The other day a few of us were discussing the period of time that we grew up in. We had different views. A couple of the persons’ entire focus was on negativity. They remember a house with no indoor plumbing, no electricity, and forced to move every two or three months because of certain reasons…usually difficulty paying the rent.
I happened to be the oldest, and I was reluctant to engage in the conversation, because my reflections on the years gone by were totally different. My recollection of our neighborhood that I was born in was overwhelmingly positive; it helped shape my life. The house I grew up in was typical of the houses on the street—outside toilet, no gas, no telephone, coal stoves for cooking and heating, hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
The street was integrated and all youths were allowed to be disciplined by any adult. We were compelled to respect all adults. My two older brothers and I were required to shovel snow walkways for widows, senior citizens, and shovel the coal down the coal chutes, and were not allowed to accept any money for any of our services.
If our mothers went to work, the neighbors looked out for the children, many years before child care centers. It was a blessing in my family’s life that God had provided us with two strong committed and dedicated God-fearing parents. We were raised to understand the overwhelming importance of family, friends, and health. It was instilled in us that richness is a state of mind, not a state of being. I can recall the family names of every family on the street where I was born in 1931. The overwhelming majority of the families are deceased but there are a few families that are still alive, and we’re still friends.
One perfect example is the Bailey family, which moved to Homewood in 1941 (first to move off Jones Avenue.). The connection and friendship of our families goes back to elementary school days.
In those days we had no door locks, slept outside (because the house was too hot), and no burglaries.
Those few persons who drank to excess were addressed as “Mr.,” because they were adults. Our churches were filled with men and young persons, and women always attended.
In 2017, the attendance of men in church is at an all-time low. There were situations where mothers were having a problem with her son…a big brother, cousin, or uncle would surface and address the problem. Those were the years that we were friendlier.
A few weeks ago I was in Dorsey’s record store on Frankstown Avenue, and bought a gospel record by an old friend of mine, Bishop Charles Banks, titled, “GOOD OLD DAYS.”
Yes, those years of old houses without electricity, gas, telephones, etc. were not all bad—they were truly character building.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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