With this blog I am beginning a new series. For the time being, I have decided to cease “actively seeking” folk singing gigs. From time to time, when the opportunity presents itself, I will publically sing. However, I need a break! Along with that decision I am reorienting my weekly blog entries. For a period of time I will be writing primarily for our daughter and our three grandchildren. My father ignored my request that he provide me with the details of his life. I intend to do so for my family. You all are invited to come along on this trip if you wish to do so.
Try to think of the first time, place, event or whatever you have, that you can remember. Are these real memories? Are they times brought back from the recesses of your brain? Perhaps, or maybe they are merely sensations triggered by a picture you may have seen of you as a little child. There is a picture of me sitting on my maternal grandparent’s porch. I’m holding one of my father’s harmonicas. I have no real memory of that specific time when that particular picture was taken, but I have seen it so many times that I have subsumed it into my sense of the past. Early childhood memories for me are more experiential. I remember them not as specific times and places as much as feelings, sounds, and actual physical objects. Some examples follow:
The Front Porch:
The front porch at grandma and grandpa Evaston’s house at 114 West Strawberry Street, Lancaster Pennsylvania is deeply etched in my mind. I remember crumbling cement on the steps. I remember the front wooden bench. I specifically remember the wrought iron fence on the porch. The bars were not that far apart, but I once, as a very early memory recalls, managed to get my leg caught between them. I can feel and hear that event. It has no substance, so specific sound, no specific pain to be relived, but rather, it is the sense of fear, the sense of helplessness, and what passes for embarrassment to a toddler that was there. My mother got me out of that mess.
Grandpa and grandma Evaston sat on the porch. That is what people did then, and still seem to do in that part of the city. People didn’t have televisions then. Evening entertainment was often the post-supper sitting on the porch talking with your neighbors as they returned from the corner store. It was watching the neighborhood kids play, running up and down the sidewalk living out our imaginary games (cowboys, war, hide-and-seek, tag, playing with yoyos – more on these diversions of youth later). We are not talking about a big, expansive porch with a roof and a quaint porch swing (that came much later in my life in Millersville). This was a tiny porch. I could go measure it, but why bother, size is a relative concept, and it was “the porch” and the right size to a little boy in Lancaster in the early 1950s.
One clear memory from that house and porch was of the door. It was, and still is, as of my last drive-by, a solid wooden door. Grandpa Evaston drilled a small hole about three-quarters of the way up. Through this he passed an electric wire for lights on their Christmas wreath. The other memorable thing about this door is also still there for all to see. When very young I spent a lot of time under the care of my grandmother. I must have learned at an early age how to turn a doorknob. As a result my grandfather moved the knob up to where it is now so that I could not reach it. The modification is easy to see to this day.
The One-Hundred Block of West Strawberry Street:
In the early days, the one hundred block of West Strawberry was a two-way street, with parking on both sides. It is a narrow street, but I guess there just were not that many cars around. By the time I got there it was a one-way street, with parking on the side of the street occupied by my grandparent’s house. Actually, most of the houses on that block were on that side of the street. My grandparent’s house faced a tiny cottage that sat on a small footpath/alley that angled off to the left. To the right of that cottage was a wooden fence that stood behind a house on Mulberry Street. There were many early photographs of me taken against that fence.
In case you cannot tell from these photos (recently taken), we were poor. But you know what? I didn’t know that back then. Stay tuned for #2 in this series.