Neighborhoods, then and now
In January of 1946 at age 5 I started going to public school. The school building itself was constructed in 1905 and although it had seen better days, it was still magical to me. Sill School, which was located on the corner of Herbert and 30th Streets in West Detroit, was only three or four blocks from our house. I can clearly remember the large, vertical, glass paneled doors that ran the length of the Kindergarten classroom that were sometimes folded fully open. The doors themselves were well padded as if chaos were expected to break out at any second and they didn’t want we precious little tots to get hurt.
We were quickly introduced to all of the things that could hurt you. Scissors for example, paddles with little balls on strings of rubber that could do great damage to one’s eye, if we could ever figure out how to make them work. There were little twirls on sticks you could wave in the air until you hit someone in the face. The paste was also very tasty, as was the glue. It came in little bottles having rubber caps that had a slit you could lick when no one was watching. We pretty much had to taste everything.
Going to school was great fun. Most of the kids on my street went to the Catholic school so the duty of my early escort fell to Ray Knuff, who lived across street on the corner of Devereaux. After a few weeks I learned to manage finding the school playground on my own. We kids never actually went to school… we went to the playground. The school was conveniently located there.
On the corner, across from the school playground was another of the many little grocery stores in the neighborhood, which catered to our appetites for anything sweet. They also marketed all the gizmos we absolutely had to have. Things such as Yo-Yo’s, squirt guns, bubble gum… all the necessities of being young. Often there would appear, in front of the store at the most opportune times (say lunch time), an older kid with a pocket full of yo-yo’s. He would perform all of the tricks one could imagine and then some. Around the world, walking the dog, baby in a cradle and of course making it sleep… for very long periods of time. He was amazing. It was almost as if he were working for either Duncan or the Cheerio Yo-Yo Companies? OK, I get it now… some seventy years later, he was working for the Yo-Yo guys?
Sill School, the playground, the candy store and the Yo-Yo guy are no longer there. But, what is left for me is a boatload of childhood memories. “To each his own”, we each have our own memories and it’s great fun to share.
30th and Herbert Streets