A Wonderful Childhood

“We had a village out there in Small Farms.”

Transcript for A Wonderful Childhood

I grew up in the Midtown section of Gary. It was a place called the Small Farms. It was called that for a reason because where I lived there were no sidewalks, no paved streets. I remember as a kid, we had cows and chickens and hogs and those kinds of things. Yeah, right here in Gary, Indiana.

I grew up in an environment, which – a lot of people may find it hard to believe now when they look at you and suppose that you’re in a different state – but I grew up in a household where the matriarch and patriarch of my household was my grandmother and grandfather. In fact, there were four adult families in my household, so I know what it’s like to sleep seven deep. We didn’t know any better. We thought everyone had to compensate in that manner. It was a wonderful environment. I had three sisters, two brothers, but of course if you cumulatively look at my household, counting my uncle and my cousins, then I probably had about ten brothers and maybe eight sisters and a couple of mothers and fathers. It was not a typical environment but we managed to make it nurturing.

A typical day, we’d actually have to get up, feed the chickens, get the eggs, in fact we had to slop the hogs. We had dogs, of course, so you’d have to feed the dogs. It just depends. If it was a school day, those things were done early and when you got home, if there were any chores that needed to be done, of course they were done – you’d never tell your parents you wouldn’t do it. And if it was in the summertime, then that’s when, because it was an area, a wooded area, as I mentioned it was dirt roads, so there’s a lot of house cleaning that had to take place. You had to whack weeds, you had to pull weeds, I had to help my grandmother in the garden.

I then had a wonderful childhood because we were able to get out into the streets, we played football in the street. We did things that others couldn’t do with pavement and concrete as a hindrance to their playful activities. So, I was very, very pleased with the area that I grew up in. Of course, being in Gary at the time it was an all-black community. It was also a community that was very well intertwined. When you talk about how it needs a village, well, we had a village out there in the Small Farms. Everybody was everybody’s parents. We played, we behaved, we conducted ourselves in a manner in which I think lead to most of us being successful adults. Now we had our playful, youthful interactions of course and, like any other kids, there were some things we wouldn’t tell our parents that we did, but, all-in-all, it was a wonderful experience growing up in the Small Farms of Gary.

Hold a Conversation

Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.