When: “Growing Up In The Neighborhood”
favorite season was summer, of course. I have most of my happiest memories when
I think of that season of long days, short nights and days full of adventure and
play. It seemed like you couldn’t
ask for a greater place to grow up than our neighborhood, in the summer.
Everything we needed was right within walking distance.
Park it was one of Cleveland’s gems. Beautifully kept and manicured with
Cultural Gardens to let your imagination run wild with. The creek was there to
enjoy and play in. You could explore the woods like the Indians did in the past.
It was your great get away, a place to escape from your home, family, or even
yourself. There was no finer evening entertainment then watching the softball
leagues play on the “Ginny Hill Diamond”. You could watch all those aspiring
neighbors be baseball stars. You
could rout for you favorite tavern team (mine was the Lucky Leaf Tavern) and
watch great amateur teams play. It was our neighborhood series. If you were
lucky you could have enough change to buy a coke and small bag of chips and that
made the night even more enjoyable. Baseball, ice cold coke (in bottles) and a
bag of fresh chips; how much better could life get? The games went on until it
was almost too dark to play. You met your friends there and so did the
neighbors. There were also games to watch at Gordon Park (under the lights) and
don’t forget Gridina Park too.
Cleveland Aquarium was an interesting place to visit, it was supposed to be an
educational experience, but it was just a great place to visit and imagine what
it would be like to live life as a fish. Somehow when you went to the Aquarium
you stayed for a long time. It was never meant to be a short visit so I guess
because you had to pay an admission fee; you had to stay long enough to get your
money’s worth. You spent more time at the gift shop than in front of the fish
neighborhood playgrounds also offered places to play and Sowinski School had a
great playground. Swings, “teeter totters” and monkey bars, slides,
basketball courts and baseball diamonds. During the summer City Summer Employees
called “Coaches” or “Teaches” staffed the playgrounds. They were college
students that the city hired to work the Recreation Centers and Parks during
summer. To us they were role models, smart older kids who taught us how to
improve our sporting skills and tried to keep us in line so we would not
misbehave too badly. They also held
craft and hobby classes indoors inside some of the classrooms in the basement of
the school. Sowinski had one of the biggest sand boxes in Ohio and we played the
card games “Muggins” and a game with a jack knife that we flip into the sand
off our hands, elbows or knees. Now that was living dangerously.
the schoolyard closed we went home ate supper then usually went over someone’s
house to sit on the front porch. Some other things we did involved baseball
cards. Everyone collected them. Everyone traded them and everyone pitched them
on front porches. We all had our share of cavities from chewing all that bubble
gum that we had to buy to get those cards. Someone has to keep all the
neighborhood dentists in business. Somewhere I still have my treasured baseball
card of Rocky Colavito from the Cleveland Indians.
it came to summer swimming we had Lake Erie, or you could go to Petri Pool,
which was one of the city’s outdoor pools. Petri Pool was quite a walk from 79th
Street down to 33rd or 32nd Street. We mostly rode the bus
to get there and stayed the entire afternoon. It was outdoors and the water was
clean and refreshing on a hot summer day. Swimming
made you hungry so if the pangs got too bad you could spend your bus fare home
and buy pop, chips or other junk food to satisfy your hunger. Then you made that
long walk home. Lucky for us, if we planned it right we would walk home down
Superior Ave and look for my Dad driving home and flagged him down for a free
ride. This was a true example how to “have your cake and eat it too”.
Evenings were for sitting on front porches, catching lightening bugs, playing “hide n seek”, or waiting to hear the music of the Mr. Softee Ice Cream Truck! When that music played everyone knew he would be on your street in a matter of minutes. The begging for money began at the first hearing of the chiming music. A frozen whipped concoction made for a perfect evening while sitting on your front porch with family, neighbors and friends. Life was simple and we were happy. I wish sometimes I could go back.