Best. Neighborhood. Ever.

Almost everyone has been to a family reunion or a high school reunion, but how many people have gone to a neighborhood reunion? We recently had one for my childhood haunts and it was one of the most enjoyable activities I have engaged in for quite some time.

When I was growing up in the 50’s early 60’s, we lived in the best neighborhood imaginable. It was located in the fledgling suburb of Gladstone, bounded by Old Pike Road on the west, N. Wyandotte on the east, N. 54th Street on the south and Englewood Rd. to the north.

All the neighbors were friendly, with young families of boys and girls roughly the same ages. It was a time when people didn’t lock their doors and when you went out to play after dinner the only caveat was “be home before dark”.

The careers of the men varied greatly, from a TWA pilot to an advertising man, auto workers to printers to Taystee bread bakers.

Most of the wives did not work, so there was a great network that the moms could depend on to keep an eye on our activities. But they didn’t catch everything.

There were deep woods to the south of us where we would hike, camp and explore. On my ninth birthday, I was allowed to invite several of my friends for a campout under The Big Tree. My mother was going to spend the night there as chaperone. But our neighbor across the street heard about the plan and came out to relieve my poor mom for the night. Years later, he told me it was one of the worst nights he ever had. We boys just wouldn’t go to sleep!

Once, my youngest brother and another neighborhood boy set fire to the woods, surely by accident. Yeah, right! The Gladstone fire department roared out and, after smashing down a fence and tearing across one of the nicer lawns in the neighborhood (much to the proud owners chagrin), were able to put the fire out. I don’t believe the authorities found out who started it, but we all knew who was responsible.

There was a large pond close by which was the source of much mischief, summer and winter. One cold winter day, I decided to see if it was frozen over. It wasn’t completely, and I fell in. It was shallow, but it thoroughly soaked my clothes. Even though it was a short walk home, my clothes were frozen stiff by the time I got there. I was found out, and received the requisite corporal punishment from Dad that evening!

In the summer, we boys were down there, fishing or looking for crawdads, getting muddy and wet in the process. More laundry for mom!

The neighborhood is still there and some of the original residents are still there. Every now and then I drive through and relive the wonderful times I had growing up in that most perfect of neighborhoods.

    Back to Op-Ed Menu