Series Part 2 – Extracts from Dickeyville Days Memoirs

By Irv(ing) Williams

Memories from Irv(ing) Williams

My early memories of Dickeyville seem so much like Dylan Thomas’ poem/story, A Child’s Christmas in Wales……

“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”  Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Was it in 1956 that it snowed for a week and we all wound up in the (old) parish hall because no one had electricity and there were gas stoves that everyone cooked as much food as could be saved and we took our sleds up to Ermer’s market because no cars were moving, or was it…….?

Memories like that that seem to encompass a dream like life when we were all so small and the world beyond the dam and the woods and the Lloyds on the hill seemed so large.

I spent a lot of time in “the woods”. Because 2317 Tucker Lane was adjacent to it, it was the natural place to go. A shortcut to the Morrill’s house or over to lower Wetheredsville, it seemed to stretch on in every way. There was ‘the big hole’ where a giant oak had fallen and the root ball must have left a hole at least 5 feet deep (enormous) and ‘the big rock’ perfect for climbing at least 6 feet up (enormous). Behind our house was a birch tall enough to see over the roof of our house when climbed, all the way up to the top of Hillhouse Road when the leaves were gone. As a teenager I cut wood for my dad (only dead and fallen) with a Sears chainsaw in the woods, no hearing protection,­ which is why I wear hearing aids today, I’m sure.

Collecting bottles along the old trolley line up Forest Park Avenue for penny candy at Ermer’s. Later on, saving for “nickel day” at Gywnn Oak amusement park for the day when all rides were five cents. Or “report card” day when passing a grade would get you in free. Then later as young teens witnessing the turmoil of desegregation and the opening up of the park, finally; even as the Buddy Deane Show on WJZ 13 still had ‘race day’ one day a month. Living this year in Washington, DC, I have been able to ride the Gwynn Oak Carousel again with my two grandchildren, as it now has a place on the National Mall near the Smithsonian.  

Cub Scouts at the Stissels and Lloyds. I think it was Pack 86. Den Moms, cookouts, wearing your uniform to school (232 or 87) for picture day. I have the picture of my 5th grade at TJ, with Mrs. Kirkwood. There were 45 in our class…how did they do it??  These women who were the bedrocks of our education, there is a special teacher’s lounge in Heaven for them.

Upper Pickwick and Sekots changed the landscape for the whole village, but mostly for Tucker Lane kids. Gone were the fields we once roamed, and eventually the stream beside Tucker Lane was channeled into an underground vault that I think you can still hear gurgling today! The Watsons and Biens had a little wooden bridge over it…I remember a conversation between them during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 about keeping their gas tanks full in case we had to evacuate, and I wondered ‘evacuate’ to where​??

Mr. Bien kindly gave me all of his old issues of the New Yorker Magazine, which opened an entirely different world of reading to a 12 year old. They vacationed on this far away sounding place, Prince Edward Island. I have been reading the New Yorker steadily since 1962.

Snoopy, the Watson’s beagle who would nap smack dab in the middle of Tucker Lane, so much so that honking horns would have little effect on him, and you would have to get out of your car to push him to the side of the road. I think the Williams family at one time had 15 cats/kittens, most of whom lived under the barn. It was almost a full time job for the kids to feed them Calo Cat food, which frankly, stank. My mother always had one or two favorites who would be ‘house” cats and allowed inside. One of those family stories that get told and retold is that a “house kitty” named Whiskey went missing one night in a terrible storm, so Beulah went out to find her…calling Whiskey! Whiskey!! Was it Stu Schuck who opened the door and said “Hell, Beulah, if you need a drink that bad, come on in”.

Playing at the Lloyd’s house was like living in a children’s book. The swimming pool that grew green slime, the X series race cars, tree houses, forts, rope swings, the spring house and the barn where Bob and Uncle Ham built the boat, and was it too big to get out? I got a bad spider sting in the attic once in a game of hide and seek.

  • Dickeyville by Candlelight, the year of the Garden Club tour at night and they somehow got the streetlights turned off.
  • Mr. Tucker at the end of the lane who always had tootsie rolls in his pocket to hand out for the kids.
  • Blasting rolls of caps with ball peen hammers on the curb of Sekots (hearing aids anyone?)
  • Getting my broken arm set at Kernan’s.
  • Was there really a bull in the fields at the end of Tucker Lane? Seemed to keep us out anyway.

As others have said, going through the ice at the dam, sledding on Tucker Lane and making sparks fly over the bare spots, the Lions under the portico at Leakin Park, hearing model planes whine on Sunday afternoons from the park, Good Humor Ice Cream truck with bells that you could jingle, and the magic “change maker” that hung from the driver’s belt, Paul the Postman in his Safari Hat in summer bringing you ‘My Weekly Reader”, finding carbon paper thrown out by the oil trucks, the Fruit and Veg carts all summer drawn by tired looking horses and the calls of the men…..  staaawwwberry 25 cent a quart!  Oh, my.

By Irv(ing) Williams

Editor’s note: Please check back each Sunday to the Dickeyville Village blog to read extracts from the Dickeyville Days memoirs – a compilation of memories from previous Dickeyville denizens reflecting on a childhood spent growing up in the village during the 1940s, 50s, & 60s.  We hope you enjoy their stroll down memory lane.