March 13, 2019

Looking back to a good memory is one pleasure of life, and this article is about one of those memorable times.

I remember the neighborhood I grew up in. There were five wooden houses on each side of the road; each had two bedrooms and one bath. Unfortunately, there were no attached garages. Several had a front porch with a swing, including ours. We did not have carpet or tile, only wood floors. The exception being in the kitchen; we had linoleum.

We had electricity and running water, but my parents got our first house phone (a dial-up telephone) in 1947; I was seven years old. Our number was 629-1715; no area codes. We were on a “party line” meaning others could pick up their phone and listen to your conversation.

The driveways were dirt, excellent for shooting marbles and looking for doodlebugs. To see a doodlebug, you placed a finger in their hole and sang, “Doddle bug, doddle bug come out, your house is on fire.” Yards were grass you mowed with a rotary push mower, no power mowers.

Stinging nettles were everywhere, and we knew their sting well from running barefooted through the woods behind our house. I don’t know if that plant is around or has become extinct. I have heard no one mention a stinging nettle in the last forty years. But, if it stung you, you remember the sharp pain.

In the 40s our neighbors knew us, and we knew them. Any neighborhood parent could discipline you if they caught you doing wrong. My brother and I agreed, we preferred the neighbor’s discipline rather than them reporting our actions to our parents, and then they discipline us.

Freedom best describes my neighborhood. We were free to play any game we wanted to, free to associated will all the kids in the neighborhood, free to engage in a heated discussion and then move on to the next activity, free to expand our area to include the three streets south and the four streets west.

I remember well the neighborhood fish fry. Several of the dads fished all day and then brought their catch home, cleaned them, and deep fried them in a big black kettle filled with hot grease (from the wood fire beneath it). About the time the fish was done, someone would spoon in the dough for the hushpuppies. The mothers brought fresh vegetables, pickles, home-made desserts, and tea.

After the blessing, we ate.

Seventy-two years later, I still remember the wood fire, the sound of the boiling grease, the smell of onions in the hushpuppies and the savoring taste of deep-fried fish.

As much as I loved that neighborhood, there’s a downside to it.  My children and grandchildren will never experience dirt driveways, linoleum floors, and dial phones, shooting marbles or running barefoot through the stinging nettles. But, the problem is today’s, children will not experience a neighborhood fish fry with hushpuppies, pecan pie, and neighbors who love them.