As many of you already know, I am originally from the Northeast area of Kansas City, Missouri. If you are not familiar with the "old Northeast" or the "North End," you will have no idea what I am talking about. But I'm sure many will remember.
On a recent trip to Kansas City I took time to drive through the old stomping grounds -- from the City Market east through the North End, past the old Gillis Drug Store and on through Columbus Park, and then through the area around Lexington and Garfield (where I lived the first five years of my life).
I looked and wondered what had happened to the little park that used to sit at the end of Prospect on Lexington -- the place where I stepped into a nest of yellow-jackets, got stung numerous times, and ended being so swollen in the face and neck that I was almost unrecognizable. It was a place of Sunday afternoon football games and weekday evening baseball games. And it was so close to so many friends.
I then took a detour south on Montgall to look again at the house where our family lived from my sixth year until I got married in 1981, then headed back across the Lexington Bridge over Chestnut Trafficway and North Terrace "green" Lake, on around past the Concourse, and then up Gladstone past the Kansas City Museum.
From there I followed the bluff east to Van Brunt, then drove south past my alma mater -- Northeast High School, home of the "mighty-mighty" Vikings.
And the memories flowed.
Those were the days of walking downtown on Saturday mornings to look at the instruments at Jenkin's Music, spend hard-earned change at the arcade, maybe take in a movie at the Empire or Midland, eat lunch at the cafeteria, maybe take in a movie at the Empire or Midland theater, and then take the bus home before the sun went down.
They were the days of baseball games at Maple Park and on the fields behind the Montgomery Ward store and at Sheffield Park, swimming and bike riding in Budd Park, and sledding on the hills just west of the museum.
It was a time of neighborhoods with real neighbors and front porches and knowing everyone on the block; a time of knowing that if you misbehaved at one end of the block, your parents would know about it by the time you got home; a time of pickup trucks on the street every morning selling produce and of setting your clock -- almost to the hour and minute -- with when the ice cream truck would come down the block.
Those were the days of walking up "the hill" to grade school and, later, driving an old '63 Chevy to high school; a time of music and music and more music; a time of washing jewelry store windows or working at the hardware store or taking orders at the Hum-Dinger or greeting costumers at the Empire Theater for enough money to fill up the gas tank and make the trip from Armco to Maple Park over and over again -- down the Avenue and over to St. John and then back to the other end of the loop.
Good memories, but boy do I feel old now.