The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

4 March 2005

Summer of '61

This week's assignment calls for the following: "you're 8 and it's a typical summer day." In the interest of having something interesting to say, I've stretched the definition of "8" to include "more than seven and a half, anyway"; I hope this doesn't meet with too much derision.

My father had recently been transferred to the Naval Base at Charleston, and there was a major waiting list for base housing, so for the time being, we (there being five of us, and a sixth appeared the following year) checked into the projects. I wrote about said projects back around the turn of the century:

"Legare" is an Old Charleston sort of name, and Old Charleston did things differently, so you shouldn't be surprised that it's pronounced "luh-GREE". Like Simon. George Legare had been a Congressman in the previous century, and for some reason Charleston County chose to name a public housing project after him. Across the road was a "separate-but-equal" facility for persons of African-American descent, this one named for a Senator, in this case "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, one of South Carolina's most blatant white racists. One of the state's little jokes, I suppose. But I was too young to understand all these details; I was busy colonizing a series of abandoned culverts just off the edge of the project, and playing the occasional game of hopscotch. In fact, one of the neighborhood girls and I spent the better part of a summer day creating an Olympic-size hopscotch court. Forget jumping to ten, or even twenty; to negotiate this course, you had to complete nearly two hundred squares, circles, and whatever other polygons we saw fit. And we were about to do exactly that when the rain started and all our hard work and most of our chalk washed away into the grass.

The abandoned culverts served me as Fortress of Solitude for those occasions when I needed one, which was surprisingly often in those days. I didn't have a lot of friends, and the young lady who joined me in the hopscotch endeavors took entirely too much pleasure, I thought, from scaring me half to death. Not that I'd avoid her, of course.

This particular housing project was sandwiched between two major roads, the nearer of which became the Edge of the World, the point beyond which I dared not go on pain of, well, getting run over. There was, I recall, a little ice-cream stand on the Edge, but the times I had actual coin of the realm to spend there were few and far between, and I couldn't see any reason to hang around there unless I actually bought something.

The farther road contained no interesting commercial buildings, and what's worse, there was a railroad track running more or less parallel to it on the far side. I'd seen enough Saturday-morning Westerns to know that railroad tracks were what you got tied to if you'd gotten in the way of the Bad Guy, and I had no urge to be lashed to the rails, so I stayed clear of them. That is, until I noticed that beyond the tracks, there was a decently-sized hill, and inexplicably, there was a stairway of sorts, from just beyond the tracks, up the hill, to — where?

Yes, I did find out, but by then, we were well into fall.

Posted at 6:33 AM to General Disinterest

TrackBacks if any:

As I recall, having traversed aforementioned stairs, they led to the outer perimeter of one Saint Johns school. I remember the tracks, too.

Posted by: paulsmos at 9:01 AM on 4 March 2005

It was late Fall 1966 in the new suburbs on the southwest side of Boise, Idaho. For hours on end my best friend and I would invent then act out new scenes of our favorite new TV series "Time Tunnel". Then the sun would set and we'd climb atop the backyard playhouse and debate why bright Venus was so calm compared the the incessant red and green twinkling of the Dog Star.

In time we would become obsessed with Major Matt Mason and everything connected to space travel. We would try to convince our parents that the only necessary foods were Tang and Space Food Sticks.

The stars and planets seemed so much closer and so much more important then.

Posted by: vic at 9:06 AM on 4 March 2005

St. John's it was, and presumably still is.

Posted by: CGHill at 10:12 AM on 4 March 2005