The Old Neighborhood

By Jim Downing, Columnist    
Friday, 07 July 2006
You can’t go home again, except in your mind.  Presently, I happen to be residing about a mile from where I grew up.  I will occasionally drive down Lakewood Avenue, just to look and jog my memory.

We moved to the east edge of the White City addition when I was six.  What remains today of what was first known in 1912 as the White City Jersey Dairy Farm is bounded by Yale Avenue to the west, the Crosstown Expressway to the north, Hudson Avenue to the east and 11th Street to the south.  The farm was so named because all of its buildings, fences and silos were painted white.  In 1926 the lands were platted as the White City Addition to the City of Tulsa.

The house we lived in was two years old at that time and was what they called “ranch style” in the early fifties.  It had a hip roof and flat flagstone halfway up, then wood siding.  The few trees were small; this had been Tucker’s Pasture not long ago.

The quadruple block we faced west was undeveloped.  It spanned from 5th Street to 7th and from Hudson to Lakewood.  That whole block had six or seven houses, and two of them were old farmhouses.  There were a couple of horses on the far side.

Within a few short years, a dead-end street began in front of our house and ran up the middle of the field so another 10 houses were added.  What should’ve been 6th Street was designated 5th Court.  The north and south sides were filled in. Now the big block has 25 houses on it.

But for a while in the late 1950s, there were two large, unfenced vacant lots that made up most of the large block.

The neighbor kids were mostly young boys close to my age. We played baseball in the vacant lots, built Christmas tree forts, had dirt clod fights, hunted horned toads and turtles, picked mulberries and dug foxholes.  We flew kites and made up games about sputniks and A-bombs.  Coincidentally, the vacant lots were gone about the time we started building model cars and noticing girls.

It was no big deal for 10-year-old boys to ride their bikes up to the park that was nearly a mile away.  Our street wasn’t paved for about three years and cars would get stuck in the mud.  Meadow Gold delivered milk in the mornings; the milkman walked right into our kitchen through the unlocked back door and put it in the Frigidaire.

Raising pigeons was a fad about 1960.  The three houses to our north had large pigeon coops, and there was another across the street and a couple on the block behind.  Old Dauntless was not fond of pigeons and had led a one-man crusade to eradicate them from downtown.

“Son, don’t you want in on this pigeon thing?” he asked suspiciously.

“If I want to play with pigeons, I can go next door. Plus, I don’t have to clean the cages.” I said. I didn’t see what the big deal was.

“Good thinking,” he replied. “May I suggest falconry? We could then have squab for dinner.”

Initially, we had central heat, but a water cooler in summer. We could eventually afford one window unit, but only one big enough to cool the living area in the daytime.  At sundown, the attic fan was used. Mom finally added central cooling in 1993.

Our TV was a Masonite cube with the Muntz name on it.  The screen was as much round as square.  If a tube went out, you could test it and replace it at Crown Drug at Sheridan Village Shopping Center, where they still had a soda fountain.

Sheridan Village also had Humpty Dumpty, T G & Y, Penney’s, Florsheim Shoes, a library branch, and Borden’s Cafeteria.

Occasionally, a nondescript man would show up at our door and pull from his jacket a fifth of Old Kentucky in exchange for a $5 bill.

Eleventh Street – Route 66 – boasted several motels, including Cook’s Court, The Grotto Courts, and The Will Rogers Motor Hotel.  Parkey’s Restaurant was open 24 hours.  There was a Howard Johnson’s on Admiral.  There were no drive-thru places, but there was a Pennington’s drive-in at Harvard and Norman Angel’s way out on the northeast corner of Tulsa on Memorial.

Behind The Will Rogers Motor Hotel was a large area we called Box Canyon.  It was a vacant strip from Hudson to Lakewood.  No one remembers how it got named.  It’s still vacant and was used for soccer until recently.  Behind Cook’s Court was a pond on Mill Creek where we sometimes skated.  Mill Creek dives under 11th at Lakewood and emerges at McClure Park.

The grown-ups seemed to be having a flowerbed competition for who could have the most colorful yard; this was before color TV.  The neighborhood has not changed much since the days of the big changes, but one noticeable difference is the dearth of flowers.  My mother’s once-gaudy beds of irises, roses, wisteria and gardenias are just plain, dull grass.  The block looks rather spartan and lifeless.  Mowing seems to be the only yardwork now.

Maybe it’s gentrification in the old neighborhood, but it seems we have become a society of indoor people.  You don’t see that many groups of kids playing in their front yards or riding their bikes to the park.

Times sure have changed.

Last Updated ( Friday, 07 July 2006 )