Describe Where You Grew Up

SifuPhil

Resident Nutcase
It's interesting to hear about all the locations that people have grown up in. Whether city or country, poor or rich, the stories are often touching in their emotional content and enlightening in showing how similar we all really are.

The town I was born and raised in, Yonkers, New York, is located several miles north of New York City in the county of Westchester. The name itself is Dutch; in July 1645 Adriaen van der Donck, a lawyer, scholar, and author who had emerged as a leader of the New Netherland colony, purchased a land grant of 24,000 acres. Van der Donck was known locally as the Jonkheer or Jonker (etymologically, "young gentleman," derivation of old Dutch jong (young) and heer ("lord"); in effect, "Esquire"), a word from which the name "Yonkers" is directly derived.

So much for ancient history. Yonkers is the fourth-largest city in New York State and used to be the crown jewel of the Hudson River valley. The film Hello, Dolly with Barbara Streisand was filmed there, and in fact many early movie studios were built in the city. As a result it was a major stop on the show-biz circuits, playing host to hundreds of Vaudeville acts over the years and still having the skeletal remains of many beautiful theaters (most of which have been converted to ugly multi-plex movie houses now).

When I was growing up there in the 1960's our neighborhood was a mix of Italian, Polish, Irish and German families, mostly blue-collar. We were in a hilly residential area, not really within walking distance of any but the smallest Mom-and-Pop stores - but that was Heaven. We had a two-story frame house with a full concrete basement, and my father, being a plumber, had helped build a majority of the house.

We had a fairly large back yard, "L"-shaped on two sides of the house, with a raised garden and fountain. Several trees, among them a Japanese maple, two giant poplars and a massive pine tree that towered over the house (of course, "towered" in relation to a little kid, but impressive nonetheless). A small concrete patio in the back and a large, vertical stone outcropping in front, which the house was basically sitting upon.

I walked to grade school - about a 2-mile walk - and in my younger years my mom would walk with me. She'd also pick me up, so although I walked 4 miles a day she walked 8 (!). But we never complained, or at least I don't remember any being expressed. At about the two-mile mark from our house was also where a few more stores began to crop up - a small grocery store, a liquor store, garages, and my favorite, a variety store formally known as "Massimo's News" but referred to by us as simply "the cigar store".

The cigar store was Heaven for kids. When you walked in, directly on the right was a floor-to-ceiling rack of comic books, model railroading magazines, science magazines and of course, tucked away at the very top out of reach, the Playboy magazines. We'd mill around, waiting for an adult to browse through the latest issue of Hef's and absent-mindedly put it back in a lower rack, whereupon we'd pounce like starved hyenas until the owner of the store, Tony, or worse, his wife Madelaine would yell at us.

After being forgiven (always quickly) we'd check out the candy display case, a massive glass-and-wood affair that stretched down the left side of the store. We'd have long, intense bargaining sessions among ourselves as to which treat to buy with our combined funds. A bottle of Yoo-Hoo from the old cooler and we were all set.

I went to movies, amusement parks (outside the city), concerts, fairs and festivals ... in short, everything a city kid could ever desire. It was a great town when I was growing up, an impression that was shattered many, many years later when I returned to visit, only to be confronted with urban blight and welfare malingerers everywhere.

Thomas Wolfe was right - you can't go home again.

So ... what was YOUR town like?
 

pchinvegas

Member
Location
Las Vegas, NV
The first I have memory of was Hawaii, where my step father was stationed with the USMC. I went to Pearl Harbor Elementary for first and second grade. But before that somewhere in Wisconsin. Then there was Camp Lejune, NC where we lived on base with great housing and I enjoyed movie theaters, bowling and teen dances. Then back home to my roots in Georgia. Albany was the home of the largest USMC logistics base in the U.S. Hot sweltering days and barefoot forever I grew up amongst the pecan trees. Life was good as far as the location goes.
 

SeaBreeze

Endlessly Groovin'
Location
USA
I was raised on the city streets of NY. Us four kids and my parents lived in a 4 room rented apartment on the third (top) floor, so things were very "cozy". There were mostly German, Italian and Irish families in my neighborhood also. We all did a lot of walking too, miles every day, never thought twice about it. If you needed to go somewhere, you headed out and started walking, for really far places you'd take the subway or bus. I still walk at a fast pace until this day.

Most of the older people spent their days in the summer sitting out on the stoops, or looking out their windows. That's how my mother always kept an eye on us, she could see for blocks to spy on what we were doing. :love_heart: We'd sometimes go up on the black tar roof and tan ourselves, or sit in the apartment cellar with a neighbor and keep cool like that...nobody had air conditioning back then, not in our neighborhood anyway.

Folks there were lower middle class, so not many had any fancy things. I was the baby, so I got all the hand-me-downs to wear, even from my brother...but I was always excited to get them. A treat for me was when my mother took me to the shoemaker for new taps. I'd wait in that high-set seat, waiting for my newly tapped shoes , I'd be tapping around on different floor surfaces all week for amusement, simple pleasures for sure.

We'd play in the street things like handball or stoop-ball (pink Spalding balls), jump rope, keyed skates, solid tire bikes, etc. For Christmas when I was young, my parents would buy a Charlie Brown type tree when it was cheap, the day before. They'd hide it on the fire-escape until I went to bed on Christmas Eve, then bring it into the kitchen and decorate it, and put a few gifts for us underneath. I totally believed, and it was wonderful.

Visited there last in the early 80s, when my mother was still alive. The area had deteriorated and become run-down, nothing like it was in the 1950s and 60s. Got my street smarts there, good place to be from at the time, but wouldn't want to live there now. I have no interest in the crowded filthy city life anymore, just a distant memory. Now my days are filled with enjoying the wonders of Mother Nature, as you can tell from my photo album.

Humble beginning, but filled with love...no regrets, just fond memories of younger days. :sentimental:
 

SifuPhil

Resident Nutcase
Great descriptions, ladies!

I often wonder how a test-tube baby would answer a thread like this ...

"I was created in a 20x150mm Pyrex test tube in the Sandoz labs in late 2011. My mother (a centrifuge) would often take me for a spin and ..." :p
 
Born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. Married a sailor. No surprise there. We now live in the desert. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could live far away from water and actually learn to love it.

I'll bet there are a couple of old sailors here who remember the rhyme about girls from Norfolk. "We don't drink and we don't smoke--Norfolk." Hmm. I've got three grown sons to prove it ain't so.
 

rkunsaw

Well-known Member
I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, December 10,1941. Soon after my dad got a job in a factory in Michigan converted to making military vehicles, so we moved to Pontiac, Michigan. We moved back to Fort Smith when I was five. We lived at the edge of town with forty acres of woods right across the road. One block the other way and we were out of the city limits with open fields all the way to the river.
 

Pappy

Living the Dream
I was born and raised in Norwich, NY. It was a beautiful little town to grow up in as it had the old Main Street with 5 and 10 cent store, Woolworths, A and P grocery store and many small family owned stores. Banks really had bankers hours and no ATMs. All big stores were closed on Sundays thus giving the mom and pop stores a chance to make a living.
Although I lived a mile outside in a rural area, I had a paper route 6 days a week. We had two movie houses. The Colonia and Smalleys. For a quarter on Saturday matinees, you could watch 20 cartoons and a Abbott and Costello movie or a cowboy movie.

Now the town is void of stores on Main Street since the big box stores moved in. Makes me sad when I visit the old home town.
 

SifuPhil

Resident Nutcase
Now the town is void of stores on Main Street since the big box stores moved in. Makes me sad when I visit the old home town.

That seems to be a common refrain these days, unfortunately.

My hometown took the other approach - they decided to go ghetto. Crime rates through the roof, abandoned buildings all over, and little patches of rich people securely locked-up in their little gated communities.

Sounds a lot like where I am now, come to think of it ... :rolleyes:
 

Ameriscot

SF VIP
Born in Michigan and was a navy brat so next was Memphis for about 8 months. Back to Michigan. Then to Massachusetts. Then to Florida. Then back to Michigan at the age of 12 where I stayed until age 38.
 

MarciKS

Resident Fruitcake
Location
My Apartment
I was in West Virginia in the womb. For some reason my parents chose Marion Kansas to be our home. My dad was a telephone lineman and my mom was a full time mom. We lived next door to our landlords who were Jehovah's Witnesses. They never bothered us and for some reason Mrs W took a liking to me. *Shrugs*

Our house was a 3 bedroom. Folks room faced the porch. My baby brother had the bedroom in the middle of the house and I got the one by the back door. The washer and dryer were in my room and mom would expect me to sleep with the machines running. We had these huge lavender flower pots on the porch above the railing. Then there was a wide cement walkway the width of the stairs to the porch. That walkway was lined with rose bushes on both sides. Many many times my brother and I would careen around the corner from the sidewalk and crash our tricycles into the bushes. Mom would pick thorns out of us and out we'd go again. LOL!

In the summertime we had our choice of water activities. The plastic pool or the sprinkler. The sprinkler proved to be more entertaining. We had a nice park in town back then with fountains and lots of swings. The town was small enough we could walk and be safe. Except for this one creepy high school boy.

My mom would make birthday party hats out of coffee filters and pipe cleaners. Whenever she made cookies she had to count them because she had a thief. *smirks*

I spent most of my time in my room with my Barbies. I was a hermit even back then.

Me and the neighbor kid down the street would stop at the 5 and 10 and buy ring pops and pretend to be married. LOL

The swimming pool was the highlight of our town at one time. We had a bowling alley and one year I was on a team. Longest 9 mo of my life.

Most of the businesses are closed now. I loved the Burger Shake. The old couple that ran it were the best.
 
I grew up on a very poor, forty-acre farm in the Midwest. Running water to us was when you primed the kitchen pump and started the suction to get the pump working every morning. It was a left-hand pump, which is why I probably was a good switch hitter as a kid, playing ball in an empty field with my siblings and the neighbor's ten kids (good catholic family).

Electricity consisted of one light hanging from the ten-foot plaster and lathe ceiling. Extension chords reached to one side of the room where in 1957, a black and white television took center stage. Before then, Saturday nights were spent eating popcorn while listening to Grand Old Opry or Renfro Valley country music.

Bath night was Saturday. Water was heated in two five-gallon canners and carried into the "bath" room where a claw-footed tub sat. When I was really small, the "bath" tub was a galvanized tub sitting next to the old coal stove in the kitchen. In the summer, bathtime was in the fifty-gallon drum that set below the drain pipe which collected water off the roof. Water on the south side of the farm house went into the well.

It was Midwest America. Full of small-time farmers scratching a meager living from the ground. It was hilly land pushed south by the glacial movement, which left a narrow layer of good topsoil on top of rocky limestone or hard clay. Nevertheless, the demands of the first world war in Europe demanded that farmers in America push the productivity of the land. Small farmers fed Europe during the war, but it depleted the land terribly resulting in poor soil and poor crops during the 20's and 30's when the Great Depression caused so many to lose their land.

Followed by World War II where industrialize America supported the war, again in Europe. Anyway... many areas, including the rural area where I grew up, never saw the growth after the war well into the 50's and 60's.

This sounds like it was depressing, but these were good times for America. Life was simple. Church was the center of the universe, followed closely by family. Most people in this area were of German descent. My father spoke German at home growing up. I suppose it was useful in WWII when he fought at Normandy and walked across "free" France and then into Germany, where his ancestors had lived.

Interestingly, my DNA shows very little German background.
 
My parents couldn't have been more different or more complimentary to each other. Dad was 6’2”, mom was 4’10”. She was Jewish, he was Catholic. Mom had one sister, dad had 4 sisters …and 6 brothers. And with that many Catholics involved (back in the late 40s), maybe you can imagine the drama over dad marrying a Jewish person, but it went further than that because mom’s mother was Black. Her dad was Italian. So, I’m Italian and Black, and Irish and German - dad’s mother was German.

Ancestry doesn’t stop at your grandparents so it really wasn’t worth arguing over, but everybody did, so I didn’t see most of my many, many paternal aunts and uncles and cousins. But my paternal grandparents liked my mom, and for several years we lived with dad’s parents on their dairy and poultry farm right here in Sacramento. I was 5 when we moved there, and 13 when we left because opa (paternal grandfather) sold the farm.

When we moved to the farm I had a brother named Grant, 3 years older than me, and a brother named David, 2 years younger. Grant loved farm work from day 1, and worked his butt off every day. I followed him everywhere and he showed me the ropes, everything from shoveling manure and midwifing calves to braiding rope and candling eggs.

Dad taught my brothers and I to play baseball. When we weren’t working or attending school, we were playing ball out in the cow pasture. So green, I remember. We were all good at baseball but the parks were too far away and we didn’t have time for Little League anyway, until we moved into town. By then Grant had gotten interested in biology, so only me and David signed up. It was a whole different life in the city and, while baseball practice and games kept me busy, I missed the work; the endless, gratifying daily chores. So mom sent me to her dad’s shop near the Sacramento River. He was a tailor. He made and altered men’s suits and coats. I loved working with my grandfather. All the while he taught me about tailoring he taught me Yiddish, and about Jewish customs and philosophies. He was humble, skilled, and funny as hell. You could say he kept me in stitches. You’d sound corny, but you’d be accurate.

Dad was a tough guy, a towering, powerful man who liked to remind everyone that he had "4 sons in a row, and then a girl for the Mrs." Truth be told, Bonnie-Frances was the apple of her daddy's eye. We all loved Franny, born when I was a senior in high school, two years after the first surprise late-birth, my baby brother Max. Mom was pregnant at Grant’s wedding and again at dad's 50th birthday bash, and I had my hands full with 2 baby siblings until I married at 19. And by age 22, I had 2 sons of my own. And a few years later, a daughter.

After I divorced I moved the kids around a lot. We moved every 2 or 3 years. We lived in desert, snowy mountains, small forest towns and old quaint ones, but never a large city. Oddly, we all live in large cities now.
 
Born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. Married a sailor. No surprise there. We now live in the desert. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could live far away from water and actually learn to love it.

I'll bet there are a couple of old sailors here who remember the rhyme about girls from Norfolk. "We don't drink and we don't smoke--Norfolk." Hmm. I've got three grown sons to prove it ain't so.
Norfolk was our first duty station. Oh my, such an adventure 😂. We rented this itsy bitsy cottage on Chesapeake Bay. The land lady lived on the land also. There were two things she hated...Catholic’s and Northener’s. I was both. So every time I had to talk to her, I used THE most exaggerated southern accent that I could muster up 😂. The other thing I remember was a sign at a park entrance...No Blacks and No Sailors Allowed! First thing I did was step on the grass. Such a defiant move hey? 😂😂
 

Repondering

Senior Member
Location
Nebraska, USA
I was born in Manila, Philippine Islands where our family lived for 10 years. When I was 5 yrs old we moved to the British colony of Hong Kong where we lived for the next 9 years. Dad worked for an airline, PanAm. We're American but I grew up as a TCK......third culture kid. My peers, other Yanks, the Brits, Aussies, NZ's and Canadians, a few Swedes, a German guy, an Italian guy, a girl from Iceland and others too......we all thought of ourselves as Hong Kongers first, whatever our passports said.
I loved growing up in Hong Kong and so did my friends. Now many years later we've reconnected via social media and the parallels are eerie.....HK is now a lost homeland and our own countries are kind of like places we've emigrated to and made our homes in but we still, in varying degrees, think of the one-time British colony as the "old country" that was our original homeland.
 

Lewkat

Well-known Member
Location
New Jersey, USA
Lived in NYC and moved as a small child to a suburb of another city and then to a small town in New Jersey, which I disliked at first, but it is a lovely all American community where we all looked after one another. Much of that persists today, except that it has grown quite a bit due to townhouses and condos being built where lakes were drained and big box stores also erected.
 


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