Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Street That I Grew Up On

        With Mother's Day coming up, I decided to take some flowers to the cemetery where my mom and grandmother are buried, something I rarely do.
Forest Hill Cemetery is located near the Birmingham airport. I took a different route this time, exiting I-59 in East Lake instead of near the airport. It had been a few years since I had been by my old school, Kennedy Elementary, and the neighborhood in which I grew up. As I turned onto 64th Street North, I received quite a shock.
Debra English playing croquet
in my front yard on
1st Court North
I knew the house I had lived in on 1st Court North and most of those around it were gone, but wasn't prepared to see the whole neighborhood from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue wiped out. The alley behind our house is gone, the creek at the end of our dead-end street is gone. All have been replaced by a warehouse of some type and its concrete parking lot. But the biggest shock of all is that the street itself is gone.
Oh, there is still a 1st Court North, but it's not in the same place. It used to be a right turn one block off 1st Avenue. What is now labeled 1st Court North is a left turn, and runs between Kennedy and 1st Avenue, where another row of houses and part of the school playground used to be. I know our old haunts seem much smaller now than when we were kids, and some give way to interstates or disappear under the floodwaters of a new dam. But a street that moves? That’s a new one.
Jimmy Self (left) and my brother, Gene,
in front of The Little Red Store
Mine was a great street on which to grow up. There was a little family-owned grocery store on the corner next door to me that we called The Little Red Store. You could buy candy and soft drinks there, and watch them slice your bologna from a log. Then you said,  “Put it on my account,” and paid up at the end of the month. An alley separated the back of our house from a junk yard, and down the end of that alley was the "deep end" of the creek. That's where some friends and I saw naked boys for the first time, unless you count fleeting glimpses of our brothers. The boys were swimming, and when my friends and I approached, they stood up and shouted, "Wanna see? Wanna see"? Of course we did, but we ran away scared and embarrassed.
The best thing about that street was having so many kids to play with. On summer nights, we couldn't wait for supper to end so we could meet under the street light in front of Booty’s (James Graves) house to play Hide 'n Seek or a tame version of Post Office. And if you remember the latter, you’re showing your age, too. Booty, so named due to an early fondness for wearing cowboy boots, lived next door to Gail Crawley and across the street from Joyce Thompson. We were all good friends.
Remember my blog about the death of my childhood hero, actor James Garner? I have that same ringing in my ear now as I did then. It’s the sound of a chisel chipping away another piece of my childhood. It makes me feel very old, and very sad.


  1. Sad, indeed, how much Woodlawn and East Lake have changed.... but then, so have we. Our children didn't play hopscotch drawn with chalk rocks, or catch lightning bugs. Thank you for this post.

  2. The state widened the tar and gravel road through Sloss Hollow taking all the camp houses on the west side of the road.
    If your family didnn't own enough property to move the house back, they wrote you a small check and you moved on.
    Our old community was relocated in a Few short months. That was a sad time in my life.