How much do you remember of the neighborhood where you grew up? I decided to try this, not in any order, just writing down the memories as they came to me.
I grew up in Concord, California on Bonifacio Street at the corner of Grant. Back then it was a fairly quiet street. We were a couple of blocks from the Catholic church and a couple of blocks from the high school but as a kid, those things didn’t interest me much. I usually went the other way, toward town. My grandmother walked to the grocery store most of the time. It was a Mayfair market and it gave out Blue Chip stamps that we would lick and stick into books that would ultimately buy my grandmother a new sewing machine. I think the gas stations gave Green Stamps or some other places did but for some reason it was the Blue Chip stamps that my grandmother collected.
On the way home from the grocery store we might stop at Rexall drug store which had a section near the pharmacy of glass figurines, often the little Josef Originals. Or we would hit the Quality Bakery where my grandmother would buy a loaf of dutch crust butter top bread. If I was really, really good I might get a tea cookie with a dollop of chocolate in the middle. I loved to stare at the fancy bakery cakes with the ballerinas in the middle. I was never allowed a bakery cake for a birthday – only the homemade ones.
There was a BeeDees (sp?) store that was general store of some kind. I remember that’s where we went for my grandmother to buy all her fabric and thread and sewing supplies to make most all of my clothes. There was a hobby section in there with trains and stuff but what I fell for were the collections of glass animals. I can’t remember the name of the company but they usually came in a set of three animals on a little piece of cardboard, a family of animals. I collected those for years.
I don’t remember many other stores downtown. Oh, there was a Rhodes Deptmartment store where we went for coats and underwear and shoes. Gas stations around town that gave out stamps of birds that I could lick and stick in a collector book. There was the Todas Santos Plaza which I think was called something else like Concord Park when I was a kid. We didn’t stop there too often as my grandmother always had a list of chores that needed doing.
The Sun and Moon Chinese restaurant that was owned and run by the Tuey family was near there. They lived next door to us.
I know on the way downtown was a little store on the corner, probably our version of a Quik Stop, that my grandmother didn’t like but eventually she would let me walk up there for emergency milk or butter. I had to walk past a long, dark alley where there was usually a drunk or two hanging out and they always scared me. There was an actual liqueur store around the corner from that but we always crossed the street so as not to get too close. In later years I used to sneak down there to buy my copies of Writer’s Digest magazine.
For a little while my mom and I moved out of the house on Bonifacio and around the block to Grant street. What I remember most there is that the backyard fence was the same fence for the Queen of All Saints Catholic school. And the kids from that school would throw their garbage over the fence all the time. My mom used to get so mad and gather up all the garbage and take it to the school but they never did anything about it. The convent was on the corner. As a non-Catholic I was fascinated by all the goings-on at the church and I used to love to hear the bells that seemed to always be ringing.
There were a few houses that stand out in my memory – the deBenedetti house across the street because the basement was ground level and the house itself up a steep flight of stairs that always scared me. The woman who lived there, Lisa, was my grandmother’s good friend. They were both in the local Druids organization and every year the Druids had a huge rummage sale to raise money. The rummage was dropped off in Lisa’s basement and I always got to pick through things early. I think that’s where I got addicted to finding gems at thrift stores.
Hazel and Gilbert Hills lived next door to the deBenedettis. It was a white house with the best front porch. Grandma Stotts lived with them too. Hazel had some sort of illness that had her in crutches for life. She gave piano lessons and I loved it in the summer time when she had the windows open and I could hear the music drift out and across the street. All I remember about Gilbert is that he was very tall and very thin. They were so kind to me. I found a black rabbit in their front yard one time, under the bushes, and got to keep it for most of a day before my mother did something with it.
There was a house on the corner that I don’t remember by who lived there but by the fact that I would always find spare change in the dirt that collected at the bottom of the driveway. On the other corner was where Bing Cuneo lived. I don’t remember much about that family except their name. Another block down the street was a house that was in an unincorporated section. They had a well, which I thought was cool and a goose which was very mean. I could never get close to the house because of that darn goose.
Whew – that’s a lot of rambling about the neighborhood but as always happens, one memory helps me remember another, and so on, and so on.
Your turn – what do you remember about your neighborhood growing up?