I downloaded Google Earth and traced the route from my childhood home to my kindergarten school – from Sussex Street down Humber to East Delavan on Buffalo’s East Side.
This nostalgic journey was courtesy of a retweeted prompting from @zefrank (thanks @mjfrombuffalo) re his contributory project “a childhood walk”, http://www.zefrank.com/the_walk/
Amazingly, Sussex Street is still brick – at least it was when the cameraed Google truck rattled down it May 31, 2005. The neighborhood was “transitioning” when we moved to Kenmore the summer after kindergarten, it must have been 1968. So I only spent kindergarten at (I think) School 23, now torn down, going to the afternoon sessions. Walked home by the boy downstairs from us, in my memory he is adolescent, so much older than me. But he was only in 2nd grade. But now that I think of him, after so many decades without a thought of him, I remember him being so tall, and with a man’s voice and stubbled chin. Odd.
The walk down Humber, a sidestreet ending at Sussex “running into” the house next to ours, was apparently longer than I remember, and I remember it as one long block down to East Delavan, the cross-street looks wrong.
The strangest thing looking at East Delavan Avenue, a secondary artery, which to my wide eyes and wider imagination was huge bustling metropolitan street. Cars and people, a cop as crossing guard sometimes in the afternoon when the school let out. In reality that stretch is mostly residential, and it could not have changed much in the past 42 years. But to chubby little 5-year-old me it was like downtown, or the magical furious energetic Big Cities I glimpsed on our black and white TV. No, it’s two narrow lanes each way. Just an ordinary Buffalo street with the occasional corner clustered with a couple businesses, churches, shops.
My kindergarten school was closed soon after we left, then torn down. Now the site looks like it’s a community park – paved, fenced, some sculpture-like climbing equipment. Which is strange, because I remember the school’s playground was across the street, tiny and high-fenced – where there is now a church and its parking lot.
And sometimes my mother would walk with me while she carried Eileen, who is a year younger than me and back then was not expected to survive very long, a farther walk down East Delavan to Bailey – and that is such a longer walk than I remember, past factories with fenced parking lots, but a train viaduct I clearly remember has apparently been dismantled and the street underpass brought up to grade and paved smooth. The branch library we went to is still there on the far corner of Bailey. I used to sit in the polite circle for a storytime reading while my mother cradling Eileen would visit quietly with other young mothers
A very interesting exercise with Google Earth – if disappointingly unrevelatory for me. You should try it yourself.