Beecher Street in the Thirties

 

Jennifer Williams Duffy, who lived in Glover Park until she was thirteen, writes:

 

In retrospect, the blocks around our house, 3859 Beecher Street, were almost like a “doll’s village”; the streets were narrow, and brick row-houses lined their sides. We lived like a small town. It was an ideal environment to be raised in as a child, and I have many fond memories.

On a rainy day it was possible to “visit” over the porch railings any family in the row of six residences, without getting wet. Because of the proximity, we knew most of the inner secrets of each little abode.

Early on, I could recite the names of almost everyone on the street. Our little enclave housed the Stromans, a city policeman, his wife, and his daughter Lillian; and the Oakleys from Colorado, he a labor arbitrator, his wife, a wonderful cook, and their children Velma (my best friend in junior high) and Billy.

Next door to the Oakleys were the Kerns, who had no children, and the McDermotts, a friendly middle-aged couple who pampered their bulldog like a child. Then the Whites, who were English: he, a very proper chauffeur for the wealthy Houghtens; she, a meticulous housekeeper. (I remember, they even painted their cellar floor, and she had one of the first ironers I had ever seen.) Their children were Donald, Reggie, and Babsy––younger than I, but still my doll playing friend.

We, the Williams family, occupied the end house, bordered by an alley. It used to make Pop very angry when the neighborhood boys congregated there and bounced balls off the walls of our house. The Brights, on the other side of the alley, were not very compatible, and we kept our distance (except when an emergency required our help). Then came the Purvis, Carroll, Willard and Hill families.

Alfred Hill was part of my neighborhood gang. His mother became distraught when her third child was not the girl she had desired, and she took her own life. Alfred discovered that he was an adopted child, and came crying to us to share his sorrow. (He went on to become an accomplished organist, and once played in the National Cathedral, but I don’t think he ever got over that sad time in his life.)

We had a bus stop a block away, and the buses were always on time (but how they maneuvered the tight corners will always be a mystery to me). The streetcar ran on Wisconsin Avenue, where there were stores near enough to walk to (that seemed further away when you were carrying back the sometimes very heavy groceries). One of the stores was a mom and pop establishment called the Gadget Shop, where penny candy was colorfully displayed, that was almost a daily necessity when money could be found––which was not always possible in those days.

 

Jennifer Williams Duffy

Naples, Florida