Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A DETROIT CITY CHILDHOOD

As a child, I grew up in Detroit...only about three or four blocks away from City Airport. The neighborhood was comprised of a lovely mix of residences; no two just alike.  There were colonials, bungalows, and many others, and each one was sure to be surrounded by a well-manicured lawn and carefully-trimmed shrubbery. The streets themselves were shaded by a canopy of Elm trees, and walking along them on a summer day, was an experience sure to envelop all of the senses.  The sunlight would dance along the sidewalks as it filtered through the gently rustling leaves, and branches would sway in the wind providing nature's finest air-conditioning. Front and back doors were always opened to allow the summer breeze to pass through the houses' unlocked screen-doors. One would hear them squeaking open and slamming shut all summer long, as children raced continuously, in and out of them, to every mother's dismay. They would admonish their children to keep the door shut because they were letting the flies in, but never before a few more had made their way inside. Neighbors sat on mesh-backed lawn chairs placed on their porches if they were big enough, or in their driveways, if they were not.  Occasionally, a chair would be placed underneath an opened garage door to provide shade for a backyard barbecue, on days too hot to cook inside.  The aromas from a sizzling grill would waft through the neighborhood causing neighbors to lean up against their fence posts, so that they could inquire as to what might be cooking.  Every window in the house remained opened and the sounds of summer filled the air both day and night.
There was constant activity, as I remember it.  One would see the paperboy riding his bike, as he tossed newspapers onto porches. The mailman could be seen pushing his mail cart with one hand, while glancing at the addresses on the envelopes that he was holding in the other.  Next, the milkman stopping his truck at the end of every driveway, so he could deposit his bottles of milk in his customers' milk chutes. Once a week, the produce man would slowly drive by, to allow time for mothers to send their children out, change in hand, to purchase "strawberries, blueberries...four quarts for a dollar."  And, perhaps, finest of all, the sounds emanating from the Good Humor truck, which provided its treats curbside to the delight of every child in the neighborhood.
It was a wonderful time to be a child, for, although there were plenty of rules and an equal amount of discipline should you break them, there was also great freedom.  Chores had to be done and every sibling was assigned them, but, once they were finished, the days were your own.  I would walk over to a friend's house and stand on their porch and call them, not on a cell phone, but literally at the top of my voice.  When they answered, we would decide upon the day's adventure; walks or bike rides or swimming in the pool, and as long as you made it back on time for dinner, all was right with the world.
For supper we would each sit on our own specific chair.  As the youngest this meant, of course, that mine was the one that was always by the table leg.  We would take turns discussing our day as we unknowingly, learned the give and take of polite conversation, as well as good manners. After dinner, we would take our turn clearing the table and doing the dishes, allowing our mother a minute or two of well-deserved rest.  Then, we would be off again until the street lights came on; the universal signal for everyone my age that it was time to go home.  We would take our baths and get into pajamas...exhausted from a day filled with all the adventure and excitement a child could ever hope for.  Finally, we would drift off to sleep to the sounds of the crickets chirping, underneath a sky full of twinkling summer stars.  Every childhood should be as magical....

35 comments:

  1. Great story. I remember the smell of burning leaves, basball cards in my bike spokes, and playing baseball from the time I got up to dinner time, or maybe playing "Combat", frozen tag, or climbing apple trees. When we were kids we always slept with our bedroom windows open, up till last year I would never allow my kids to keep their windows open at night. Too afraid of someone stealing them away.... That truly was a different world!

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  2. I lived on Minden (first house off of Conner). I loved my childhood in the city. Great memories. Thanks for posting.

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  3. This is a universal story from our generation i grew up in Ferndale and it was exactly the same we had our parents as well as 30 other moms and dads watching over us so we could be out till the street lights came on but you better have gotten you butt in the door right after that. Great story and well written.

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  4. thanks for the kind remarks! they are appreciated.

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  5. I also grew up in Detroit, 7 mile and Hoover. I had to smile when you mentioned calling out....remember it well. Truly a shame what our neighborhoods now look like, eyesores, most of them. I now live up north, but have very, very fond memories of my childhood. Thanks for the smile!

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  6. 7 Mile and Waltham. What an awesome place to be raised during those days. Times sure have changed there now. Our safezone has become a warzone.
    Thanks Amy, good writing, Warner

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  7. I grew up on State Fair near Kelly and anyone who grew up in Detroit can relate to everything that you felt growning up. Your words described it perfectly Amy, thanks. By the way I now live in NY and yes Mr. Softee is still around here, althouhg he doesn't give me the same pleasure that he did when I was young.

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  8. What a great story. It is like going down memory lane. Those were great times. So free, always felt safe and never thought about tomorrow. Just lived in the moment. I grew up Six Mile and Nevada. I also remember always hearing the airlplanes fly over our house from City Airport on a Saturday morning. Also the trains at night. Thanks for sharing.....

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  9. It was good reading your childhood memories, could have been mine. Detroit was a great place to grow up, so sorry my kids couldn't have the same experiences we did. Even though my kids grew up in the "safe suburbs", I would never have thought of letting them out in the summer to play and telling them they better not come back in the house before dinner time, but we did it all the time!
    Not sure which Lauri commented above but I grew up down the street from her on State Fair and Redmond.

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  10. Wow just took me back on a childhood journey. Love the blog....makes me long for the those carefree days...playing in the leaves piles of leaves burning, sitting on the porch playing I Spy... playing in fire hydrants, softball with friends...nothing organized just kids wanting to play on the sandlot. Good times. Thanks for a wonderful blog.
    Joy Lynn

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    1. thanks, joy...those were happy times, for so many of us.

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    2. Oh, Amy, your beautifully written story about your childhood brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my own childhood. I grew up on Coplin right off of Chandler Park Drive. Those Elm Trees were so beautiful and so was Chandler Park, where we could meet our friends and play as long as we wanted to, just be home for dinner. Thank you for such a beautiful walk down memory lane!!! More, please...

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    3. thank you, paula. we all did share some wonderful childhood memories.

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  11. Gene PrzybranowswkiApril 15, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    thanks for the memories

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  12. great blog. grew up cadillac and mack, then 7mile and kelly. remember walking safely to school, church, to local stores with no problems. sure is different in the city today.

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    1. i lived right off of 7 and kelly for a bit, as well!!! thanks for your comments. :D

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  13. You are a good writer. I enjoyed my trip down memory lane. My kids grew up in Wisom in the 80s in a subdivision filled with kids and life was very much like growing up in the 50s and 60s. All the adults were parents to all the kids. Life sure has changed since we were kids.

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    1. you are so right...and, sometimes, change isn't necessarily for the better. thanks so much for leaving a comment!!

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  14. I grew up in Manistee and have many of the same memories. Now I live in Traverse City and my neighborhood is much like the good old days. On our end of the sub we are friends who watch out for each other and help when we can.

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    1. it is nice to know that some places are so much like the neighborhoods of our youth! thanks for commenting! amycity

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  15. I enjoyed your memories. I have a lot of the same. I grew up on Maddelein around 7 Mile and Gratiot. I have not been back there lately but have been told it is nothing like in the 50's and 60's. I now live in Columbus Ohio. Thanks for bringing back so many wonderful memories of sharing walks, games, neighborhood parties, climbing through neighbor's milk-shuts to open their door and let them in when they forgot their key. That was a totally different generation.

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    1. i forgot about climbing through the milk chutes!!! thanks for another smile from our youth!!! amycita

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  16. May we never forget the memories of being young and free? I lived near Hoover between 11 and 12 mile in Warren. I can see, smell and hear everything you wrote so beautifully my neighborhood was very similar.

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    1. ...i lived in that area, too. after my husband and i got married we bought a home on carol street, near wagner! amycita

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  17. Thank you once again for the spot on description of my childhood too !!!!!!

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  18. barbara karas storkJuly 15, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    yes, it was that good, canonbury was my street, baseball games daily "in the field", on connor where the apartments went, hearing the dad's call from the front porch for dinner,and when you called your friend at their side door, you (not often) were asked to "come in & wait on the landing".

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    1. you are right, barbara! i forgot about how you waited outside for friends, or else on the landing! that memory you just brought back made me chuckle!

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  19. Your'e writing reminds me of mine. I hold on too childhood memories od Detroit and not only blog, but started writing about it for my kids to read when, I am old. I could just copy and paste your story about calling friends at their door and the street light. LOL
    Feel free to follow my Posts,I think we have a lot in common.
    Btw, I grew up 1 block east of 8 mile, near Eastland. Born Dec 8th 1961 and the youngest of 5. I moved to Largo FL in Jan. 1979. Michigan memories engulf me, and I have always missed it. Even down to the shaded trees, like you spoke of.
    Best,
    Sue

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    1. thanks for the kind words, sue. what is the name of your blog? feel free to post your link, so that i can check it out. best of luck!

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  20. Reading your blog took me right back to my life back then. I also grew up in Detroit on Flanders. I remember every bit of that childhood fondly. The activity you described in detail of the neighborhood, the way people were not all closed up behind closed doors as they are now. Windows were open allowing the soft breeze to roam through the house. The smell of lilacs filling the home. Neighbors knew each other and looked after each others kids. As children we weren't afraid to walk to our friends houses and rarely thought to ask for a ride as we took off for 7 and gratiot or houston whittier and hayes to shop or get a sundae at kresges. Thanks so much for the momories.. If only our kids could have the innocence that we once had..

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  21. Oh my! What lovely memories you've resurrected for me. My grandmother lived on Lemay between Harper and I-94. I spent my summers there, jets overhead and trains behind the houses across the street. I hated to go home to the suburbs when summer was over. My other grandmother lived on Woodhall in the triangle of Morang, Cadieux and I-94. I adored Detroit. I lived on Kelly, across from Denby until we moved when I was almost 8. I wish we could have stayed. The city we moved to seemed to be too new.

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    1. so glad my post rekindled some happy memories for you! detroit did and still does, inspire a fierce loyalty in so many of us.

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