My Childhood Home – The Neighborhood

In the previous post I talked about the house I grew up in. As for the neighborhood, I’ve always thought it was a great place for families in the middle of the city. The neighborhood and our house backed up on an industrial strip that bordered the Chicago River. This greatly limited the east-west traffic through the area since only the major streets crossed the river. And the different obstacles like parks and industrial areas to the north and south along with the configuration of one-way streets prevented most north-south traffic through the area. So the area was very quiet outside of the times the factories were in operation. Even street gangs rarely ventured into the area. The downside was that the trains to downtown were a fair hike away.

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The housing stock in the area was varied. Our block was primarily two flat wood frame buildings with a few brick buildings. Scattered about there were also three story brick apartment buildings and one-story bungalows. Almost every lot was 25 feet by 125 feet with an alley.

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We were fortunate to have four parks within walking distance. Between them they had an indoor ice rink, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a sledding hill, an organized boys club, three fieldhouses with indoor basketball courts, a cinder outdoor running track, numerous ball fields, and some really good playgrounds. I was a member of the Neighborhood Boys Club that was a block away. I give it great credit for keeping me from getting into trouble and furthering both my abilities and interest in sports. Plus it instilled sportsmanship and many qualities that have made me who I am today.

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Above is the alley and the factory behind our house. Below is the alley in the opposite direction with the factory that was diagonally opposite the house.

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But in addition to the parks, we had the industrial building across the alley. A great place with brick walls where you could play “fast pitch”, “bounce out”, or even practice your tennis. But that meant you either lost balls on the roof or found a way to get up there and get them. In most cases it was the latter. Climbing up or over barbed wire fences or shimming up telephone poles.

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And then there was the river. We were forbidden from going there since I believe the was concern about falling in since the banks were steep and the current was fast. But also because as you can guess it’s a place that attracts undesirable characters. In the end, we generally stayed away from it before high school. There really wasn’t anything interesting about it. Though we did use it as a shortcut to get to the pool or my high school.

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As for the neighbors they were a good representation of urban life. They were largely working class, though not poor. The area was initially settled by German immigrants and they still had a strong presense in the area. Irish, Polish, and Italian immigrants also had a strong presense while Filipino, Hispanic, and other Asian immigrants were growing in increasing numbers. I can’t say that there were many African Americans in the area, but being that it’s the city, they were by no means foreign.

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So really why did I go into such depth to describe where I grew up largely devoid of any personal recollections. Partly because I’ve always been very interested in the environment that other people come from. I’ve felt it gives an idea of who they are or at least an aid to understanding and discovering who they are. So likewise I’ve also felt the need to describe where I’m from. Yes, part of it may be pride even though I don’t like those who boast and would not like to be perceived that way. There is also a lack of personal recollections for a couple reasons. First, because this post would never end. And second, because some are still too personal for public revelation.

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~ by Frank on January 13, 2008.

2 Responses to “My Childhood Home – The Neighborhood”

  1. […] in Montreal Observations, Memoirs, and Opinion « Tethered Down My Childhood Home – Our Neighborhood » My Childhood Home – The House January 11, 2008 This is the house I grew up in. […]

  2. Great article and photos! I just created videos about my and my father’s neighborhood play experiences. My dad’s is urban like this, but more gritty and from an earlier time (I’m guessing). Anyway, here are links to the vids and blog posts around them:

    A Suburban Childhood of Play in the 1960s and 70s
    Play and Poverty in 1930s and 40s Pittsburgh

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