Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reminiscing...part 2

Continuing with a post I made a few days ago...

I got back in my truck and headed in the direction of my old neighborhood about a mile away. I made a small detour and drove past where John Bodger used to live. How is it that I still remember his phone number after all these years? 831-6859.

I parked in the culdesac behind our old house and in front of what used to be the Testin's home. I got out and walked around the culdesac snapping a few pics. There was a guy mowing his yard in what had been the Barbour's residence back in the day. I interrupted him and told him that my folks had built the house behind him in 1966 and would he mind if I stepped into his backyard to take a few photos. He was a man of few words; "go ahead". I was half hoping to engage him in conversation about the neighborhood and give him a perspective from forty years earlier but he had more pressing issues with a lawn which needed mowing. His lawn will need mowing again in a few days.

It was odd to be standing in his backyard viewing our home from this angle. I looked to the right to see if the volleyball court in the Testin's yard was still there. It was. I remember how the adults in the neighborhood would sometimes get together at night to play volleyball. I also remember the time my dad twisted his ankle and had to leave the game. Some of us kids would hang around hoping they would need us if there weren't enough adults for a game but that was seldom the case. Gale Testin would usually give us some court time before or after they were done. He was a mellow fellow who would often stroll around his yard enjoying his little corner of the world. He died too soon from cancer in the early '70s.

I made my way back out to the street and tried to thank the guy over the noise of his lawn mower but I don't think he cared much. I walked around the corner to the front of our old home and shot a few more photos. I've uploaded them here to my Flickr account.

A while back I blogged about actually getting to meet the people who now live in the house and their invitation to come inside.

I walked up the street toward the elementary school. I looked to see if I could find our initials in the cement of the sidewalk along the way but those sections were either replaced or our etchings were hidden by grass overgrowing the concrete.

I made my way between a gap in the fence which led onto the school grounds and walked toward the hill behind the elementary school. As a kid we'd spend countless hours sliding here in the winter. At night the lights from Buck Hill could be seen off in the distance. I learned to golf in these school yards. Atop the hill was easily my favorite place from which to tee it up. You had to be careful not to let your shot get away to the right because school maintenance workers would park down there beyond where the hill sloped away. I don't think I ever hit one of their cars but I know that too often that area came into play.

Down past the hill on the other side was a playground where I got into the one and only physical fight of my life (with the exception of a couple skirmishes on the ice). I was in 6th grade and I'm not sure how it happened but it was orchestrated ahead of time that Bob Johnson and I were going to fight after school. I'm not a fighter but I went out there so as not to be looked at as being a wuss. The next thing I knew there was a circle of kids surrounding us and we were soon scrapping it out. It didn't last long. A teacher had pulled us apart and just as quickly as it began we found ourselves in the Principal's office attempting to explain why we were fighting.

I walked around to the front of the building to see if I could get inside. I hadn't walked through the grade-school wing since leaving in the spring of 1969. I tugged on the door and it opened. I explained to the receptionist just inside the entrance that I was one of the original students at the school when it opened in the fall of '67. She assured me it would be fine to walk the halls and take some photos.

It took me a little bit to get oriented but once I came upon the boys bathroom everything else seemed to fall into place. I remembered how we used to as a class walk single-file to the restrooms. When we were done we would line up along the wall and wait to walk back to our classroom together. I have a vivid memory of measuring the height of my shoulders against the lines in the brick of the wall as my shoulders matched up with one of the lines. I located what I figured would have been the line I'd used all those years ago and imagined myself that height again as I stood there. The line would've been the one running through the number 211.

Around a couple more corners I came upon my old 6th grade classroom. I have so many memories from this room. The mock election we held in the fall of 1968 being one of them. I voted for Nixon. A few weeks later it appeared I'd cast a vote for my first winner; or so I thought. This Republican thing isn't new for me but the disenchantment is.

I walked outside the school and headed toward the west side of the parking lot where just beyond the lot and down the hill was where we'd play hockey. I negotiated my way through the thick overgrowth and made my way down to where the rinks used to be. Again, so many memories from my time spent here. This view is standing just to the left of where the warming house used to be and looking out over where the pleasure rink was. This view is in the direction of where the hockey rink would've been. It's been years since they took out the warming house and boards. Maybe as the neighborhood aged the demand was no longer there. When we were growing up there were five to six rinks within two miles of home; maybe more. There's a good chance that number is zero today.

The southwest side of the school's parking lot was where you could find the best sledding on Hamburger Hill. It wasn't on school property but was actually somebody's backyard. They apparently didn't mind because you could always find kids sledding there. Even in the summer there would be big sheets of cardboard that kids would use to slide with. The hill doesn't look as big as it once did but I have no doubts that it's the same as it was except for being a bit overgrown with grass.

Just beyond the hill was Mark Spliethoff's house. Several of us in Jr. HS probably hung out here more than anywhere else. His parents were divorced and his mom was rarely home or so it seemed. You could get from his back deck onto his garage roof pretty easily with a chair. The joke we'd play was to be ready with a bucket of water when we knew someone was riding their bike over; we'd douse them. That joke only worked a few times. I'm sure that made quite an impression on Mark's neighbors to see us running around on the roof with buckets of water.

The Elementary and Jr High schools were connected. Mark's house was across from the Jr High and the football/soccer fields. I walked across the field toward the south side of the school and wasn't sure what to make of the soccer net. It gave me the impression that the program and the net were both abandoned. The fields used to be kept up but now there's more weeds than grass.

My parents would get us season passes to the school's pool each summer. It's just inside these walls and where I learned to swim. The grass in the photo used to be a huge fenced in cement patio where you could lay out in the sun after swimming. I suppose demand for the pool has gone the same way as demand for hockey rinks.

From this photo you can see off in the distance the hill I spoke of earlier where I mentioned I used to like to golf from. The schoolyards were great for that. I'd often kick around with a few clubs and balls for a couple hours at a time, sometimes with my dad or brothers. Maybe it's a lack of funds for upkeep but when we lived here you would always see the yellow sprinkler tractor making its way around the grounds. There was none in sight that I could see. This field also made for a good dare once for somebody to streak across.

Look for the rest of this step back in time in a day or two.


Saeedi said...

Why I sit here and read your postings and reminiscing about your past intrigues me I don't know. I read every paragraph and look at every picture with an intent as if I'm looking back at my own past... Kevin, you articulate your stories well and keep your reader highly interested.

I did the same with my wife a couple years ago on a visit to New Hampshire from California. She had not been there for 9 years and we drove around doing the same as you did. Why listening to her stories as does yours make me feel as if it was my own past and history, even though I did not live in the U.S. is probably because I will never be able to see the places I grew up.

30 years ago, I left Iran as a 16-year old as the turbulent times in the U.S. history and relationships with foreign countries were to be tested. Carter was president and the administration thought the Shah was getting too powerful, so they deposed him and brought in Khomeini. This i not a political diatribe, but what I mean by all this is it was a difficult time for us as we escaped ad many of my father's friends remained behind, unbeknownst to them to later be imprisoned due to their relationships with the previous government and then finally executed by the new regime. I have never returned even though many of my classmates, whom I retain close contact with have gone back for visits. Nothing remains of the past. Tehran has become overpopulated and our homes were torn down to build high-rises all over the polluted city. I doubt the world scene will ever become peaceful enough for me to feel warranted a return visit.

As such, I relive my childhood memories in a different way.

As sad as things have changed for you (closed down shops), memories with your father, etc. be content in what you do still have in those visits.

Kevin said...

saeedi...thanks for your comments.

It's so easy for us in this country to be comfortable in our lives and be ignorant about the hardships that others in the world are experiencing. I think that very few of us can begin to imagine how difficult life is for so many.

My wife and I sponsor several children from parts of Indonesia and Africa through Christian Children's Fund and World Vision. It's simply our way of giving back from our overabundance. An overabundance which when compared to poorer countries or those devastated by war leaves me wondering 'why me'?

16 years old must have been a difficult age to leave Iran and begin a new life. I'd be very interested in reading your thoughts about those transitions in your life. I'd also be interested in reading your thoughts about U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Oh, and any thoughts you have on cycling would be of interest as well. :)

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading your postings, especially the ones where you talk about your past. I first found this blog by doing a Google image search of Christmas 1967(my first Christmas) and I clicked on the picture of your family at the table. That led me to your family photo site which led me to your blog. Even though I was very young, I do have memories of the late 1960's-early 1970's and your old photos and home movies are exactly how I remember that time.
That looks like a fun neighborhood you grew up in, a lot like the one I lived in at that time. All the freshly mowed lawns made for some great pictures!
How many bedrooms did that house have? With six of you, there must have been some doubling, even tripling up!
Anyway, just wanted to say hi and keep blogging!

Kevin said...

Thanks for your kind words.

The house we grew up in had four bedrooms all on the upper level. Yes, there was some doubling up and in the case of my younger brothers and I the three of us shared a room for a while. Once my brother left for the Navy that opened up a spot and I was actually able to have my own bedroom by the time I was 11 or 12. My sisters shared the bedroom with the master bathroom while my folks shared one of the other larger bedrooms but without a bathroom.

It's my hope to someday bring my mother, who will be 80 this year, by the home for one last walk-through. I know she would love that as would I.

It was a great neighborhood to grow up in with lots of kids our age and plenty of new construction for us guys to play around in once the workers had gone home. There were also a couple nice size ponds which gave a kid plenty to do during the summer.

Lisa said...

Thanks for answering about the number of bedrooms.(I'm the anonymous poster who asked). I will soon have my fourth child(at the ripe old age of 41!) and we live in a three bedroom house-yes we are cozy. Wow your sisters got the master suite!
That is a great idea to see if you could have your mother tour the house . It will bring back so many memories.
Now I'm tempted to see if I can tour my old grade school, it will probably look a lot like yours, as it was built a few years earlier in 1962.
Do your siblings get sentimental about that house too? Again, seems like a nice neighborhood to grow up in.

Tim said...

Like the others I agree that you do a great job telling your stories, Kev!

It seems evident that your reminiscences mirror many of our own childhood experiences and remind us of our past in addition to yours.

Much of what you've written here has reminded me of similar childhood memories of my own!

Kevin said...


I'd guess that I'm not the only sentimental, reminiscent type in our family. I have a younger brother who has a better memory than I do for small details about our past.

It's amazing how much info you keep tucked away laying dormant until something causes you to recall it. That's what my strolls through my old neighborhood do for me.


Thanks. I like these sort of posts better than when I'm ragging on the faa.