As it happened, we weren’t always Nort’ siders. For a brief time our family lived on West ‘D’ street. My earliest memories were of Anita and I at the age of 7 and 4 respectively. Now, what does this tidbit have to do with my stories of da Nort’ side? Well, the short time we resided on ‘D’ street certain events taught me the intrinsic value of observation, and likely one of the reasons I became a writer. So, buckle up people. It's getting interesting...
One Sunday afternoon, my sister and I settled into the back seat of Grandpa Louis’s little brown Maverick, where I waited patiently for the seatbelt to cross my lap as my sister strapped me in with the grim expression of a death row inmate on her way to the chair. Having been through this procedure a few times, I knew to keep my head plastered against the seat until I heard the click of the door-lock beneath Anita’s doubled-up fist. Car safety was pretty much non-existent in 1971, so the fact that Anita was safety conscious no doubt came from a hard learned lesson months before.
Once properly buckled in we set off on our weekly outing which amounted to a five-minute car ride to a local tavern. While gramps took a seat at the bar, we were ensconced in a booth where we would jump up every few minutes to feed dimes into the jukebox given to us by the tavern owner. We sang along to Gordon Lightfoot, Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, The Beach Boys and other big names of the day while feasting on Hershey bars and Rice’s Orange Juice—a locally made beverage. To this day when I walk past a bar vent pushing out the warm yeasty smell of beer, it takes me back to that booth and those Sunday afternoons. The funny part is it took me a few years before I realized Dino’s Bar was owned by our dad.
Anyway, back on West ‘D’, our home sat mid-way up the street on an incline and a friend’s house was at the bottom. This street was unique in that it dead-ended next to a gigantic sand hill and bottomed out just shy of a swampy marsh dubbed, Skunk Hollow. Everyone in our little neighborhood played on the sandy slope in all seasons--we sled down it on shower curtains in the summer and tobaggons in the winter. After a long day of play, we'd run home covered in such a fine dusting of sand, you'd think we spent a day at the beach. As it turned out, it was providential the sand hill was big, dense and (more importantly) there, or the neighbor’s car would have been a total loss. Now, most homes had a one car driveway and if you owned a second car more than likely it sat curbside. During the summer months everyone kept their windows open to cool off the interior. And so, on a warm July day, my sister decided to demonstrate how the parking brake of mom’s new FIAT operated.
Agog Anita held such knowledge, we marched over to the car, called our friends to gather round as she reached in and disengaged the hand brake. When the car began to move, we all gawked, transfixed as the FIAT slowly picked up speed as it rolled down the hill. To our credit (if not our acumen) all six kids grabbed the rear bumper in an attempt to halt its descent–alas, to no avail. Thankfully, the neighbor’s new VW Bug thwarted gravity and the FIAT slammed into the back of it with a loud crunch. And as luck would have it, the shoulder of the sandhill kept both cars from plunging into the swamp. Hooray!
I have to say, I don’t remember much after that except the sound of sirens. Oh, and I do remember Anita grabbing my hand, running us into the house, and hiding us under the bed--where we observed the flashing red and blue lights, as they lit up the pale yellow walls of our bedroom.
intellectual content & photos property of L. Campbell
Until I made friends beyond my Italian neighborhood, I had no idea Crème de Cocoa liqueur wasn’t actually a topping for ice cream—Gnocchi never made it on the menu at the first Thanksgiving dinner—or that the end of a loaf of bread is only known as the 'Culo' in an Italian household. Intrigued? Then kick back with a glass of vino and take a glimpse into my life growing up Nort’ side.