Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Open Space

What I remember most about early childhood, in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, in Belleville
is open space. There were endless places to run, to play, to feel the freedom of open space. Back yards were un-fenced, and as long as you didn’t trample the neighbors petunias, you were free to run about. Back yards, back then, were filled with fruits and flowers. I remember a plentiful supply of raspberries, strawberries, mulberries, grapes, apples, pears and more. Wow, talk about fast food ! How about just reaching out and finding food right in the middle of what ever game occupied us at the moment.

Back yards were not the only open space. I lived in the shadow of Soho hospital, right across the street from the “hospital grounds” with it’s acres and acres of green, open space. It was un-fenced in those early days, and easy to go to. There were fields for games and slopes for sleigh riding. You could actually see long distances.

There were an assortment of wooded properties scattered about the neighborhood. Opportunities for more freedom, they were. Of course you were not supposed to play on these private properties, but when you knew there were Indians hiding behind the trees, you just had to go in there with your cap-gun and chase them out.

Perhaps best of all were the safaris we would take into the “swamp”. Today it is called the Rutan Estates but then it was many acres of marshy land by the third river where we went hunting with our hand-made sling-shots. Many a wild critter lived in great peril while we stalked them in those woods.

Yes, open space, but so little of it is left today. So much of it has given way to “progress” as the developers mistakenly call it. Younger people today often ask us older folks what was so terrific about the “good old days”, anyway. It’s a difficult question to answer, because there is almost nothing to compare it to in today’s world so that they might understand. I grew up on sun-soaked grassy fields and they have grown up on concrete and small, confining back yards. What can I say, I grew up before progress happened. Really, open space is better.