I grew up in a part of Dallas, Texas called Urbandale. The elementary school we went to, was called Urban Park Elementary and was at one time a military school for boys. There is still a historical marker at the school, though the original building has somewhat been swallowed up by portable buildings and a huge add on building to accommodate current students.
Urbandale was every bit a small town when I was younger. We had a small grocery store, a little downtown area with a Motts 5 and 10 store, Rexall Pharmacy, a Dairy Queen and a gas station. I can remember many days of walking to the Pharmacy, Motts, then Dairy Queen with mom and my brother. In fact, Dairy Queen was one of the places my dad liked to go out to eat. He enjoyed the steak finger basket and a chocolate dipped icecream cone on many occasions. I still love Dairy Queen and that their menue hasn’t changed that much. You can still order those things on their menu even now. Our other favorite place was Rexall’s Pharmacy. I still remember the taste of the ice cream floats from Rexall’s soda fountain bar area. The way it was set up always reminded me of a scene out of Happy Days.
In the late 1970’s Urbandale grew a bit and put in a hand wash / car wash and a Hunt’s Hamburgers too! It was the beginning of a turning point for the neighborhood, the competition for Dairy Queen, but we didn’t really know that then.
In the middle of the neighborhood where we lived there was a wonderful little candy shop set up in a house. It was so much fun to walk there. They had a big window in the front of the house so you could see in to the counters filled with candy and cookies, the parking lot was in the front yard. It was there that I bought my first big round sucker and had my first taste of rock candy. They had all kinds of stick candy and liquorice, as well as taffy. I still love the sickly sweet smell of candy shops, though most cannot compare with the smells in that are embedded in my memories of the first one I ever went in too.
There is a park in the area called Parkdale Park, it looks much different now, but then it had a small playground, a dirt walking trail, fields to play in, a baseball diamond, a small concrete swimming pool, and a natural pond that would fill up more in the spring time and support a healthy helping of frogs and minnows, as well as a few picnic areas. The whole area was kept very clean because people cared back then and took care of parks. There was a man who became known as the Guardian. I never knew his name that I can remember, but he was always at the park and people would let their kids go there because he was there all day and if something happened he would take care of it.
Between that tiny pool, where your feet would feel raw after you got out of it because it was such rough concrete, and the YMCA I learned to swim at a young age. The pool at that park was really too small to teach more than a handful of kids at a time to swim in. Mostly they just had free swim days. The whole pool was about four feet deep.
I often played with other kids in the pond, catching tadpoles to take home to my (not so thrilled) mom. She would set up a little habitat in a glass pie pan using pond water, a few rocks and maybe a small stick or two to make it look interesting. It’s wasn’t but a couple of weeks after watching the tadpoles grow arms and legs and then (oops) start hopping all over our den, that mom decided we should have used an aquarium instead. Boy did she get mad at me when she found baby frogs hopping on her kitchen floor!
My generation wasn’t so glued to television and video games, we spent a lot of time in community type of gatherings and outside playing. There was a big hoopla when it came time for Vacation Bible School. It was a huge event at our church with a feast (potluck) included. Our church had different days throughout the year that were basically just a reason for a church wide potluck lunch because they really loved to eat. They had “Old Fashioned Day” where the women dressed up to look like characters from Little House on the Prairie and the men all wore overalls and straw hats, they did 50’s days so they could bring out the poodle skirts and leather jackets, and then there were the different holidays along the way as well. They used to joke about one of the best reasons to come to church was for the food, they were right about that.
As for me, I spent a lot of time climbing that old pecan tree and sitting among the branches, or playing cowboys and Indians with my brother on our bikes in the backyard.
I miss the innocent days and can’t help but be thankful I grew up in a time where it was still okay to accept a banana fudge popsicle from the ice-cream man, rides from the milkman, or listen to jokes from the mailman. It saddens me that my children will never miss those innocent days, because they never really got to experience them, by the time they came along the neighborhood had changed, people had changed, times had changed. Ah….progress, and more people, we grow in some ways, and lose ground in others, it is just the way of things I suppose.
It just makes me more determined to take advantage of the time our family does have together, even if we have to be more careful in order to be safe now.
Cherry Coley ©