Memories of Detroit

In my last post, I mentioned that there were plenty of other stories about the relatively short time my family lived in Detroit. What follows are some more random memories:

  • Getting chicken pox, feeling so scratchy that my mother put me in a baking soda bath. I think my older twin siblings, Dan and Debbie, had it at the same time.
  • The time when my sister, Becky, locked herself in the upstairs bathroom and my brother, Jeff, had to shimmy up the laundry chute to get her out.
  • Me, deciding (on a whim?) to go over to a neighbor’s house to see if a friend could play. The trouble was, the only thing I had on at the time was my underwear.
  • When I had the flu, I distinctly remember projectile vomiting in the dining room. Yeah, gross.
  • I didn’t like bread crusts and insisted on having my PB&J with the bread crusts cut off while sitting at the dining room table for lunch.
  • Watching old Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello movies in the basement.
  • We adopted a dog (I don’t remember from where), a beagle, I think. I remember riding in the back of our station wagon with it and it getting car sick all over the place. I also remember the attempts to house train the dog and having newspaper spread on the kitchen floor.
  • Eating fish and chips at Arthur Treacher’s. I wish those places still existed where we live! I thought they didn’t exist at all anymore but via the Internet, found that some are still around in New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
  • Getting my tonsils out and having to stay overnight at the hospital. I remember waking up in a crib in a strange hospital room in the middle of the night. I climbed out and wandered the halls looking for my parents until a nurse found me.
  • When staying at the hospital after having my tonsils removed, I had my first distinct memory of eating vanilla pudding. It remains a favorite food to this day.
  • Getting my first piggy bank. It had a recorded voice that said something weird for each type of coin that you put in it. The only one I remember was the recording for a dime. “Oh, a shiny dime! That’s ten pennies, you know!”
  • We were convinced that vampire bats lived in the attic of a house down the street near where my grandparents lived. We lived with my grandparents, in their basement, when we first moved to Detroit from Gothenburg, Nebraska in 1971. Then my parents bought a house several blocks down the street.
  • I remember getting my first bike, with training wheels, and riding it on the sidewalk near my grandparents’ house. I also remember riding a big wheel (anyone else remember those?) up and down the sidewalks.
  • Getting scared by a thunderstorm and crawling into my parents’ bed.
  • We had a parakeet for a while but it died after contracting some sort of illness. Parakeets were a favorite of my grandpa McCallum.
  • When going to church, we had to drive over to Windsor, Ontario, and I distinctly remember going through the tunnel under the Detroit River, an exciting experience for a little kid, sitting in the middle of the front seat of the car.
  • Sitting on the kitchen counter at my grandparents’ house, poring over Red Rose tea cards (and later, miniature figurines) with my grandma McCallum. I loved them!
  • One of my fondest memories is from the time when we were living in my grandparents’ basement. (How on earth they were able to put up with a rowdy family of seven kids, I have no idea!). Like most kids, I didn’t like taking naps. My grandma persuaded me that if I took a nap, she would make me a scrapbook and it would be ready when I woke up. I took my nap, and sure enough, she presented me with my very own scrapbook when I woke up. And I still have that scrapbook! It’s one of my most cherished possessions. What a memory.
  • I loved everything about my grandparents’ house, inside and out. I loved their laundry chute, just outside the door to the first floor bathroom. I loved the basement with its nice, pinewood paneling. I loved the painted wooden plaque hanging in that bathroom, above the toilet, that quoted Exodus 39:26. I loved the trapdoor in the ceiling of their garage, with foldout ladder to the storage space above. I loved the flowers in my grandma’s garden in the backyard (especially the petunias that she loved), along with the gazing ball.
  • My grandpa McCallum would take us children to a nearby store where he’d let us pick out candy as a treat (I think we also had ice cream). Of the many candies I remember, the two that stand out the most are candy necklaces and candy cigarettes (yuck).
  • Going with my mother to pick up older siblings from school.
  • My father, wearing a black eyepatch after a welding accident.
  • Eating the plentiful pears from the pear tree in the yard next door to my grandparents’ house.
  • Hearing that my grandma was cooking roast chicken for dinner and saying, “I love chicken!” My grandpa McCallum, sitting at the kitchen table, said, “If you love it so much, why don’t you kiss it?” It was his kind of joke, I guess.
  • Driving with my mother through a certain part of Detroit when shots started firing from a sniper in a nearby building. I remember my mother screaming at all of us to “hit the floorboards” and doing exactly that.
  • Viewing black smoke rising from parts of Detroit due to race riots while standing in our front yard.
  • Climbing up to the attic in our house. I couldn’t have been more than three or four at the time, and the thought of my kids doing that would freak me out, but I guess we were more freewheeling back in the day! I doubt my parents even knew about this.
  • The time when a neighbor kid, for no apparent reason, attacked my oldest brother, Kevin, while he was riding his bike and doing his paper route. This kid knocked him off his bike, straddled him, and began to choke the life out of him. It was a close thing — I’m not sure how and who pulled this kid off of him — and Kevin was badly hurt. My mother was at home with Kevin right after this incident while he was recovering, which is why she wasn’t with us when the car accident occurred that I wrote about previously.
Memories are funny things, but these memories are very distinct in my mind’s eye.

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