Memorial Day and the Fourth of July 1950’s

"4th of July Nanny and Poppys"

On most Saturdays and all holidays my mother, my sister and I would drive the two blocks down Calvert on Detroit’s west side to pick up my aunt and her three daughters for the ride over to my grandparent’s house on the East side.  We four oldest would sit in the back while the youngest sat up front between the adults.

Poppy, my mother’s father set up a table in the yard for holiday meals.  He made it from boards set up on saw horses.  There were chairs at each end of the table..  On each side of the table were benches made by setting planks on wooden boxes.

A wooden fence ran around three sides of the yard and separated us from the alley.  The block was laid out with two long sides with a lot houses and two short sides with only two houses.  Poppy and Nanny’s house was on a short side.  The alley cut behind the houses and makes an “H”.  If it hadn’t been for the wooden fence, we would have been sitting in the alley, as it was we had complete privacy.  That’s how it seemed to me at the time anyway. Above the fence we could see the backs of the houses and tenements and garages that ran along one long side.

Looking at the photographs the only thing I can make out on the table is the white enamel pitcher which would have held the Hawaiian punch, our picnic drink, which was usually served in red, green and gold metal “glasses’.

After the meal it was time to clean up.  The grownups would do it while we played in the yard.  This was in contrast to real life during the week when we did the clean up and the dishes.  I think this gave them time to talk while they worked and as I now know, doing the dishes is no big deal.

Then we’d have the long drive back home to the west side through all those interesting neighborhoods where I’d imagine what life would be like if I lived … there.  And we’d sing songs and play car games.  I wonder how long it really took.  An hour? We didn’t take the expressway, all through neighborhoods.  No urban renewal yet, or not on our route, and the neighborhoods were always full of people on porches and kids in the street.