|Me at age 5 or 6|
When I was little, my mom didn't drive. We rode the city bus, if we wanted to go shopping or even to doctor appointments. Out of necessity, I walked to school. I went to the same elementary school from kindergarten thru sixth grade and walked everyday, only very occasionally getting a ride with a neighbor kid’s parent on a rainy day—it didn't rain much where I lived!
That walk is indelibly printed in my mind. I remember my steps very well even though it was well over 50 years ago! I can still picture in my mind the houses, yards and some of the people who lived along the way. The residential section I lived in was set up in a grid, with streets running parallel to one another, not the more modern flowing streets and cul-de-sacs. My elementary school, named after a famous educator, Horace Mann, was three blocks over and four blocks up. The blocks were long city blocks with about 8 to 10 houses on a block, with blocks back-to-back with the next street. That made the blocks going up to my school only two houses deep between streets. I lived on
Street, with Lake and Monterrey streets in between my street and Nile Street where
my school was located. This gives you a
picture of how far I walked each day; it wasn't a mile up a snowy mountain,
after a 15 mile bus ride like my own children had to do for several years of
Anyway, I would set out in the morning, sometimes walking with a friend or two from my block. I don’t remember much about the walk to school. I was just interested in getting there on time. After school, we all would pile out of the big double wide metal doors, run down the concrete stairs to the sidewalk, gathering down beside the retaining wall at the corner’s curb. We waited for the crossing guard to stop traffic on the busy thoroughfare. When ready, the big black man with the round face and the perpetual smile would walk out into the road, hold up his hand-held stop sign and then wave for us to cross. We had to be careful to walk across the street, but as we hit the curb at the gas station most kids pressed for an all-out run down the sidewalks for home!
My solitary walk home provided time to dawdle; I enjoyed time looking at everything all along the way.
I remember chain link fences, lawns with no fences, lantana flowers between the chain link fencing and the sidewalk;
picking up maple seed pods, sometimes called whirligigs or helicopters, and playing with them on the way;
sometimes picking up a stick and picking it apart all the way home. I remember the houses along the way that I had been in, only a few, for birthday parties of other students. I remember yards well kept and some that were not. Sometimes I would walk down one block and over one block, sort of in a diagonal pattern to home. Once in a while I would walk diagonally across the street down a long block, provided there were no cars coming—which their usually weren't, since people didn't drive as much in those days. And I never cut diagonally across someone’s lawn to shorten my way, because I was taught to be respectful of neighbor’s property.
The final portion was from the corner of my block to our house in the middle of the block. I always marveled at the corner house, so neat and clean with several cars. I knew they were a cut above our pay grade just by looking. The big picture window revealed lovely fancy furniture not like in my house. The next house was a small wood frame house with a little old lady living in it. I felt sorry for her, her house was a bit run down, in need of paint. Next was my friend’s house with a small apartment behind it. They too, were a marvel because they were the only one on the block with a boarder. The next house was usually well kept, with the next one being a little mysterious set way back on the lot with lots of shrubbery like a shroud. Then there was our neighbor’s house with her chain link fence and our house also with a chain link fence and a pepper tree in the corner of the yard. I still remember the smell of the tree while opening the gate and running up the walk to home! **
**Excerpt from Household of Faith, a legacy book by Andy E. Pruitt and myself, being written for our large extended family.