My Neighborhood in the Early Sixties

My neighborhood in the early sixties is about 5 miles east of Battle Creek Michigan.  Just on the edge of the farmlands.  A good majority of the people in the area were involved with the cereal industry.  Kellogg’s, Post, General Foods, and Ralston Purina were all in the area.  My neighborhood was in Emmett Township.  People were hardworking and strong.  The average wage for a factory worker at Kellogg’s, was around $4.50 and hour.  But then again, things were much less expensive back then.  It is all relative.  Dad bought the house on 179 Jono for around $15,000.  That was a lot of money back then.  I remember dad sighing when he would go to the gas pump.  “20 cents a gallon?” he would sigh.  “What’s the world coming to”!

It was a very pleasant neighborhood to grow up in. Sweet smells of freshly mowed grass.  Sweet sweet summer nights, and harsh winters.  The mournful wail of the train whistles, as the freight trains made their way into the “cereal city”. I remember also the huge dead tree about ½ mile away standing in the meadow.  It had been struck by lightening years ago.  Also the wail of the whistle at the Kellogg company in the afternoon.  That is when the workers came home, all maching out with the lunchboxes in hand.  Dad would be home soon.  

I had 3 very close friend that lived on the street.  Greg Habenicht, Carlos Washington, and his sister Carol.  We all stuck together.  Weather it be fishing down at the county park. Or building forts out in the meadow and woods.  And sleeping over at each others house.  Sometimes in tents pitched in the yard.  Smell can be a very powerful memory inducer.  I remember the smell of Greg’s house.  It was not an unpleasant smell.  It was distinctive.  I once borrowed a sleeping bag from the Habenicht’s.  It had that smell.

Before I started school in 1960, I was up bright and early to watch Kaptain Kangaroo.  We had an Zenith black and white console TV.  There was no such a thing as cable TV back then.  An aerial was used.  Either one mounted on the roof or rabbit ears.  The smell of breakfast cooking and coffee brewing.  The kitchen at 179 Jono had a fold down dinette. And As I recall a double oven, and a separate cooking surface.  The living room had a large fireplace with stone mantle.  And directly below, in the basement, another identical fireplace.

Bike riding was the thing to do.  In the early sixties, we were restricted to Jono Road.  No further.  Later on in the late sixties, this restriction was lifted.  The three of us would go as far as Goguac  lake.  This is about 6 miles from where I lived.  So fun!  But in the early sixties when we were restricted to Jono Road we would ride and ride.  We would take hamster water bottles and tape them to our bikes. They were gas tanks.  When the water ran out we refilled them and off we went.  For engines we used cardboard and clothes pins, and attach it to the bikes fender support, so that the cardboard would rub against the spokes of the wheel.  It made a fairly good engine sound.

In the winter, out came the sleds, toboggans, and ice skates.  The yard next to ours had a steep slope. That is where we tobogganed and sled.  Ice skating was done at either the Habenicht’s or our house. They would lay out great sheets of rolled up plastic and build up the snow around the corners.  Then they would fill it up with water and admonish us NOT to go on the ice until they told us we could.  The ice had to be at least 5 inches thick to hold us up.

Winter meant cold and snow.  Us kids wanted blizzards!  We would sit by the radio in the morning and hope that they would call a snow day, and we would not have to go to school.  Most of the time we were disappointed.  The adults did not. Blizzards for us kids meant snow forts and tunnels through the snow.  For adults it meant shoveling the car out so they could go to work.  We would build two forts then team up for snowball fights. All in great fun.

I remember campfires when the Washington’s, the Habenicht’s, and my family would get together and cook wieners, and marshmallows.  Or just having a quiet supper on the patio, on a hot summers afternoon.  Cold cuts and ice tea!  I learned at an early age to like tea! None of my friends could stomach it!

One day I asked my dad if he could put a cover over my wagon.  Like a covered wagon.  He did, using cardboard.  I was fascinated with interior spaces and wanted to ride inside.  My friend Greg would push me around his circular driveway that went from the street, around the back of his house, and back to the street.  He was a good sport and did not mind pushing me.  Then it began to rain, and I wanted to see how well the cover would protect me from the rain.  It did well for a while then it kind of deteriorated.  But that was okay.  I had fun with it.

Trips to the drive in theater was done a couple times a month.  We would pile into the car and off we would go.  Us kids would sit outside and pull down a speaker so we could hear and enjoy the movie.  By the way.  There was always a cartoon before every movie back in those days.

It was a very nice neighborhood indeed.  I have fond memories of way back then!