The Old Neighborhood–Fini

We had a really large elm tree in the back yard.  I loved climbing up into it.  It was like going into a different world for kids.  You could see around the neighborhood and you felt like it was your own little world.  Mom of course was constantly fussing about us “going too high” and she had rules about which limbs we could go to but naturally at every opportunity we went higher.  Moms today would have a stroke I imagine if they saw their kids up that high.  We would often have “wars” with some in the tree throwing things at those on the ground.  We built a couple of different tree houses but they were pretty flimsy and even I didn’t really trust them.   They never lasted long because they would start to wobble and we would have to take them down, but heck putting them up and using them for just a couple of weeks was a pretty big thrill.

Shaky lived up at the corner.  He was the neighborhood baseball player.  In fact he got a scholarship to A & M to play for them.  We all tried to recruit him for our church team.  We played lots of church baseball in those days.  The catch was that you had to attend Sunday School at least two Sundays each month to qualify.  I was never a baseball fan at all, it was too Yankee.  But we got to play with our dads and cousins because there was no age limit so that was a hoot.  Teens playing with the men.  They didn’t let up on us like they do today.  No Tee ball.  It was  a real game.  Often after one of the games we would go to a watermelon stand.  There were many of them then with just outdoor tables and newspapers for sitting the slice on.  I never liked watermelon but the going was fun.  There were several ice cream parlors around then and we would drop by for a malt or double dip cone.

This was the house where we got our first modern car.  It was a ’53 Chevy and even had an air conditioner in it.  It didn’t work terrific but it was quite the rage and we felt like Kings driving that brown and green sedan around.   In the summer we would go every now and then to the local drive in theater on Hampton Road.  It was only about a mile away.  There was lots of them then scattered all around the city.  There were even more local neighborhood indoor theaters.  There would be one at just about every major intersection.  Jefferson Blvd. had about 7 alone and there were more everywhere.  But the malls and larger theaters slowly pushed them out.  They became plumbing shops, garages or whatever during the sixties until they were all gone.  I can’t think of one that is left at the moment.

The neighborhood was called Elmwood.  It was in Oak Cliff with gently rolling hills and two major creeks that eventually emptied into the Trinity river.  Those creeks straddled Elmwood so we got to explore as only 12-year-old boys can do.  Mom was  pretty good sport about it but she made me check in every hour which I thought was a real pain. I didn’t have a watch then so I had to be careful about it.  I can’t truly remember when I got my first watch.  It must have been in Jr. High.   This was also the house where we first got our private line on the phone.  Everyone had a party line.  It was a big deal to get your own private line.  Like lots of older houses there was a special inset in the hallway wall for a phone.  It was one of those big black ones with a rotary dial of course.  Our local exchange was “Yukon” which I thought was so neat because it harkened images of the wilderness and pioneers. 

Of course everyone walked to school.  It was only about a mile away and none of us thought anything about it.  It was very rare to even see a school bus.  Only kids who really lived far out rode them but none at our school.   There was still lots of vacant space only a mile or so away in an area called Wynnewood where they were starting to develop a shopping center and houses.  My friend David had some horses right beside the development.  We would go there sometimes to ride.  When we got on the back trails you wouldn’t have known you were in a city at all.  The horse I had to ride was very tall.  I remember always being a little scared and concerned because it was so far to the ground and he wasn’t the most gentle of horses.  I do recall once when we were riding in the woods by the creek  and I lost one of the reins.  The horse wasn’t running but he was at a nice canter and I kept trying to reach down and grab the rein again but could not quite make it, it was just too much of a stretch for my arms and it was more difficult with all the jostling around on that darn nag.  I finally hollered at David and he stopped his horse and mine did too right beside his.  Then I was able to scoot up on his neck a bit and get the dangling rein.  Mom was a real sport to let me do something like that at age 12 or 13.  That is how I learned to saddle a horse and rig the other gear.

We moved when I was about 15 to Holiday Circle a few miles farther out.  Dad had built the house with hopes of selling it at a profit but the market was weak then so we moved into it.   This would have been about ’57.    It had an attic fan and window units, still no central air conditioning although it was becoming more common then.  Mom thought the attic fan was great but I thought it only brought in the heat of summer nights.   We only lived there about three years and then moved to Wynnewood hills on Trinidad.  I was there the last couple of years of high school.  Then I was off to college and soon married.  So that was the last place I lived with Mom and Dad.  But when I think back to childhood it is still Cascade and Elmwood that bubbles up in my mind.

When I went to school we had over 30 kids in each class, we got a pretty good education from the public school system.  Of course there wasn’t any discipline problem because they weren’t tolerated then.  troublemakers were sent to the principal and if it was repeated they disappeared.  I think they sent them to some special school but I really don’t remember or know.  But I know we all did what we were told and paid attention.   Teachers taught, they didn’t waste time with behavior issues.


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