We had a quiet Easter this year. It was just my husband and me. I heated up some ham steaks, baked cheesy scalloped potatoes and scavenged together a green salad for our dinner. Dessert was Easter chocolate from our local landmark candy store. Then we went to the county park and walked about a mile or so along a cold, snowy road and breathed in the awesome fresh air.
As a result of posting a picture of this walk to Facebook, a former neighborhood playmate “introduced” himself to my husband and mentioned in a post that nobody messed with the “Pearl St. Gang” in those days, etc.
He clearly has fond memories of the “gang” and our growing up days.
I… remember it slightly differently. Or maybe I just put a different emphasis on certain memories. I know for sure that I did not understand the workings of the “gang”.
Most of my summers, from about 1967 to 1973, were spent at the playground across the street from my house participating in the Parks Program with crafts, games, softball, etc.
We did that every year until we moved two streets away in 1974. My sister and I rode our bikes to the park at the beginning of July that year only to be greeted at the park entrance by two boys waiting for us on their bikes. They had apparently been appointed to wait for us to get there and inform us that we were no longer welcome to participate in the Parks Program.
It’s kind of funny now to recall my sister freaking out and screaming at them about how “unjust” it was as we turned around and allowed ourselves to be chased off our old street. She may have even raised a fist to them to emphasize her point.
I remember being torn between my embarrassment at my sister’s behavior (as usual) and the pain of this terrible rejection. Those two boys broke my heart actually. Imagine someone thinking ahead of time to ban us from the park and planning to get there early enough to greet us with a “go home, you are not welcome here anymore” speech!
This was not an isolated incident by any means. For a middle class, WASP-y neighborhood, it was a tough block to grow up on.
Forty years later and I have lots more insights and memories and knowledge to draw from in order to understand why it had to be as tough as it was growing up there. One family had an abusive, alcoholic father, one family lost a baby, one family had sexual abuse going on, two families lost fathers to suicide, one family lost a mother to illness, several families had lots of kids and I imagine the parents might have been overwhelmed. These are just a few examples of the “stuff” I remember and have learned in order to help myself try to understand what was going on back then.
I mean, there was so much fighting and meanness among these kids! And for some reason, I kept going back for more. I kept trying to “make it work” for all the years we lived on that block. I suppose there was enough “good” for me to be ever hopeful about fitting in. Until the day we got banned, that is.
There were fun times growing up there and I do remember them. But the way the story ended took the shine off those memories for me.
There was less meanness once high school rolled around. But by then, it was too late. I had gotten on a different path and did not get to finish the growing up process with the neighborhood “gang”. Perhaps I just left at a very awkward time in the life of the old neighborhood. Who knows.
I have to admit, though, that it was entirely true: Nobody ever did mess around with the “Pearl St. Gang”!