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Good Neighbors




I grew up during a simpler time. This isn't necessarily because times are more complicated today than they used to be (although we certainly have more technology at our disposal now), but it is because children often see (and remember) things in much more simpler terms than when their brains become better developed, and they have to directly contend with so much more of the world as adults. So, yes, things were pretty complicated -- and even dangerous -- when I was a kid, but they seemed simple more often than not.


Part of my little cocoon-like world growing up at 605 S. Draper St. was the wonderful neighborhood in which my parents and I lived. The neighbors during my first ten years spent at this residence consisted firstly of Bob & Wanda from across the street. Bob worked at Country Companies Insurance, when they used to have an office where a Walgreens stands now. They were always nice to my folks and I. The Oyes lived up the street, on the corner of Green & Draper. Keith & Angie (the kids) were older than I was, but they both humored me when I wanted to play, and Angie used to babysit me sometimes. Truth be told, I kind of had a crush on her.

Next door to us, to the north, were sisters Gibby and Marcella. It was only recently that I learned that Marcella didn't actually live there, but I thought she did, as she seemed to be over there a lot. They were both splendid, gentle women, who always had time to allow little Matt to visit with them. Next door to them were Pat and Don, and their dog, Boo. Pat and Don were ok, but Boo was, well, not a nice dog. One day I toddled over a tad too far into the yard of Don and Pat, and Boo set that to rights real quick.

Our neighbors next door to the south were Cecil & Bea. Cecil pretty much kept himself to himself. Bea was one of those exceedingly nice old ladies who prattled-on a bit, but the warmth and niceness she exuded was sincere. The family that bordered our back yard to the south, the Pierces, were a lot of fun. They had several girls, and we would all amiably converse across our mutual fence during several summer evenings spent in the backyards. Mr. & Mrs. Shirley lived on the corner of John & Draper. Mrs. Shirley is still there, although Mr. Shirley passed away years ago. I'll never forget the time my dad fell out of his chair watching Mr. Shirley attempt to get his car up their ice-covered driveway.

And, last but certainly not least, is Bob & Alice. This lovely elderly couple lived directly behind us. Our backyards met at a low fence, and Alice would often call to me whenever I was playing in the sandbox. I'd run over to her at the fence, and we'd chat, typically finishing with her giving me a cookie. Sometimes my folks and I would go over to their house for an evening where they'd play Yahtzee and I would, well, just chill. Bob & Alice babysat me on a few occasions, once when my mom was with my dad at the burn unit in Springfield. It was then Alice introduced me to the delicious combination of cream style corn on mashed potatoes. Yum.

So, yeah, I grew up very fortunate. We had some awesome neighbors to make our life on Draper St. pretty darn swell. No doubt there are plenty of children across the city, and in the same neighborhood, who feel the same way today. I'm not one of those curmudgeonly adults who shakes their proverbial cane in a fit of nostalgic pique thinking that "when I was a kid...." things were always better.

But, man, they were pretty damn good.

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