Monday, November 6, 2017

Things I Should've Put In The Book, But Didn't- Episode 5

Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?
922 E. Young St - back in the day

In 1974, we moved to Longview and lived in a yellow house on Young Street. This would be our home for the next couple of years until we moved again when Daddy got stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. (Right now he was stationed in Hawaii. We would have moved there with him, I think, but Momma didn’t want to move that far.) Interestingly, this was my SECOND time living in Longview.

In December of 1968 (or January of 1969), my daddy, mom, and I moved to Longview from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Interesting fact: I was born in Kittery, Maine, but I have never lived in Kittery.  My parents lived in Portsmouth, NH, but the base my daddy was stationed in was located across the state line in Kittery. And, of course, so was the base hospital, which was where my mom gave birth to me. Afterwards, we went back to our home in Portsmouth. So although I was born in Maine, I have never actually lived there.

As I was saying earlier, we moved to Longview (the only time in my life I would ever ride on a plane) and settled in a house on Chappell Street. Again, I’ve always thought it was strange that my parents would move to Longview even though they both were from Marshall. But my grandparents were living in Longview at this time, and I don’t think Momma really wanted to go back to Marshall anyway. Daddy was getting sent to Vietnam at this time (and of course, he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at the thought), and he wouldn’t be back until close to the end of the year. I don’t have to say that it was a blessing that he was able to come back at all, alive and in one piece. I believe that this was the second time he had gotten sent there, and thankfully it was the last.

Something else I didn’t learn until much later when I was older was the fact that within my neighborhood, I lived very close to a couple of my future best friends and classmates to this very day- but I didn’t meet them until 1979 and 1982 respectively. In front of my house was a street which ended at Chappell Street. This was Gray Street. And who should live a few houses down from me and who already was a year old was none other than Dennison “D.J.” Johnson and his family. Of course, we didn’t find this out until we were in high school, and we thought that was very interesting, that as babies, we lived a few houses down from one another. I guess it was destiny that we should become best friends someday. The other classmate and my other best friend lived on Chappell Street at the same time I did; We later on thought it was a little strange that our parents didn’t meet one another back then, since they knew just about everyone else on the street, but somehow someway they (and we) wouldn’t meet until way later on. My mom gave me my first birthday party when it came time in September, and she invited all the neighborhood kids to my party. It’s possible (but not likely) that this classmate of mine attended that party. She would’ve been already two at the time (I was turning a year old), so maybe she was there. Her name: Choyce Gray. Later, when we found out we had lived only a few houses from each other back then, I was like, wow, that’s incredible. Again, I think it was God’s destiny for me that I should become best friends with the two classmates who were right down the street from me when we were nothing but babies, and I couldn’t ask for two better friends who have stuck by me to this day-

On the corner of Gray and Lilly Street was my future church home, St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Momma visited there when I was a baby and made a lot of friends- Friends who remained friends when we would move to Young Street five years later. Mrs. Clara, her mother Mrs. Mann, and her daughter, Elaine, who’d babysit me and my sister; Mrs. Daniels, Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright, Mr. and Mrs. Gary, and the Writts and their kids, were some of the people who we enjoyed visiting and who were very nice and kind. Daddy would return home around Christmas of 1969, then we would find out that he was being sent to New Mexico. We moved away from Longview in February, 1970, and would live in Alamogordo, New Mexico, which was where my sister would be born in September of the following year.

When we lived on Young Street, we met a lot of more people in our new neighborhood. Next door on one side was an older couple named Gwen and Sonny Burton. At least, they looked old back then. Years later, they still looked old. But they were very nice and funny people- Sonny used to try and scare Poinsettia, and was very successful doing so. I think he was a pastor back then. Sonny had a daughter named Joyce, who was in the 6th grade at the time I was in the 1st grade. She was very friendly also and kind of had a rough time back then- One of my earliest memories of her was seeing her at school in the hallway about to get a paddling; she saw me and gave me the most pitiful look I’d ever seen, so pitiful I almost wanted to cry for her. She had a hard time in and out of school, and I just felt so bad for her. We also met the Farriers, Ray and Mary, and their daughters, Mary and Gaila. Mary was a year younger than me, but we became friends instantly. Gaila and Poinsettia were basically the same age so they played with one another. We enjoyed going to their house whenever we could, and we had a lot of fun. Behind us, across 14th street, lived a sweet woman whom we called “Sister”. She used to give us money and pecans and fruit, and she was very, very nice. I remember she had a daughter named Karen, who was quite a bit older than us and in high school, but who treated us very nicely also. There were two other high school kids who lived down the street from us and who would come over and visit- Cheryl Coby and Timothy “Boogie” Richardson. Cheryl, who also attended the same church we did at the time, was a sweet and nice person, and I kinda had a little crush on her back then. She’d make me and my sister laugh, and would come by and help Momma keep an eye on us. Boogie was also one of the nicest people you’d ever meet. Although he was gay, he never did anything inappropriate to me or my sister, and my mom trusted him with us, too. He was very funny, loved to dance, and we loved being around him. Last but not least, there was an older couple who lived down 14th street named Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd gave me my first “job” when I was seven years old- I would ride with him to go help him feed his hogs, and he’d give me a quarter, sometimes two, for doing so. (Now I see how I was able to afford buying comic books and gingerbread cakes back then J) What I remember besides Mr. Shepherd being a nice old man who had enough meat in his smokehouse to the point he didn’t have to go to the store to buy it, was that the hogs were the biggest animals I’d ever been around up to that point, their slop STINKED, and their boo-boo smelled even worse- The hogs didn’t bother me, all they wanted to do was eat, boo-boo, and sleep, so it was an early learning experience for me on the taking care of animals.

Then of course, you had your strange ones in the neighborhood, none stranger than Ms. Helen and her five or six kids, and the couple who loved to fight who lived next door to us on the other side, J.T. and Gitchee (just spelling it how it was pronounced). Ms. Helen and her kids lived all over the neighnorhood- one minute they were living on 14th Street, the next minute, they stayed on Young, the next, they were somewhere on Cotton or Oden Street. So, you always saw them walking up and down Young. We couldn’t tell how old Ms. Helen was, because she didn’t look young or old- she just looked and acted strange and just steadily kept having kids. These kids, as one would expect, had some mental issues and they were constantly doing things which didn’t make sense. They would break windows, chase cats, and eat stuff together which shouldn’t have tasted good, but to them, it did. Momma really did not like me or Poinsettia playing with them, but sometimes it couldn’t be helped. One of them we didn’t like playing with at all. It was because of his talent to break wind no matter what (and drop a few bombs), where, or how. And it would always smell as bad as those hogs I helped feed. And his brothers and sisters would always laugh and join in the fun. At first, my sister and I would laugh, but then we realized that this wasn’t normal behavior and the laughter ceased.

Something that definitely wasn’t funny was our other next-door neighbors’ ability to fight one another constantly. I don’t know if J.T. and Gitchee were married or not, but they lived together, and were constantly trying to kill one another.  The police were called over there almost every week. At the time, I admired police work and would pretend I was a policeman arresting people; I loved watching police shows back then also- Adam-12, The Rookies, SWAT, Police Woman, Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Kojak, all of them- (my favorite show at the time was Emergency!, a hospital drama); Little did I realize I had my own police show right next door to me. I was six years old at the time but I have never forgotten what I saw from that couple. There was the time J.T. cut Gitchee’s arm with a butcher knife. I saw that and that was not a pretty sight. There was also the time Gitchee hit J.T. across the head with a large cinder block and knocked him out cold. He was laying on the ground, and then his son, who was small at the time, used the restroom right by him, so to speak. I remember that was a Saturday evening and everyone was screaming and my mom was trying to keep Poinsettia and I inside the house. I went outside anyway because nothing was on TV but Hee Haw, so I could watch my police show out the back door. When I saw Gitchee running toward the prone J.T. with a butcher knife determined to stab him to death, well, show’s over, son- I carried my tail back in the house. (No, she didn’t get to stab him- her brother stopped her)

Then there was the time (which turned out to be the final time) we walked to the store and passed J.T. walking back with a small sack. Momma asked him what he had in the sack, and he said, “A gun.” Momma said, ok, or something like that, and we kept on our way, and he kept on his way. I think that Momma kinda thought (and hoped) he was playing, but unfortunately, he wasn’t. After we came back home, we could hear J.T. and Gitchee having another argument, and then POW! POW! POW! I didn’t have to watch a police show to be able to recognize gunfire. My sister and I hid under the bed while my mom called the police. The police came, but nothing came out of it as far as I knew at that time. Later, we came to find out that after J.T. had went missing for a few days, the police came to search the house and found J.T. dead in a closet. Gitchee confessed she had shot him with J.T.’s own gun, and of course, she got arrested. During all this time, I was more intrigued with the whole thing than being actually scared, but after everything had gone down and ended the way it did, it soured me on police shows and crime and all that, and I never was interested in police work ever again. 

So that’s that as far as the people I met and knew way back in the Young Street days. Next to conclude my look back at those days, I will look at places and things back in the mid-70s Longview. Adios! 

Intersection of Young and Mobberly

922 E Young St. Today

Corner of Young St and 14th Street

Looking East down Young St.

Looking East down Young St. almost 10 years ago- 922 is to the left

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