Moline Memories - MHS 66 Friends

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Neighborhood

My mother posed with my sister, about 1946.
Wharton Field House is in the background.
That tiny elm tree behind them grew into
one of our large climbing trees.
This is on 18 Street A, 
looking across 23rd Avenue.

My neighborhood around 18 Street A seemed unchanging. My childhood friends lived in the same homes when we graduated from Moline High.

Across 23rd Avenue was Wharton Field House, where we walked for all the major events: basketball, the Harlem Globetrotters, Mr. Youngdahl's funeral, joint religious services, and professional wrestling. Browning Field was good for all the track meets and football.

Across the street was Ken Wiley's home. He was a year older and prone to adventure, more like Huckleberry Finn. If we went to the apple orchard a block away, he wanted a ride in the little cable car constructed to carry apples across the ravine. I got to pull the rope. But when the car got stuck halfway, Ken was stranded in the air and we had to yell for help from the owner. We learned that green apples were not poison and did not make us sick.

Near Ken's house, on 23rd Avenue, was the DeKerrel home. Ruby babysat me and Adolph drew signs for Melo Cream. They always seemed to be smiling when I was young, and they still were when I took my wife over to meet them, many years later.

Next to Ken Wiley's house was a paved alley that ran two blocks to the Hasty Tasty Restaurant. Connected to that building was a barber shop. The barber was very cool - he owned a Corvette. My mother cut our hair to save money, so I did not see a barber until I made my own money in the bakery business - washing dishes.

The Hasty Tasty was the uptown gathering place, ideally situated near Garfield Grade School and the Wharton/Browning Field sports center. Whitey's was also close, so all our gustatory needs were met in one location, including Country Style iced milk.

Darlene Gabriel's house was right across the alley from ours. We could back out of our garage and into their car parked in the alley. I came very close once, but that is another story. Darlene's father always grew tomatoes and gave them away. My father loved garden ripened tomatoes, so I carried them home when Ernie was picking them. I also delivered Melo Creams to the Gabriels and everyone else around. We often had extras that my father wanted given away.

If I needed a tool, I could always go to Mr. Block's home, next door to us. He would carefully unlock his garage, pick out the tool, and make sure I brought it back. Neighbors helped each other out and kids ran errands.

Tom and Rick Hanson lived farther down the alley, so Tom and I often got together. Years later, Tom and Darlene got rides to school with us when my mother taught at Coolidge. Tom is in that early sledding picture my mother got into the Dispatch.
Tom talked about becoming a dentist, but became a doctor, a cardiologist, I believe.

The Malmsteds lived on that stretch of 23rd Avenue. He owned a wood-paneled car, which I thought was exotic. Mrs. Malmsted ran a hair salon in their home, so my mother walked over for perms.

The alley had a y-shape, I think. The Pobanz family lived farther down on the y. The alley emptied onto 18 Street B, another example of municiple creativity. We had friends on B at various times. The Lodico family boasted two sets of twins with a solo in-between, five boys in all. We saw the two youngest (Dave and Dennis) at various times. We saw one of the older brothers in fast-pitch softball games.

Terry Carlson also lived on B. He became a basketball star at Moline High.

Someone owned a St. Bernard dog on that alley, safely held within a large fenced yard - when fences were almost unknown. One of the dares was to send a kid across the large yard without encountering the slobbering, friendly dog. We got one younger kid to try. The results were truly disgusting. The dog intercepted him, held him by placing huge paws on his shoulders, and slobbered buckets of canine saliva on his head until the owner rescued the kid. The boy had to go home to wash up and change clothes, doubtless eager to blame us for daring him.

On big adventures, we headed for the wild area behind 18th Street B. We could sled down a hill behind one house. That ravine had a place we called our cave. It was just a hollowed out area in the bank, but that was enough to fuel our imaginations. We often replayed WWII, calling each other Schweinhund and machine gunning each other from behind bushes and trees.

The ravine featured a real creek. Our parents tried to explain that the water was not exactly pure, with septic tanks still being used. The water was usually cold and shallow, one more hazard to face in our adventures. If we walked the creek far enough, it brought us to a dairy farm. Once we took all the adults on that trip in the winter, walking on the frozen crick.

The people who had access to that crick and ravine were amazingly patient with the neighborhood kids. They had a daughter (much older than we were) who owned a horse. She let us pet him and feed him carrots and apples.

Across 23rd Avenue lived the Reischman family. He owned a gas station and Cindy was about my age. We saw them fairly often.

Our house had a large yard, so all the neighborhood children were welcome to play there. My father once said, "I don't care if they pound the grass down to the soil. They are having a good time."

We had three elm trees, good for climbing. Each brother had his own tree, so we often fussed over territory. "He was climbing in my tree today!" - that was a common complaint. The backyard maple tree was too gigantic for climbing, but it was good for leaf-raking and curb-side leaf-burning.

We kept a large metal tub in the garage. We filled that with water and hosted a neighborhood swim on hot summer days.

We also had one of the first TVs, so the living room was lined with kids watching cartoons in black and white on a small screen. The spell-binding nature of TV made our parents eager to send us outdoors "to blow the stink off."

We also had a great comic book collection, heavy on Superman and Classics Illustrated.
Fresh money meant the ability to visit Whitey's or Country Style, and the chance to buy more comics at the Rexall Drug Store. One friend from the neighborhood (on the walk to Garfield) wrote a few years ago and said, "Remember reading all those comics?"