s) these trees had grown to be really big! They practically blocked out the sun in the summer time. I remember one time I was throwing a ball up and catching it. It went up into the tree branches, and I lost it in the leaves until it came down and hit me right in the eye! I never saw it until was too late! I was black and blue for about a week. It really hurt.
My street was flat and located across a hill — it was level but all the streets leading to it were on a hill. To go anywhere you had to either go up or down a hill. Two streets dead ended into our street, and two at each end went up and down to other streets. To get anywhere, school, town, or stores—it was up or down and then coming home, up or down again.
We all had bikes. Three speeds were all the rage, and to get anywhere we rode our bikes. Our parents hardly ever drove us, unlike today! Since we had to go up or down the hill, it seemed like at least once a summer the brakes would break going down the hill. There I was screaming, riding downhill with no way to stop. At the bottom of the hill I just had to crash into bushes in front of somebody’s house, after wildly crossing the fairly busy street and praying no cars were coming. It was AMAZING WE WERE NEVER HIT!
Playing in the street
There were so many kids our age that lived on our street. Some were friends and some enemies, and alliances seemed to changed weekly — sounds like episodes of Survivor. During the summer we frequently played baseball in the street. The ball would, without fail, roll into one of storm sewers. The littlest kid would need to crawl down while someone held their feet. They were lowered down so they could get the usually wet, soggy ball. We always thought it was so gross, but what could we do? We usually only had one ball, and it was vital that the kid with the ball was home and could come out to play. If not — no game!
Since we played in the street we always had to watch for cars! Whenever one came by we usually knew who they were, but sometimes a person was lost or a delivery truck would drive by. We would then all run out of the way and yelled, “Car, Car, C-A-R, stick it in a jelly jar.” How dumb that sounds now, but we all thought it was fun to yell. Usually the person who first saw the car would yell it.
Talk about all the silly but fun things you did.
Periodically street factions would form, and somehow it was decided that it was time to do battle with the other group. I remember, since we had so many different kinds of trees, we would collect chestnuts that fell from the trees. The actual nut was inside a spiny shell, and in time they would split and the nut could be removed. It was so much better to collect the nuts before they separated from the spiny shell and use this for the ammunition. We threw the spiny things at each other which were about the size of golf balls. They must have really hurt if we were actually able to hit someone with them, but I don’t think we ever did!
These neighborhood battles were usually well organized. We would spend so much time collecting the weapons (nuts), organizing the teams and preparing, that the actual war was pretty short lived. It seemed that our parents were never aware of these large-scale war games taking place, especially since no one was ever really hurt.
I remember the whole street and yards were our playground and hardly anyone had fences. Fences were usually just to keep a dog contained, but they were never obstacles to us. Games of “hide and seek” took on wide ranging proportions. We were always increasing the size of the playing field.
Write About Your Childhood Play and Games
Write about your childhood! So much of who we became can be traced back to the time we spent as children. I read recently that today’s children spend a large part of their time in front of a screen. Those of us who roamed the neighborhood need to tell this part of our stories and save that legacy.
Write about your childhood friends. Tell why you remember them today. There must have been something that triggered your memory of them. Are you still in touch with them—are you still friends?
Share your memories in the comments. Spend time with your memories. In the upcoming weeks, I will talk more about topics and ways to remember your story.
But remember, It’s never too early, but it’s always too late!
Start writing your story. It truly is the most important legacy you can leave your family!