Can you describe the neighborhood you grew up in?
I don’t remember much about the neighborhoods in Rodeo and Los Madanos or the two neighborhoods in Houston, except that the one on Myrtle Street was really near where they were building one of the first “Super Highways” in the state. I got in real trouble because I went down to the construction site with somebody from the neighborhood after supper one evening in summer. It was still light, but there were puddles all over the place, and Mama was convinced I was going to die of polio from playing in the polluted water.
We didn’t live in the first neighborhood in Pasadena for very long, but I do remember there was an old man and his wife who lived next door. His name was Mr. Butts, and he had a hutch of rabbits in the back yard. You could feed them grass, but you had to be careful that they didn’t nibble on your fingers at the same time.
The second neighborhood in Pasadena was close enough to Garden Elementary that I could walk to school. I had a option of cutting across a field or going the longer way around on the sidewalk. Both of the neighborhoods were ticky-tacky tract houses that all looked just alike. One of the neat things about our house was that the roof was low, but it had a decent pitch to it. We would form up teams – half in the front yard and half in the back yard. We didn’t have any fences, so you could run all the way around the house. One team would have a tennis ball and would throw it on the roof, hopefully as far as the top, and then it would trickle down the other side. When the team who caught the ball coming over the roof got it, they would run around the house and try to tag the other team with the ball. The fun was you never knew which way they were coming. This was one of our favorite after supper games.
The neighborhood we lived in in California was very similar, except we had fenced in back yards. If you’ve seen Erin Brockovich you’ve seen what the neighborhood looked like. Those houses were also built up on a foundation with a decent size crawl space. When we lived in California we got our first dog. She was a little black cocker spaniel that we named Ebony – Ebbie for short. She lived under the house most of the time, and would scare visitors half to death by barking out the grilles under the front porch. She could only get under the house from the back yard, but she could roam freely under there. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood there, and we all walked to school. I was a Brownie and later a Girl Scout in Concord. There was a little store – we would call it a convenience store nowadays – between the house and the school and I would stop there for a candy bar or a Twinkie on the way back from lunch. We ate lunch at home unless Mama was gone somewhere during the day – like Circle Meeting at the church. All the houses had a flat driveway leading into the garage that faced the street, and we’d play 4-square, and hop-scotch in the driveways.
When we moved to New Jersey we had a completely different kind of neighborhood, even though there were still plenty of kids around. The family across the street had seven kids, the ones on the corner had five kids, and there were several families with two or three kids each.
I walked to Junior High and High School in New Jersey – about 3/4 of a mile to Jr. High, and a little over a mile to High School. In New Jersey, we couldn’t get a driver’s license until we were 17 years old, and besides, we only had one car. Mama either had to take Papa to work, or he was in a car pool to the Lab which was about three towns away. The church was easily in walking distance for us kids, though, and it was only a couple of blocks to the elementary school for Harriet, Betty, and Billy. The houses in Westfield were all at least two and sometimes three storied, and they all had big porches, and full basements.
And in and amongst all the neighborhoods I lived in growing up, Texarkana stayed in the same place, and had all the same people living there.
It was Mama’s home and she had lots of cousins who lived there and they had kids, so I had lots of second cousins there, too. My first cousins didn’t live in Texarkana but they were often there, visiting, at the same time we were. That was gentile neighborhood with manicured lawns and well-tended houses. We walked around the neighborhood in the evenings. The grown-ups sat in the back yards in the mornings and in the front yard in the evening because the house faced east. We played house under the bushes in the mornings and in the afternoons we stayed inside and played cards because it was too hot to go out. We went swimming after 4:00 p.m. because it was too hot before that.
I actually lived in Texarkana with my grandparents while I went to Texarkana Junior College. That’s where I met Big Al when he was stationed at the AC&W site with the Air Force.
Here I am with the siblings and Al before we married. 2017 Laurel caught on fire one Sunday after Al and I were in college in Nacogdoches. Nannie and Gankie bought another house in the same neighborhood, just up the street, but I still grieve for this house to this day.