When I looked up my old street address on Google, I was also given the opportunity to get a photographic view of the house where I spent most of my childhood up to fifty years ago. The house in the middle fronts on where Eldamere runs into East 176th Street. On the left side of us lived the Smiths; on the right, the Fordosis, our “enemies.” The photograph makes the front yards look much bigger than they were by about a quarter. The tree hides the window to my second story attic room, where I spent much of my time doing my homework and reading.
We were just a few houses in from Harvard Avenue, where Charley Fontana’s corner grocery store was located. Once, when I was little, William Boyd, the star of the Hopalong Cassidy television series, stopped at Fontana’s and was mobbed by little kids, one of whom was me. He handed out embossed plastic commemorative coins stamped with the name Hopalong Cassidy.
About half a mile left on Harvard was Saint Henry’s Church and School, where I attended grades two through eight. (Don’t tell anyone this, but, to my eternal shame, I never finished first grade.) Then I spent four years at Chanel High School in Bedford, which was renamed St. Peter Chanel before it blinked out of existence last year.
It was a pretty nice neighborhood when we moved there in the late 1940s. Because most of the houses were pretty new back then, the streets were barren. Now they are flanked by large trees that were just getting started when we moved to Parma Heights. By then I was at Dartmouth College and was way too sophisticated to care.
What made us move out was a real estate practice known as blockbusting. The early 1960s were a time of racial tension. When real estate salesmen paraded potential black buyers to neighborhood houses, the existing residents—including my family—panicked and sold out. We thought the neighborhood would become an evil slum like the Hough District just east of downtown. It never did: The new owners apparently were just as intent on making it a nice place to live as the Hungarians and Poles who left the area.
When I returned in 1998 to look around with my brother, we were pleasantly surprised.