4931 Wilcox Street

Think Kit provided more opportunity for reminiscing today with Be Neighborly. Maybe you fell for the girl next door or considered building a fence to keep out the nosy neighbor. Tell us a story, draw us a map, or give us a hidden gem about your neighborhood, past or present.


4931 Wilcox Street

A street where cars were seldom a reason to keep us from making the road our playground. Front yards large enough to create small football fields, no sidewalks encroaching our space. Houses with ample elbow room between them. A back yard that opened to a woods, which led to a creek. Kids, by the dozen.

This was the neighborhood of my youth.

When I insist that I enjoyed as fine a childhood as anyone could ask or imagine, the setting plays co-star to my parents. This was small town America in the 1960s—Montague, Michigan, of which I wrote earlier this week: https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/meet-montague/.

In those days, most of the women were no-one-ever-dreamt-of-calling-them-stay-at-home-moms housewives. Their schedules—grocery shopping, wash on the clothesline, heading for church—were of the you-can-set-your-watch-by-them variety. Every mother knew every child so well, well, we all knew we would get away with nothing, anywhere.

“Play date” was a phrase both unknown and unneeded. Every afternoon after school saw us head back out of the house as soon as we dropped off our books and lunch boxes. Summer days were spent anywhere and everywhere but in the house. Basketball games were a constant on the small court across from our house. Football games littered front yards. Baseball games occupied vacant lots and fields. Kick the can, hide and go seek, blind man’s bluff—these were a few of our favorite games.

No one needed to organize us. We did it ourselves.

There were so many kids with whom to play, so many things to do, so much freedom.

So much freedom.

Because it was safe, our moms did not have a need to check up on us. If my mom did not hear from one of her five kids for as many as five hours, no concern arose in her. Besides, she was thankful for the quiet.

Everyone watched out for everyone. We knew each other so well, we could almost enter our neighbor’s houses without knocking. Almost. We were close-knit, in-tune, and like-minded.

There was one house, two to our right, where the couple had no kids. The Ritters. They were older. They were Uncle Rudy and Aunt Evelyn. They treated us kids as precious to them. They always had time to be interested in what we were up to. We never left without licorice in hand.

An annual block party was held a block down from us, where the next street met a dead end. Everyone attended. Every mom was a good cook. Every dad picked on us little kids. Every kid scattered as soon as the meal was done.

Mothers never played chauffeur. We rode our bikes. Everywhere.

Our sand boxes were dirt piles. Trees were for climbing. We built forts. The backyard woods was home to countless adventures. A neighbor with two snowmobiles made good use of the vacant block that lay between our house and theirs, and ample opportunity was provided to both ride and drive.

It did not matter what time of the year it was, it was our time of the year.

A dump, one block over and one block down, was mined for treasures and a temptation for tomfoolery. Read about my youngest brother’s misadventures here, which was my inaugural blog post:


Ah, for the old neighborhood! We could not have imagined what it would be like today, or what we are now like. We never cared. The future was too far off. And, besides, we were too busy having fun with our friends.

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