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How much do you remember of the neighborhood where you grew up? I decided to try this, not in any order, just writing down the memories as they came to me.

I grew up in Concord, California on Bonifacio Street at the corner of Grant. Back then it was a fairly quiet street. We were a couple of blocks from the Catholic church and a couple of blocks from the high school but as a kid, those things didn't interest me much. I usually went the other way, toward town. My grandmother walked to the grocery store most of the time. It was a Mayfair market and it gave out Blue Chip stamps that we would lick and stick into books that would ultimately buy my grandmother a new sewing machine. I think the gas stations gave Green Stamps or some other places did but for some reason it was the Blue Chip stamps that my grandmother collected.

On the way home from the grocery store we might stop at Rexall drug store which had a section near the pharmacy of glass figurines, often the little Josef Originals.  Or we would hit the Quality Bakery where my grandmother would buy a loaf of dutch crust butter top bread. If I was really, really good I might get a tea cookie with a dollop of chocolate in the middle. I loved to stare at the fancy bakery cakes with the ballerinas in the middle. I was never allowed a bakery cake for a birthday - only the homemade ones.

There was a BeeDees (sp?) store that was general store of some kind. I remember that's where we went for my grandmother to buy all her fabric and thread and sewing supplies to make most all of my clothes. There was a hobby section in there with trains and stuff but what I fell for were the collections of glass animals. I can't remember the name of the company but they usually came in a set of three animals on a little piece of cardboard, a family of animals. I collected those for years.

I don't remember many other stores downtown. Oh, there was a Rhodes Deptmartment store where we went for coats and underwear and shoes. Gas stations around town that gave out stamps of birds that I could lick and stick in a collector book. There was the Todas Santos Plaza which I think was called something else like Concord Park when I was a kid. We didn't stop there too often as my grandmother always had a list of chores that needed doing.

The Sun and Moon Chinese restaurant that was owned and run by the Tuey family was near there. They lived next door to us.

I know on the way downtown was a little store on the corner, probably our version of a Quik Stop, that my grandmother didn't like but eventually she would let me walk up there for emergency milk or butter. I had to walk past a long, dark alley where there was usually a drunk or two hanging out and they always scared me. There was an actual liqueur store around the corner from that but we always crossed the street so as not to get too close. In later years I used to sneak down there to buy my copies of Writer's Digest magazine.

For a little while my mom and I moved out of the house on Bonifacio and around the block to Grant street. What I remember most there is that the backyard fence was the same fence for the Queen of All Saints Catholic school. And the kids from that school would throw their garbage over the fence all the time. My mom used to get so mad and gather up all the garbage and take it to the school but they never did anything about it. The convent was on the corner. As a non-Catholic I was fascinated by all the goings-on at the church and I used to love to hear the bells that seemed to always be ringing.

There were a few houses that stand out in my memory - the deBenedetti house across the street because the basement was ground level and the house itself up a steep flight of stairs that always scared me. The woman who lived there, Lisa, was my grandmother's good friend. They were both in the local Druids organization and every year the Druids had a huge rummage sale to raise money. The rummage was dropped off in Lisa's basement and I always got to pick through things early. I think that's where I got addicted to finding gems at thrift stores.

Hazel and Gilbert Hills lived next door to the deBenedettis. It was a white house with the best front porch. Grandma Stotts lived with them too. Hazel had some sort of illness that had her in crutches for life. She gave piano lessons and I loved it in the summer time when she had the windows open and I could hear the music drift out and across the street. All I remember about Gilbert is that he was very tall and very thin. They were so kind to me. I found a black rabbit in their front yard one time, under the bushes, and got to keep it for most of a day before my mother did something with it.

There was a house on the corner that I don't remember by who lived there but by the fact that I would always find spare change in the dirt that collected at the bottom of the driveway. On the other corner was where Bing Cuneo lived. I don't remember much about that family except their name. Another block down the street was a house that was in an unincorporated section. They had a well, which I thought was cool and a goose which was very mean. I could never get close to the house because of that darn goose.

Whew - that's a lot of rambling about the neighborhood but as always happens, one memory helps me remember another, and so on, and so on.

Your turn - what do you remember about your neighborhood growing up?

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 22 comments — Leave comment )
August 26th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
Our neighborhood was loud, a lot of small children laughing, screaming, playing. Back then, we gravitated from yard to yard and would roam for blocks. Stranger danger wasn't a factor. Everyone knew everyone and no one locked their doors. The down side was that if a kid did something, the whole neighborhood knew.
August 26th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
The down side was that if a kid did something, the whole neighborhood knew.
Funny how that sort kept some of us in line. Think of the trouble we could have gotten into if we weren't so worried about Mrs. Soucy telling Maggie at the store who would for sure tell Mom.... and sometimes those adults would scold you too! Nothing worse than getting punished twice!

Edited at 2008-08-26 04:48 pm (UTC)
August 26th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
Re: The down side was that if a kid did something, the whole neighborhood knew.
Lol. Exactly! My mother would often know about whatever I did long before I even set foot through the door. There was just no hiding it.
August 26th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
Re: The down side was that if a kid did something, the whole neighborhood knew.
See, I was even jealous of that, that everyone knew everyone else's business. It was like that for MY kids but not for me.
August 26th, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
oh you had kids to play with! I lived in a neighborhood filled with everyone else's grandparents so the only time there were kids to play with were when they came to visit their grandparents. Well, until the Tueys moved in next door. But most of the time, no kids.
August 26th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
I could write a whole book on what my neighborhood was like growing up! In fact, lots of those memories are making their way into my WIP. Mostly, I remember certain neighbors and how the kids interacted: garage bands as 5th graders--me playing John Denver and my friend playing Kiss, being "kidnapped" while playing Barbies on my friend's patio because the other kids wanted me to play spies, going next door to the "messy" house to clean our friend's room when we wanted to play "maid." Neighborhood potlucks for holidays (and not being invited to some), my dad telling my brothers they could beat up the girls because all the girls thought being a girl was a free ticket to hit the boys. You know...stuff like that! That was fun!
August 26th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
that was fun, indeed!
Sounds a lot like my neighborhood... only I'm older than you and our garage bands were the Beatles and the Monkees....
August 26th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
Re: that was fun, indeed!
Yep, my garage band was either the Monkees or the Beatles. And if we were playing wedding I was always gonna marry Davy Jones.

We didn't do potlucks or things with the neighbors.

I do remember going to Theresa Brechtal's house with Leanne Reynolds and we would play Batman and Robin and jump out of trees.
August 26th, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
actually MY garage band was...
...ALWAYS the Beatles!

And there were two... one with boys and one with girls. I was Ringo in BOTH bands! (the girl's was the best because they had MORE Beatles' records to lip-sync to!)
(Deleted comment)
August 26th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
I love reading about your memories...
ditto that!
August 26th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Re: I love reading about your memories...
Is all this remembering fun?
August 26th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Is all this remembering fun?

Only wish I read some real time to write about it.
August 26th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Melodye. I am trying to anchor myself to a time and place. There are some things harder to remember for reasons I don't want to remember. When I get closer to them, it will be more difficult - as I know you already know.

I remember my grandmother saving for years with her Blue Chip stamps. Once in a while we would go in and buy a kitchen appliance but she was saving for a fancy sewing machine so the stack of books just grew and grew.
(Deleted comment)
August 27th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Oh...good idea for next week. Thank you!
August 26th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC)
my neighborhood....
No one would drive through there unless you lived there. So, the streets were as safe as the lawns. And no one really had fences. Some silly ones. Split rail. That you could jump over. Or ended so you go around. Some people had bushes. But going through them was actually more fun. Especially since we were soldiers or cowboys or spies most of the time. Some yards had dog-poop land mines. You went around those yards. Most of us would actually rather be blown to pieces than to get shit on your shoe.

The shortest distance between two points theory must have been created in my neighborhood. Some adults didn't like it. But we kids just ran faster through those yards.

There were some houses where all the playing happened. Mine wasn't one. But that was OK. Donald Light's. Mark Droy's. And Machniks --Pamela and Nancy.

More girls than boys in neighborhood. Gender equality was not a topic. Some kids were better at some things. Period. There was doll-playing and there was softball, kickball and tag. There was make-believe. The girls, however, grew out of this quicker than the boys. And I think some of the boys make believe only held on so it appeared we had excuses for being "on manuevers" in the woods, "falling dead" down sand banks and "being snippers" up in trees.

For all the lawn and pavement there was twice as much woods and fields that followed the railroad tracks to the next town. Not many of us wore watches. The trains told us what time it was.

(my lunch break is just about over)

I'm so glad I grew up in my neighborhood in the sixties. It now has lots of fences. None that can be climbed over. And laws that prevent you from doing such. All small bushes and trees now make up a big forest of it's own. Which is a good thing. Since the tracks are gone and all the fields and woods are homes and homes tightly packed together.

I wonder if those kids even know how to make believe? Are they soldiers? Or cowboys? Are they allowed to be?
August 26th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: my neighborhood....
We spent hours playing kickball. Once we used rocks as bases. I wasn't wearing shoes and broke my toe. The way the kids in your neighborhood played sounds a lot like how it was in mine.
August 26th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
Re: my neighborhood....
I just remembered for a few years there was a family with kids on the other side of our house, the Truitts. Jan was my age. One day on the way home from school she hauled off and socked me in the face. I have no idea why. I had braces and the inside of my cheek caught on the wire (this was back in the dark ages) and ripped my cheek open. I ran home bleeding and crying and Jan stood in front of her mom and denied the whole thing.
August 27th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
Re: my neighborhood....
Great memory, thank you!

The shortest distance to two points reminded me of the hole I made in the hedge between our house and the lady next door who made the best Congo bars.
August 26th, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC)
I grew up in an apartment. There were rarely other kids nearby because for many of the (14) years I lived there, it was an adults-only complex (I was grandfathered in). Occasionally there were other kids my age for a short time, like one girl who stole my bike and my Benji book... (actually, two kids there stole my bike at different times, and my dad had to go get it back!). I liked the kids anyway. The summer I turned 14, there were 2 other families with kids around my age, just for that summer, and the boy my age became my first boyfriend for a week. I walked to the park and library with him and kissed him there!

Most of the time it did not bother me to be in an apartment or not have other kids nearby. I always liked it when there were kids, but I was also introverted and liked exploring the neighborhood alone. I spent hours alone outside, just walking around, or later, riding my bike. It was a moderately busy area, with a stoplight at the corner so I could see the light from my (upstairs) bedroom window, but at that time we felt it was perfectly safe! There was a 7-11 one block away I liked to walk to for Slurpees when I was maybe 12 and up. And one of the best things about where I lived was that the apartment swimming pool was just outside our front door! I swam nearly every day in the summers. (My dad also saved several young kids from drowning there...my mom even jumped in to save me once, when I rode my tricycle into the pool!)

A large university was just a couple of blocks away, and it's weird now to think how I used to walk or ride my bike up to the campus and hang out near there. I wouldn't feel safe these days letting a pre-teen or teen girl hang around a university, or pass through apartment complexes with tons of young adults in them... But no one ever bothered me. Then a couple of blocks behind my apartments were a baseball field and a graveyard, and I sometimes hung out at both places!

The library and other city buildings were only about six or eight blocks away, but I hardly ever walked there. It somehow seemed far at the time! But starting when I was 12, an acting school opened up in that area, and I started taking classes there, and in the summer, I'd often walk to my classes there or take my bike. Sometimes after class, the other kids and I would walk to nearby restaurants. I had so much more freedom than my kids do now.

My senior year of high school, we moved to a house across town (same high school zone, though). The neighborhood was pretty nice--and several of my friends lived in the same area--but at that age, I wasn't hanging out at home a lot or doing stuff with people in the neighborhood, so I didn't get that attached to the area. There was (and is, because my parents still live there) a park at the end of our street where my brother would go to play (he was in 2nd grade when I was a senior), and his school was on the same block as the park, but I still don't remember kids running around the neighborhood. A lot of the neighbors were older. I did have a 17th birthday party in that park, though, and occasionally hung out with friends there, even after I was in college...in fact, it kind of shows up in the YA novel I'm writing right now.

Edited at 2008-08-26 06:02 pm (UTC)
August 27th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, some great memories in here. Thanks for sharing them. For some reason your mention of Slurpess reminded me of the Candy Kitchen, a candy store that made rock candy that looked like real rocks.
August 26th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
We moved when I was nine, and I always think of my "memories" as coming from that first house, the one I was born in. That time seems fainter and vaguer, but also less tied to the angst and problems of being a teenager.

I remember digging to china in the sandbox and the big pine (??) trees at the edge of our front yard. I remember trying to ride a bicycle in the driveway, since the street didn't have curbs, and I remember watching the older, neighbor boy popping wheels as he rode right down the middle of the street, curbs or no curbs. I remember sharing my bedroom with first one sister, then the next, watching for Rudolph out the window on Xmas Eve, and playing at Laura and Mary in the covered wagon.

And I remember how much I didn't want to move. :)
August 27th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
I remember wanting a sandbox because I wasn't supposed to dig in the dirt (but I did anyway.)
( 22 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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