Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Streets that Bind -- Washington Avenue

From the time I was born until I married there were seven addresses in five townships; from my marriage to the present, eleven in eight places. These 18 addresses may be even more remarkable considering I've been in this house for the last 30 years and here is where I think of as home.

But if one asked about my boyhood home, I think of  Washington Avenue. I moved there three times, twice to the same address. I lived on that street for 13 of my first 15 years.

It wasn't the longest street in the world, although it seemed so when, as a child, I walked it. It ran probably less than a half-mile end to end. It ran one block east of my own block, but I seldom had reason to go that way. It ran two long blocks to the west of mine and at the end of these, just before the creek, were my church and the movie theater. A half block off Brandywine Avenue also called Creek Road, at 120 Washington, was an apartment building where my life-long best friend lived when I first met him.  (I've told the story of our meeting in "The Kid Met Him in the Funny Pages".)

On the left is 120 Washington as it looks today (actually not much different from then) and my not quite yet best friend sitting in the window of his apartment there.

Gee, he was kind of cute back in those days.

I knew someone else that lived in those apartments during those early years, a blond girl. Her name was Mary Jane and I had a crush on her through most of my elementary grades right into junior high school, although I never acted on my feeling for her and asked her out. I was friends with her and she came to my birthday parties.

We were eight years old in this photo and you won't find any other pictures of me getting quite so chummy with a girl that early on in my life. Now it is true I kissed a girl named Michele around this same time period (and got in a bit of trouble because of it) but I never had any true feelings for Michele as I secretly did for Mary Jane.

I suppose I should explain how I came to be a Washington Avenuer.

The first time we moved there I was six months old and it was to be my third home. My first had been in Modena and my second at Whitford. I've never really known why we moved to 424 Washington in town that Christmas season. We moved there with my maternal grandparents, who were the actual renters of the house (they never owned it). My parents had moved in with them at Whitford earlier in the year from Modena, my father's boyhood hometown. (Photo left: my mom holding me before the porch of 424.)

I know why my parents moved from the Modena apartment (bedbug infestation combined with financial need) to Whitford; but why the move shortly after to town I don't know. The "big house", as they called it, in Whitford appears to be large enough to accommodate two families, in fact, was probably larger than 424 Washington Avenue.

The Whitford house was where my mother grew up, so it had been my grandparents long time abode and was near to my grandfather's own family roots.

They didn't own that place either. It was actually part of the George Thomas III estate. The Thomas family was one of the original settlers of the area and one of its most prominent families. I do not know if George Thomas choose to end the renting of this property or if the move was somehow related to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Perhaps the beginning of the war in which my father would serve for several years prompted changes. (Photo right: my mom as a child at Whitford.)

We all lived in that house throughout the war years. I made two close friends on the block, Iva  and Bill. Iva was to remain a friend for always, but Bill moved away about the time I moved to 424 the second time and eventually we lost contact.

Why a second time? Why did we even move away from 424 a first time? Easy to explain, the war ended.

My dad had been in the South Pacific most of those first years at that 424 address. He got his discharge a couple years after the war ended and returned home in 1947. He got his first job as a long distance truck driver that fall, driving milk tankers for a man named Hines. A friend of his had told dad the company was hiring, but not to tell Old Man Hines he knew mechanics or he would never get outside the garage. Dad got the driver job instead at $100 a month and the house in the swamp.

There was this old home, half brick and half stucco, with scaffolding along one side, owned by the trucking company. It sat back from the highway, surrounded on two sides by a marsh, with a cornfield up the hill behind and a cow pasture to the East. Hines let dad live rent free because he was a returning vet, and thus we packed up our meager belongings and moved from 424 Washington for the next two years. (Photo right: me at the house in the swamp, 1948)

That house in the swamp was to have a great impact on my life and personality, but that is a different story. This one is about Washington Avenue.

So how did I get back there for the next five and half years of my boyhood?

Easy, my dad changed jobs for more money. In late 1949 he began driving for Atkinson Trucking; goodbye Hines, goodbye house in the swamp.

My folks moved back in with my grandparents at 424 Washington.  At some point a bit later, a house up the street became available for rent and my parents moved there. 417 Washington was a double house next to a Quonset hut of a garage, a business selling farm equipment. (And yes, during evenings or Sundays when this store was closed and empty, I did sneak next door to play on the tractors in the lot.)

That is a picture of 417 Washington taken several years after I lived there as a child.

I think Washington Avenue sticks with me so much in my memories because I lived there in those growing years. All the adventures of my boyhood are centered on that street, both good and bad. My best friend, Ronald Tipton, lived on that street when I met him. Our grade school was across the street from my home. 424 also means more to me than 417, probably because on weekends, when my dad came home from his trucking runs that kept him away from Monday through Friday, my parents sent me down the street to stay with my grandparents so they had alone time. (Photo right: 424 Washington.)

Eventually I will tell more tales of life on Washington Avenue.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Fascinating! I always learn something I didn't know about our formative years on Washington Avenue in Downingtown, PA when reading your blog posts. Great pictures too! Only one correction, the "cute kid" sitting on the window sill of the second floor opening of the apartment at 120 Washington Avenue isn't me, it is my youngest brother John. He was cute too.