Sixty-three years ago things were different at "J" street on Mckinley Hill in Tacoma, a lot different. On any weekday we would ride our bicycles as far as wanted...just so we were home in time for supper. It was nothing to walk to Bummer's Gulch or walk the railroad tracks in the gulch between Avenues Mckinley and Pacific.
Summer time saw picnics in the neighbor's backyard, on a blanket under the spreading plum tree. Those were days of innocence and relative safety. I remember teachers from McKinley school; Hansen, Knutsen. I once wrote a note to Mrs. Melgard that read, "I love you." She replied, "I love you too Buddy when you do your work." In the 6th grade someone gave me a Valentine's Day card showing a large man holding up (obviously too small) boxer shorts and scowling at the clerk. The card was signed "Guess who?" I couldn't guess then and still have no clue. I still have the card; still waiting for the trickster to 'fess up.
One of those bicycles took me to the end of the world...at least to the end of Mckinley Avenue. Somehow I thought it went on and on. It was the main street of my childhood; the one where we caught the bus; where we went to Safeway, to Kavame Hardware, to school, to the barber, and my dad to the taverns. ( I can name those taverns because I spent a lot of time standing outside waiting for my dad to come out.)
It's hard to think of a neighbor who used their front door. There was an alley between the streets so I would cross, knock on the Gregg's door and ask, "Can Penny and Chuckie come out and play?" Almost always the answer was "Yes."
I remember one evening at Gregg's; we ate popcorn till the tub was empty. Still hungry I made one more pass at the 'Old Maids' but not a one of them would yield. "There are all too hard" I said, and Penny's dad added, "I know. I tried all of 'em." Lots of laughter, one red face, a memory for life.
Our security system was a skeleton key to the back door. My dad watered the lawn with a hose. The grass was mowed with a push mower. We stole golden delicious apples from Mr. Peterson and gave all the worms we found to the Pierce's on the corner; they fished a lot. Once I got to go with them.
Our car was grandma and grandpa. Whenever a family picnic was brewing (emphasis on brewing) I would go to the end of the alley, sit in Seisem's back yard and watch for grandpa's car to turn off McKinley Avenue and start down 36th street, then run full speed up the alley and yell, "They're coming!"
Those were hard/easy days. Hard, because we were poor (I didn't know we were poor) and because my dad was in and out of the hospital 25 times before he died at a mere 45 years. Easy because those were safer days for children to run, play and stay out till dark. My dad's whistle was loud and distinct and could break up play from two blocks away. There are more stories. Lots of 'em. Maybe I'll write again about the boy from Tacoma. e.c.
There once was a boy from Tacoma
Known for its pulp-mill aroma
The stench of the mill
Killed grass on the "Hill"
Ev'n so, twas my "sweet homae"