Growing up in an Ideal Neighborhood

Our neighborhood on Darling Street in Ogden, Utah was an ideal place to grow up. Your Zeus and I had three really good friends our age that lived on our street - the Albright twins, Kent and Jerry, and Robin Frieze - and we did everything together. We also called ourselves the "Darling Street Gang", but it was a term of friendship used only to identify our group, not because we were a real gang. In the picture below, from left to right are four members of that gang: your Zeus at about age 7, Kent and Jerry Albright, also about 7 and me, about age 8 - the pretty girl behind us is our cousin Nancy, about 5 years of age.

Darling Street was wide and gave us plenty of room to play. In the winter, when the road was packed with snow, it was one of the best sledding hills in the city. We all had Flexible Flyer sleds and became very adept at running and "slamming" our sleds down on the road to get extra speed, then racing each other down the hill all the way to the bottom, where the city had sprinkled sand to stop our descent so that we would not run across the road on Jackson Ave. In the summer, we would play a ball game called "knock-up and lay-down", where the batter would hit the ball as far as he could up the street, then lay down the bat so that the catcher could roll the ball down the street to try to hit it. If he was successful, it was his turn to hit the next ball up the street. Some days we played that game for hours.

We also played the tag game "Fox and Goose" and used the entire neighborhood to hide. The person that was "it" (the Fox) would lean on a tree and count to 20, then yell, "Ready or not, here I come" and run off to try to find the others (the Geese) and tag them before they could get back to home base. Sometimes we hid so well that, after a quarter of an hour, the Fox would give up and yell, "Allee, allee ox in free" and all of us would come out of hiding and return to the home base without worrying about being caught. And then we would do it all over again. Your Zeus was a fast runner, and if discovered usually could outrun any of us and got back to home base without being tagged.

Better than the street, at least for us guys, was a vacant lot (something quite common when we grew up) just two doors up from our home. Oh what great times we had there! Each summer we would dig a hole in the ground, then use scrap lumber from building sites near where we lived and built a "club-house" over the hole. Only members of the Darling Street Gang and very special guests would be allowed to enter. Every night during the summer we assembled at the club-house and built a fire in a rock pit outside, then tossed large Idaho Russet potatoes into the fire where they would cook to a wonderful texture and had a heavenly taste, even though we had to peel off a charcoaled skin to get to the core of the potato (we didn't have aluminum foil in those days, and probably would not have used it if we did). We kept salt shakers in our clubhouse on a little shelf cut in the side of the hole, and would sprinkle salt on the potato, take a bite, sprinkle more salt and then take another bite until the potato was gone, charcoal dust and all. The potatoes cooked in this fashion we called "Murphy's", I guess because we associated them with Irish potatoes and Murphy was an Irish name. At least once a week (usually on Saturday night) we would use the fire instead to cook what we called "Mulligan Stew". Everyone would bring something to toss into a big steel pot filled with water that was set up in the fire - potatoes, carrots, onions, salt, pepper, left-over chicken or hamburger from one or more of our homes, and even Elk steak from the freezer of another, later member of the Darling Street Gang whose name was Leon Livingston, but who we called Lem (he had moved to Darling Street - to a home right next to the Albright twins - from Alpine, Wyoming, where his family had been ranchers and Elk hunters). We called him Lem because he was from the country - we thought that was funny, and he was a good sport about it.

Your Zeus and I were very competitive, even at an early age - a competition that was at most times silly, but sometimes ended with us fighting, and that lasted for most of our childhood though it began to wane toward the end of our teens. Here are just a few examples:

 

1. At dinner, we would actually count peas to make sure we had the same number on our plates.

2. We slept in a bedroom in the basement of our house and shared a very large bed (it used to belong to our uncle Matt, who was more than 6 feet 7 inches tall, and who had the bed especially made for him) and would draw a line on the sheet with a crayon, right down the middle of the bed. I would yell up through the floor to where our dad was sitting in a chair in the living room, "Dad, Larry has his hand on my side of the bed", and of course he would do the same when my foot strayed onto his side - usually we did those things to get that reaction from the other.

3. At age 8 or 9, when we found a nickel, instead of buying a 5 cent candy (that's all a Snickers bar cost then) and splitting it in half, we would have the grocer give us five pennies, each take two and throw the extra penny away - at least that is what your Zeus said he did when he cocked his arm and heaved the penny over the neighbors house, but given his later ability to earn money, I suspect he pocketed the extra penny for another day.

4.Up until we graduated from High School, we also competed to see who would ride in the front seat of our car, next to our dad, on the many occasions when our family would go for a ride (more about that later). The first one to yell, "I dibs the front seat" - dibs meant chose - would ride there, and the other would ride in the back with our poor mom and sister, who never got to ride next to dad, unless they were alone with him in the car.

Didn't I tell you that most of the times our competition was silly - these stories prove that!

Finally, we also did other things that annoyed each other. Your Zeus would drive me crazy eating corn nuts in bed every night - they were hard and very crunchy so chewing them made a very loud noise. When he wanted to really annoy me, he would eat the nuts with his mouth open. I annoyed your Zeus by whistling, which I did when I was happy or when I was upset. I thought I sounded great, but your Zeus could have killed me. He would hold his hands over his ears or go out of the room - when I really wanted to annoy him, I would whistle with a trill.

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