Everyone’s Got a Ghost Town

My mom had a surgical procedure a few weeks ago and is recovering nicely. Each of the kids took some time off to help around the house and try to slow her down. Yeah, that’s pretty much where I got it.

Going back this time was a little different. I decided to try grabbing a Lyft from the airport, instead of renting a car and having it sit around for a few days.  That was smart and easily saved me over $100. I think I’ve got a new routine.

I arrived at the old neighborhood and, this time not driving, I noticed more things as we cruised down the street. We went past Irene Laskow’s house, a girl we cruelly gave the nickname, “Bozo” because of her big toes. We went past “The Bachelor’s” home, a name the neighbors bestowed to a guy named Irv who, when the neighborhood was new, was a single guy. He was married by the time I reach a coherent age.

I briefly saw Sharon, mom’s next-door neighbor, whom I’ve known for decades. But her home was previously the residence of one Raylene Crocker, the girl who gave me my first kiss. I was 5, she was 6 and it was a quick smooch under a folded-over wading pool.

Of course, across the street was the girl that got away, who eventually will get an entire blog or two in her honor.  Just too many stories and directions to go for now.

This little street in Torrance, California, was where we played hide ‘n seek and touch football. We spent hour after hour competing in tennis ball baseball and I’m talking about you Kenny Vaughn, Mike Cobb, Mike McClaren, Glen Rico, Kelly Toman, Karen and Dennis Belcher. When we weren’t playing, we were wheeling and dealing baseball cards that we had bought for 5-cents a pack (including a rock hard piece of gum) from the Helms Bakery truck that routinely visited our neighborhood.

One of my regular hangouts around home was the driveway, where dad had put up a basketball hoop for me to practice on. We played endless games of H-O-R-S-E, as well as driveway-sized games with dad pumping up his famous West Virginia set shot. In time, I started playing a little bit more in order to be outside when that girl across the street might come outside.

The neighborhood is now the place where ________ used to live. Look at a home, and if I say, “Oh, that’s where Fred & Carol used to live”, my mom and sisters know right where I mean.  It has now evolved from a mostly Caucasian blue-collar hood to a nicely diverse collection of ethnicities. It’s strange–sure, they’re the same homes. But while the years and coats of paint try to disguise the memories, but they’re all still there.

There was Mr. Lawrence, the poster adult for the phrase, “you kids get off my lawn.” Or the Hein family down the street and yes, her name really was Bea. I think the Vaughn family had six kids–Kenny was my age and he was surrounded by cute sisters. Sandy and Lori were the main attractions. There was that time Mike Cobb shot himself in the stomach. He lived.  Oh, and Mr. and Mrs. Kidd, right across the street who invited our family to their house on New Year’s morning so that we could all see the Rose Parade on their brand-new COLOR TV!!!!!

I was very fortunate and remain so thankful for growing up where I did, when I did and with that old Wonder Years bunch of mine. Most of my time these days is spent going 100 mph, multi-tasking and trying to win the Overachiever of the Day Award (I haven’t won one yet) which tend to push aside those memories of 226th Street. But give me a couple of days back in the old neighborhood and those memories come running like kids to a popsicle truck.

And there’s another one. It was fun visiting my ghost town.

Tim Hunter

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