Series Part 20 – Extracts from Dickeyville Days Memoirs
By Page Smith Morgan
Memories from Page Smith Morgan
Thinking of Dickeyville naturally invokes a rush of childhood memories – in fact all the memories I have of childhood were made in Dickeyville. When you live in one place your entire growing up years, memories become more concentrated like a thousand fireflies crammed into one jar. After all, every Christmas, every Easter, every first day of school, every summer, winter and fall were spent with the same friends in the same places, on the same streets, climbing the same trees, and roaming the same woods. Back then nothing ever seemed to change.
As a child, I had no intimation there was anything special about my neighborhood. I used to think it looked like one of those photographs you see on calendars: Neat, trim houses fronted by white picket fences and lovingly tended flowerbeds, a stream that conveniently froze every winter for skating and provided swimming for a pair of geese and various ducks in the summer. I even recall the exact spot at the stream where I smoked my first verboten cigarette.
We were pleasantly isolated as children. We were so isolated, in fact, that a summer evening’s pastime in the 50’s consisted of sitting on the front porch of my next-door neighbor (5123 Wetheredsville Road) counting the cars that went by on Forest Park Avenue. They were few and far between then. I didn’t know I was so insulated. There was nowhere to go. And anyway who would have wanted to leave? Aside from the ducks and stream, there were acres of woods to explore. I spent hours in them searching for Civil War relics, a rare coin or an Indian artifact. There were monkey vines to swing on and trees to climb.
Dickeyville in the 50’s sat at the edge of the city surrounded by farms from Tebbs behind my house (the cows would escape and I would wake up to find them in my backyard under our apple tree happily ruminating), as well as those throughout Woodlawn. We’d “take a drive” after church through pastoral scenes in the summer and return with loads of tomatoes and corn. I always got the shucking job, which I didn’t mind except for the fat green corn worms I would find under the husks. I remember church dinners, Bible school, and Fourth of July picnics and parades. There were also piano lessons for fifty cents each at Catherine Stinchcomb’s house. I think she taught all of us. A special and unique memory is having breakfast at my best friend Elinor Sandlass’s house especially on weekday mornings. Elinor’s mother Virginia would rise early and start preparations before anyone else was up. She would then call up the stairs, “Hen-RY! Breakfast!” We would all appear finding a well set table, soft boiled eggs properly sitting in china egg cups. It is the only time I have been offered such a presentation.
As I grew older, I began to realize that Dickeyville was different, in fact unique, but it still never seemed to change. My friends and I changed, but Dickeyville staunchly refused. I don’t know how many times I walked between Elinor’s house and mine over the course of twenty years, but the journey became so familiar, and I gained such an intimate familiarity with some of the cobblestones, that I would always look for particular ones so I could step on them again and again. Even many years later making adult pilgrimages back to the neighborhood, I would search for, and be gratified to find, the same cobble- stones inviting me to walk on them, repeating a comforting ritual. It is an assurance to me that this special place is still here. psm
By Page Smith Morgan
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.