“C” is for Calvert

Stores stood on the vacant land.

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge.

We moved to 2705 Calvert from 2254 Chicago Blvd when my parents separated in the fall of 1954. I was 8 and my sister was 6. We lived upstairs in a two family flat.  “Beans Bowles”, the musician and his family lived downstairs. Our elementary school, Roosevelt, was two blocks away. My mother, Mrs. Cleage to her students, taught Social Studies at the same school.  I remember playing outside a lot – on the block, at the playground and in a vacant lot at Lawton and Boston.  There were many children on the block of all ages. We played “7-Up” where you throw a ball against the side of the house, clap your hands and count higher and higher until you miss. We drew hopscotch grids on the sidewalk and played that.  We roller skated and rode our bikes.

There was a drugstore and a small grocery store next to it on the corner of Linwood and Calvert. My mother bought rotten meat at the grocery once and the man didn’t want to take it back until she threatened to call the health department. We still bought penny candy there – wine candy, lick-a-maid.  My mother never shopped there again.  That whole business section of the block is empty now.

The year I wore glasses. My sister Pearl holding  her Christmas book “Amal and the Night Visitors.” I was about 9. The photo was taken by my mother before school in the backyard.
My sister Pearl and me. We are fake racing on the upper porch.
The houses in the background of the above photo as they look today on Google Maps.
 learn to skate.
I must have been about 12 helping my cousin Marilyn learn to skate.

I have no photographs taken inside the house but I do remember the layout.

One day my sister and I were sitting on the upper back porch playing paper dolls when one of the younger boys from downstairs climbed up from his back porch to ours.  That’s what his plan was anyway. As his hand came over the edge I started beating it with my fist. He went back down in a hurry. Thankfully he didn’t fall down and break his neck, but as I said to my sister at the time “You can’t let that get started.”

I remember my cousin Dee Dee babysitting us. We were laying on the floor trying to make something rise with the power of our minds, when she hollered “GAS!” and ran into the kitchen. Gas was indeed escaping from an unlit burner on the stove. She turned it off and we opened up all the windows and lived.  I remember having the measles during Spring break and laying in the darkened room.  My sister and I still shared a room so we had company in our misery.

We lived in the upstairs flat. This is how the house looked in 2004 after a fire.

In my mind’s eye I can see  a puzzle I did of sheep grazing on a hillside, and the view of the houses across the alley out of our bedroom window.  I remember a disaster of a birthday party where nobody came,  and cleaning the bathroom on Saturdays. I remember going to sleep while my mother played Richard Crooks, Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte. I remember playing “water wars” in the bathtub with our poor, soggy dollhouse dolls floating around in plastic bag covered Kleenix boxes.

There were ballet lessons at Toni’s School of Dance, piano lessons from Mr. Manderville and violin at school that I never practiced.  I remember pet turtles, always with the same names and always dying from soft shell disease, in spite of being dosed with cod liver oil. I read Songberd’s Grove and The Little Princess.  While my mother was taking classes towards her master’s at Wayne I read Peyton Place, Mandingo and The Second Sex.

I remember walking home from school under a canopy of elm trees before they lost to Dutch Elm disease. And walking to school through 2 feet of snow after a March storm. I remember walking down Lasalle to our old house on Chicago, where my father still lived, everyday for lunch. There were plays at Central High School we attended with my cousins. And the days at Roosevelt when there were only a few students because everybody else was celebrating the Jewish Holidays  I remember graduating from Roosevelt Elementary school and the confusion of Durfee Junior high school.

The parking lot where 2705 Calvert once stood. From Google Maps.

My mother’s sister and her three daughters lived two blocks down Calvert in a lower flat. Later my Aunt and Uncle – Anna and Winslow, bought the flat next door and my father moved into the downstairs flat while they lived upstairs.

Me, Pearl and cousin Barbara. My cousin Dale watching us. We are between the 2 flats.  Dale and Barbara aren’t related.
My father lived downstairs on the left. My uncle and aunt lived upstairs. My mother’s sister and her family lived downstairs in the red house, which was yellow brick back then and all the porches were screened. This photograph is from Google maps.

Before my mother’s sister Mary V. Elkins and her family, moved into the flat on Calvert, my father’s sister, Gladys Evans and her family, lived there.  Jan was a baby. They had just moved back to Detroit after their father got out of the service and stayed with us for a minute on Chicago, then moved to Calvert. When they moved from Calvert to Pasadena, the Elkins family moved into the flat. The Wallaces, who were members of my father’s church, lived upstairs and probably passed on the information that the flat was available.

Related Posts

Some posts about living on Chicago Blvd.  I Once Was a Brownie, Dinner Time (this one also mentions meals on Calvert) and We Never Had Outdoor Lights.

20 thoughts on ““C” is for Calvert

  1. Great work. I didn’t realize how much of your family live on Calvert. It was a popular street. I knew many people who lived there. What ever happened to the Manderville kids? They are in our age range.

    1. I remember the Manderville kids being a bit younger then I was. They lived on Clairmount at one point because my father moved to their lower flat when he moved from Chicago and before he moved on Calvert. I have a photo from one of those books of them in scouts but I don’t remember then in youth fellowship. I don’t know what happened to them.

  2. What really struck me was the SHOCK of seeing the pictures of the houses as they were compared to how they are! The clarity of your pictures always amazes me. I have some of those same childhood memories — especially the roller skates and the bike-riding.

    1. Yes. It’s jarring to be google mapping down the street and the houses look fine and then all of a sudden, a house with not just grass that needs cutting but a destroyed house.

  3. So much in this post! paper dolls! and the books you read when your mom was occupied, didn’t we all read them! i wrapped mine in foil covers, as if that somehow made them inconspicuous. my parents knew, i think, but had determined never to censor our reading. the kaleidoscope of memories is just wonderful. as are the photos, especially the ones of you and pearl. and you, you didn’t take any mess, i can tell. i laughed so hard at “you can’t let that get started.” ha!

    1. It worked because he never tried it again ;-D We only read the books when my mother at class and we were home alone. I don’t know if she knew or not. We put them back before she got home. It didn’t stop us from liking kids books too.

  4. Calvert Street appears to be a delightful street for children, beautiful homes. I remember skirts like the ones you and Pearl are wearing, loved wearing skirts as a child.

    1. Now that I think back, Calvert was one of the best streets I lived on as a kid. There were lots of kids and there was lots to do close enough to go there and far enough to feel you were going somewhere. Maybe it was the age I was too. But it was a good steet.

  5. I was laughing with Angela when I read the part, “You can’t let that get started.” So much meat in this post. Thank you for sharing all your memories with us.

    1. I’m finding this A – Z challenge to be very good for bringing out my memories. I’m glad you’re enjoying them. And you know I’m right, you can’t let people climb up on your porch! ;-D

  6. I’m loving this series on the streets where you’ve lived. Sounds like you had a ton of fun on Calvert, but were feisty if anyone was out of line. Was your mother ever your own teacher? Still admiring all your reading photos including the banner photo.

    1. It was good until I got to Junior high school and got double promoted so I had new classmates who had been there for half a year already and realized everybody could dance but me. I never did catch up. We moved soon after though so that depressing stuff will turn up on Oregon street.

    2. My mother was my teacher the first year she started teaching. She wasn’t very good at that point. We just read the book “Some Day Soon”, as I remember. She improved MUCH over the years!

  7. I’m enjoying your A to Z posts. As usual the photography, google maps, house plans, etc. provide rich contextual information that really bring the text alive.

  8. “You can’t let that get started!” What a great line! I find that through my years as a teacher I hang on to one liners that children have said where I can hear them.

    One little red headed Orphan Annie twin once told her friend that she could “Speak Mexican.” “I can say taco, and burrito, and enchilOdE.”

Comments are closed.