Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Apartment Building That Raised Me-Part 2

I lived in a 6th and Maryland apartment building, the 6th formal street from the Gary Steel Mills which was on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. We are called "the children of the mill" by the author Ronald D. Cohen in his book The Children of the Mill, Schooling and Society in Gary, Indiana, 1906-1960.

My son Eric reminded me that I should look on Google Earth to find out what was left of my childhood home and neighborhood since the apartment fire and its demolition. I googled my old home address and discovered an empty, grass-covered space where the ten apartment, rectangular, 2-storied, red, brick building stood.

Homes all through the neighborhood were gone, and trees overtook the area behind this abandoned lot. The sidewalk in front of the building seemed to have been over grown with grass and weeds. I guess when a neighborhood goes into decline, structures are torn down and nothing more is built in the existing space. Strange as it may seem, my best friend Sally's house right across the alley is still standing. It wasn't the best house and was only made of wood. That would bring back some memories of the hours I spent in her house.

I just stared at the now empty space--just a vacant, unmarked lot that was once home to ten families, each with their own stories.

I then focused my attention to the still present "playground" of the alley next to the east end of the building where we splashed in the huge puddles during and after a heavy rain. That steady stream of water going down the alley into the street drain ferried our best homemade boats at rapid speed. We would also go barefoot, dashing through the water after our boats or whatever. The storms in Gary were known for their thunder and lightning since Lake Michigan was not far from us. At times, I would also grab my umbrella and skip around the building, loving those summer storms--they never scared me. Little did I know of the dangers of lightning then.

My brother Richard, my cousin Sharon, and I wouldn't find shelter in the apartment during the colossal storms, but sit on the glider of the wooden porch facing the alley and be in wonder at the slashes of lightning, waiting for the booming thunder. There were about 10 wooden steps leading down from the porch to the sidewalk. We played many games on these steps or just watched the cars that went by on busy 6th Avenue. There was a sidewalk and a small grassy area and then the busy street--no fear of the street either!? We always had access to the sidewalk and streets--only one gate on the east side which lead to the alley. Adults were usually inside and not outside much. I guess the three of us must have had each other's backs many times!

That's what I remember about the good times on the east side of the brick apartment building that raised me.


  1. Beautiful Tam. I love the way a place inspired this writing...the memory of what is was and what it is now. I wonder if you have a rock from that old "playground" of yours?

  2. I love the memories you have recorded here--and how you wrote about what it looks like now. What a great activity this would be for kids!

  3. In my minds eye I see this panoramic view as you look at the scene from a then and now perspective. I feel like I am there, watching and waiting for you come out and play. Seeing it through your eyes as you remember.

  4. It's a piece of history special to you for sure. I loved the way you took us around your apartment building, showing what you saw & remembered. Those porch steps must be a favorite place of memories!

  5. I am so glad you are pursuing this particular trip down memory lane--so many stories in one place. The details that are coming back to you are wonderful and your writing is so clear. I am building an image of this place week by week.

  6. "The children of the mill"...have you read the book? It sounds like it would be interesting. So many different ways and places to be raised...
    I love that you are pursuing this memory.