“Once I got to be in seventh grade, eighth grade, we crossed 15th Avenue and nothing ever happened.”
Edited by Nick Ladeau.
Transcript for We All Played Together
It’s the Froebel neighborhood, in Gary. It ran from 15th Avenue on the south end to 11th Avenue on the north end, and it went from Broadway to about Harrison Street. In the middle of that was Froebel school and Froebel Park. On the north end of the school was the football field. And so anybody that’s familiar with that, there were many churches in that area, too. There was St. Anthony’s church right behind us. Across the street from that was St. Emeric’s Church. Two blocks to the north was Holy Trinity and the Romanian Orthodox Church. So we were surrounded by churches. That’s all I can tell you.
Basically, the neighborhood of Froebel itself ran from Madison Street to Jackson Street, from 15th to 13th Avenues. It was not an industrial area, and it was not a business area. So once you got outside, it was, there were, you know, fresh air. That was it. And you know, the kids would be, we’d get turned loose at about 8:30 in the morning after breakfast in the summer, we wouldn’t come back till noon, and then we’d go off at one o’clock and come back at five, and after five, you better be home before dark; otherwise, Dad was not very lenient. He was not lenient at all.
Until I was about in third grade, we used to hang around in Froebel Park because our parents could watch us playing in the park. After third grade, we got to play in St. Emeric’s playground, and the Norton playground, which was on 15th and Tyler Street and Harrison Street. We seldom fought. The older kids that were older than us, than myself, the Bazins, they lived on the north side of our block, and they were probably five or six years older than us, so they hung around with teenagers. And so they would play, you know, we would be playing on the St. Anthony parking lot, and they’d kick us off, and so then we’d go over across the street over to the St. Emeric’s playground and we’d play there. Okay, the only downside, of course, was that the nuns convent was right across, was right next to the playground, and so if you happen to hit a home run, sometimes they would break the nuns window, and then your dad would be having to buy a window. Yeah, so that was pretty much it, but we all played together.
Generally, we were told not to cross 15th Avenue because that was, the 15th Avenue side, on the other side, many black folks lived on the other side, and you didn’t do that. They never told us why, but I would presume that they probably thought they were bad folks, and that something would happen to the kids. Once I got to be in seventh grade, eighth grade, we crossed 15th Avenue and nothing ever happened. You know, we would tell my mom, “Hey, we’re going out.” “Where you going?” “We’re going out to play.” Okay, so we would go over to my friend’s house who lived on 17th and Van Buren. Nobody ever bothered us. He had black neighbors. Nobody ever bothered us. The only person who ever bothered me was a black youngster. And he did. He beat me up. And my older brother came out and said to him, “Hey, you can fight him one on one, but not two, and three on one.” And so the guy’s name was Crawford, that was his name, Crawford, and so my brother Charlie said, “You guys can fight. And if you want to, you can go at it right now, but we’re not going to have two and three on one.” And Crawford was alright with that. So he still, he beat me up. It was an interesting experience. You know, I got a I got a black eye and a bloody nose and that was it. You know, but then, Crawford after that became, you know, we were okay. You know, I’d see him on the street. We’d say, “Hi.” Pass by, “Hi.” And that was it, you know, it was nothing spectacular.
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.