I will begin on the corner. Despite not sharing a Vincent Avenue South address because the front door faced West 43rd Street, the Linden Hills library was definitely part of my block. The stately Carnegie library era brick building served as a second home to me and was among the most influential of my neighbors. From the lower level children’s room (with colorful storybook tiles at the hearth of the fireplace) to the left of the base of the stairs to the French doors to the right that led to Story Hour which I consider to be my first formal education. I spent many childhood days imagining the grand manse as my house. I learned a lot at that library.
The house next door had an entrance off the driveway to a basement beauty salon. Cleaning combs there and dusting an impressive collection of Avon bottles (housed in a lit cabinet with glass shelves) was among my first jobs. After my father passed away, I do not believe my mother ever paid for another haircut while living on that street. The house next to that was situated at the highest point on either side of the street and had an impressive set of stairs and a steep driveway. My best friend grew up in that house along with her five sisters. We played in the yard, the front porch and the basement. The living room was where we would lay for hours in December and play I-Spy with the Christmas tree which did not have a square inch that was not covered in beads, garlands, ornaments or actual toys. The kitchen is where some of the best food I have ever eaten was prepared.
Next to my best friend’s home is the home where my parent’s best friends raised their children. The sold sign is in the yard as I write this. They are a family who I have been fortunate to have known members from five generations of. Beside them lived a family with two sons who were older than my own brothers. Currently there is a young family with red-headed children residing there. The next home was directly across the street from the one I grew up in. When I was little it was owned by the Loveland family. The Lovelands had six children; Lisa, Patty, Roger Jr. the twins Betty and Bruce and the baby Shelly when they lived on Vincent. I recall that one of the twins fell out of the tree house in their backyard. Despite having a house filled with children, the mother volunteered for church and Scouting and was the woman who hosted rummage sales most frequently. The neighborhood had a big potluck send-off when they moved “Up North” in the early seventies. They bought a resort (Loveland’s resort on Moonlight Bay) and had two more daughters. Later a Minneapolis police K-9 officer, his wife and two children lived there and I would babysit for them. Several families lived in that house after the Lovelands, I have retained none of their names, despite the fact the Lovelands moved away nearly forty-five years ago.
The next home was meticulously cared for. The father was a fire fighter who modeled for a local department store’s catalogs. They had two sons and two daughters who were older than my brothers. I loved seeing their teenage daughters dressed for formals when I was little. The charming little house next door belonged to the Richard’s. They had one son, Chucky, who fell in age between my two brothers. My brother Steve recalls that is where he went for lunch in elementary school while my mother and brother Robert went to England to visit my grandparents. He loved the home-cooked lunches she made. As I recall, Betty Richards became the first widow on the block. When my mother was widowed, the two of them grew close, even working part-time at a little diner on the next block. When another neighbor could not get Betty to answer the door for their regularly scheduled Scrabble game she came and got my mother who is the one that found Betty, who had gone to be with Ralph.
The next house seemed to be the largest on the block or perhaps that is because it was nestled between two more petite domiciles. Jeff, Margaret, Liz, Tricia, Martha, Kris and Catherine were the seven children, in that order. Most were athletic and their mother still resides there. A couple of summers ago while walking down the street with my daughter we noticed a cat and I said “That probably belongs to the Longs.” The first time I ever saw kittens was in a box in their entryway closet, so little their eyes had not yet opened.
Last summer I took my son to a moving sale at the next home. I wanted him to see the size of the kitchen that my friend’s mother created meals in three times daily for years. I own rugs bigger than the dimensions and there were two doorways that took up wall space as well; the entry and a corner door leading to the basement. When I went by this past week the house was gone and the foundation for a new home had been laid. My friend Laura was the youngest and only girl of the five children raised there. I spent many afternoons watching programs with her and her mother such as Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin and summer evenings watching Mary Hartman and Fernwood Tonight. I smoked my first cigarette on a school bus in their backyard, the bus had been painted green and converted for hunting and fishing trips. I’m pleased to have some table linens that Mrs. Berquist had done handiwork on. She passed away recently after a short bout with cancer.
As a child the house beyond Laura’s is where the Hill family lived, three girls and their little brother. Laura and the youngest daughter Bonnie have always remained friends and I saw her and her mother for the first time in decades while attending Mrs. Berquist’s funeral. When the Hills moved out, the Bones moved in. Mrs. Bone and Mrs. Berquist became good friends over the next forty-three years and Mrs. Bone gave a lovely tribute to her dear friend at her funeral. The Bone home is now on the market.
Three houses remain at the end of the block. One I believe was a rental and looked more like a cabin one might see at a summer camp. Unlike the rest of the block where many neighbors remained consistent for fifty years, I never knew any of the occupants there. The next home was the dwelling place of three boys that were all within a year of me and my siblings, the parents had another entire family of children who were already adults and no longer lived at home. I remember the mother as being worn, her three youngest each a bit of a handful.
Finally we have arrived at the house on the corner. I always believed a grown brother and sister lived there. Their garage was accessed from behind the house, around the corner and as a result I never recall seeing the woman. The brother used the bus and always walked down his side of the street briskly, often carrying what appeared to be a gym bag. He was neither friendly or unfriendly, just consistent in his quick pace and focused on his destination. For years he had a small black and white bulldog that resembled him and he walked it with the same sense of purpose.
It was a great place to grow up. At one point during my youth, there were over forty children living across the street from me, some went on to be business owners, served in the military, one became a politician. Many had children of their own but in smaller numbers than the heyday of the 1960’s when they were children, growing up on a kid-filled street where we were all free to roam.