Every time I visit my mother, sister and other family in Savannah, I make it a point to walk to the old neighborhood in which I grew up. Mama now lives in the Ardsley Park neighborhood.
The walk to Fairway Oaks where I lived until I was 15 and back is 4.6 miles, according to the handy, dandy fitness app on my Apple Watch. I realized as I walked that I read the Dick Tracy comic every day when we lived there and marveled at Tracy’s watch phone. Now, 55 years later, I actually have a watch with a phone and so many other apps I have only tried to use a few of them.
The area around Fairway Oaks has changed drastically but the neighborhood itself is virtually the same. There is a historic marker at the entrance noting the subdivision was one of the first planned communities in the country.
All the houses I recall except one are still there. That one has been replaced by a sleek, California-style abode that is cool but woefully out of place among the ranches and bungalows.
The entrance road is Althea Parkway. It seemed a lengthy parkway indeed when I was small but is really only two blocks long. As I walked, I took in the shallow ditches and, in my mind, I could hear the ‘whop’ of our skimboards hitting the standing rain there as we ’surfed’ our way to multiple cuts, bruises, abrasions and the occasional trip to the emergency room.
I turned onto Harlan Drive where we lived and recalled the names of everyone who lived in the houses as I passed them. I got to our modest former home at 117 Harlan Dr. that we moved out of in December 1969 and the memories flooded back.
Daddy teaching me to cut grass, countless football and baseball games on the yards, basketball games in the driveways and, sadly, the day Sassafras our Dachshund decided to chase a motorcycle. Both the bike’s wheels rolled over Sassy. She ran to some bushes and died.
We were crushed. No pets had ever been killed on our street. While Daddy buried her, Mama gave us ginger ale to drink. I have a distaste for ginger ale to this day.
That was followed by the remembrance of the time I bought an ice cream sandwich from the truck that circled through almost daily filled with dairy delights. I got food poisoning, was sick as a dog and still cannot look at an ice cream sandwich without gagging.
Mostly I remembered all our playmates. There was a gang of us guys, sprinkled with a few girls, who roamed the neighborhood. We had heated BB gun wars in a big ditch we called Snake Canyon and got into all sorts of mischief.
As I walked the neighborhood at 10:30 on a Saturday morning, I didn’t see a single kid.
I wondered where they were.
I wondered if they knew what they were missing by not getting outside.