Sunday, January 10, 2010


Thankfully, the silver Box is a tall car -- I can get in it while wearing a hat! -- and a narrow car, so it was able to navigate some very narrow streets today as my sister Rachel and I cruised around the uptown neighborhood in which we grew up.

We started by checking on the condition of our last house there, near Sixth and Wiconisco streets, and found it to be in pretty good condition. Our mother's famous jungle red screen door has been painted black, but all in all, little has changed.

As we moved south on Sixth Street, we passed our grandparents' (and father's) homestead, now burned out and boarded up. There must have been quite a lot of activity in that house of Irish and Scottish immigrants and their five children in the early 20th century.

We turned left onto Radnor Street to pass Aunt Sarah and Uncle Midge's house, looking pretty good, although the one next door has been removed. Turning south on Jefferson, we drove one block to Columbia Avenue (only its name is classy) and headed west to Agate Street. The 2500 block, when we lived there, consisted of two rows of identical row houses facing each other across a one-lane street. The eastern side of the street has been cleared for several years now, and the western side, where we lived, appears to be headed for the same ignominious fate.

At 2544, the glass in the storm door was broken and the rungs in the porch railing were lying in a heap on the sidewalk. Two legal notices of some sort were taped to the window in the door. From the second floor front bedroom, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus peered out over the street.

Only two of the houses appeared to be occupied or even habitable. Windows were broken out on one house, and tree branches were growing up through the porch. The house at the far end of the row has been removed. I suggested to Rachel that this was the home of Mrs. Webb, or "Webby," who called us each year on our birthday and cackled her version of "A happy birthday to you..." over the phone.

Just steps from our house was the city's Gorgas Playground. Here we spent lazy summers swinging, swimming, and participating in activities planned for kids. Our mother had represented the playground in her time and was known as the runner for Gorgas. It was at the playground that we picked dandelions to take home to mom. Our yard had no grass, only brick.

My parents always claimed that we had to move from Agate Street because the living room was so small that my brother Michael and I, growing boys, could no longer sit opposite each other without getting our legs entangled. I think I was in third grade at the time.

Another vivid memory was a Saturday morning spent with my parents trying to get me to take an aspirin since I had a fever. An earlier pill had stuck in my throat and begun to melt. Do you know that awful taste? Anyway, I would not "open up," and attempts included hiding the aspirin in an egg sandwich! How can we remember these things and not recall yesterday's weather?

A lovely sylvan setting on present-day Agate Street.

Our house two years ago when the porch
rungs were still attached.

Three adorable Robinsons ready for trick or treat c.1947.
 (The rungs were there then, too!)

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