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.