My House, Growing up in Highland Park

The front of our house in 1959?

The front of our house in 1959?

A home is more than rooms, walls, furniture and a roof.  A home is a place of love, learning, and fun.  I am grateful that I spent the first twenty-one years of my life being raised by my parents in a home where I was loved, taught, and encouraged to grow up and live my dreams.

My home was on Candler Avenue between Brush and Oakland. My parents bought our home in 1955, just before I was born. They needed more space because there would be three children in the home. Like most of the houses on my block, it was a very simple wooden frame house. The house had two stories with a small basement. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Downstairs, we had a living room, dining room, kitchen, a hallway, a half bathroom and most importantly a small room that we called the sunroom. This was so named because we had a large window facing south looking into our backyard.

However, a house is more than rooms, it becomes a home because of the people who live there. My family consisted of my parents, my older sister and my older brother. We also had a few pets join our family from time to time. We had a couple of parakeets. Baby Face was the name of our first one. Herman (for Herman’s Hermits) was the second one. For awhile we had a cat that we called Flash; until we realized that Flash was a girl. We changed her name to  Flashina.  Unfortunately, Flashina met an unfortunate end. Mom was tired of Flashina’s fleas. After having the home fumigated twice, Flashina disappeared. I didn’t understand what it meant to “be put down” at the time.

Though my house is gone, I can still see every room of the house. If I close my eyes, I can still see my Dad lying down on the couch in the living room. He is trying to stay awake watching Big Time Wrestling with the Sheik, Bobo Brazil, and a whole cast of unique looking characters. Our television had a round screen. It was a black and white Zenith.

The Zenith Television-1956

The Zenith Television-1956

If I look more closely, it is Christmas. Dad has placed our real tree in the front of the living room. Mom as usual has decorated the living room. We are ready to open our gifts. Mom not only enjoys decorating the living room for Christmas, but for all the special holidays. I am glad that she enjoys the holidays.

As I move to the dining room, I see not only my family around the table, but also my Aunt Francie and cousin Audley.  Aunt Francie has come over to make her specialty, raw kibbee (kibbeh).  I can’t wait to dig into this Middle Eastern delicacy.  I pour the olive oil over the meat and put it in Pita Bread and enjoy this very special treat.

My Aunt Francie in 1987 with our children, David and Anna.

My Aunt Francie in 1987 with our children, David and Anna.

On another day, I see all of us around the table (except Dad because he is working) with a Scrabble board in front of us.  I am the youngest person playing; so I try my best to make words out of the letters. Sometimes I frustrate the rest of the family because I take too long and keep putting letters down that don’t make words. The words: “just put something down” are echoing in my ears.

The dining room is also the special place where we celebrate our birthdays. Yes, there is cake, ice cream, friends and gifts, but the highlight is to hear my Uncle Hussy sing Happy Birthday.  He doesn’t sing it very well, but he does sing it with all of his energy. He is heard above everybody else.

My birthday party in our dining room (1960)

My birthday party in our dining room (1960)

Continuing the tour of my house, I can smell the popcorn popping on the stove. Dad is home and making his favorite dish, popcorn. After the popcorn pops, Dad pours out the popcorn, like it is gold, on our small white kitchen table. Popcorn is always a big treat. Dad also makes some great pancakes once in a while on Sunday mornings.

While in the kitchen, I notice on one of the walls, there are pencil markings.  This is where I stand straight with my back to the wall.  Mom than takes a pencil and marks where the top of my head is.  Look, Jemil, (my middle name) you have grown again. I turn and look at the new line and smile.

My favorite room is the sunroom. This room has a glass door that separates it from the dining room.  My friends and I often play table games here.  I also like the quiet of this room when I am reading. The sunroom also features a phone jack so that we can have some privacy on the phone. This is helpful when the teenage years come.

Some friends in the sunroom with my favorite hockey game.

Some friends in the sunroom with my favorite hockey game.

The sunroom also features a sixteen inch television that Dad bought because he wanted to get channel 50 (UHF). This is where I once watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon. For some reason, I taped the event on a reel to reel tape recorder. It is also the room where I watch the Lions continue their losing ways.

Before going upstairs, my thoughts drift downstairs to the basement. The basement isn’t finished, but it has a small area where there are shelves of table games and some comic books that are stored for safe keeping. In the center of this section of the basement is a small table with a Carrom Board.  Some of my friends are down here with me and we are  playing different games using the Carrom Board.

In the basement playing with the Carrom Board.

In the basement playing with the Carrom Board.

I don’t want to forget that down in the basement is also my grandmother’s Victrola. Dad has played a record on it once. It is a great piece of history.

Did I mention that the basement occasionally floods from the sewers backing up? We are presently experiencing one of those floods. In other words, the comic books aren’t so safe.  My brother has taken his comic books outside in a futile effort to save them by having them dry out in the sun. I don’t think this is going to work out for him.

Now, it is getting dark. Soon, I will be going to bed. Mom sends me upstairs to take a bath. The best part of this time is several of the toy boats that I have floating around in the water with me. The worst part is when Mom comes and washes my hair.  It always seems as though the shampoo gets into my eyes.

Bedtime has arrived.  Mom places me in the bed and then she begins to read a book about Albert Schweitzer. I can’t wait to hear the next chapter. After reading, I say my prayers and Mom kisses me good night. She leaves the room with the door cracked a bit, because I am afraid of the dark. I should not be fearful because I have a six-foot poster of Spiderman behind my bed.

The years have passed by quickly. Dad and Mom are no longer with us, but I thank the Lord for the fact that my parents gave me more than a house. They gave me a warm, loving home. Yes, my children may never see my house as I remember it, but I hope they will appreciate the home that is still there in my heart and mind.

P.S. Here is a link to an article about kibbeh.

Here are a couple more photos:

Here I am with our cat, Flashina

Here I am with our cat, Flashina

Our house in 1972

Our house in 1972

P.S. Please visit my other blog :  Here are a couple of subjects covered: “Imagine…Being with Jesus” and “The Goodness of the Lord in Troubled Times.”


18 thoughts on “My House, Growing up in Highland Park

  1. Enjoyed your memories–well done!

    Your children will appreciate them as you and they get older. I often wish I had asked my Dad-an Italian immigrant-more questions.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I did find the photo from the AV room at Ford school, but it is quite small. It looks like it was a bonus photo to a larger photo. Perhaps, you took this photo?


  3. I grew up on at 245 ferris, 2 houses west of oakland on the north side of the street, i was born in 1957 we lived there until just after the riots, My dad was a HP police officer, . Havner is our last name, i noticed a pic of some boys in an alley that i think was right behind our house. Some may remember our house because i think it was probably the only house in the neighborhood with a built in pool. For some reason the only friends name i can remember is a kid name quentin campbell, i know i used to play ball with a group of guys all the time but age hasn’t done my memory well and cant remember a single name. There was a family next door to us with a cpl girls, the Hunts. The only teacher i remember is my kindergarten teacher Miss. robbins, we were only on ferris from K-4th grades, before that we lived on pilgrim and highland streets. Oh i do remember one of the people who has posted on your blog, the Wickham fellow, well i remember the name any ways our dads were both cops together. If anyone remembers me send me an email at or i’m al hardwood havner on facebook.
    One other thing i seem to remember and no one else i talk to about HP remembers it, a little store next to the theater that sold carmel corn???

  4. Excellent tale of your wonderful memories…… as that’s really all we have left. Cherish them. I really enjoyed your story. I often wish I could go and re buy my house back on Stansbury in Detroit. . 🙂

    • Thanks for taking the time to read my post and commenting on it. I started writing these posts for my children, but I have been surprised by the many people who have similar stories and memories.

  5. I grew up in Dearborn Heights and then Plymouth but being born in 1960, alot of the memories were the same.*Channel 50, Dad on the couch ‘resting his eyes’, the unfinished basements and sunrooms… Many of my relatives lived in Detroit including my grandmother who lived in the Redford High area as well as aunts and uncles who were teachers, fireman and policemen. (they had to reside in the city of the Detroit back then- is that still the case?)

  6. Bro:
    Don’t forget; Dick the Bruiser and Leaping Larry Shane..
    Your brother Wayne’s favorite was the Sheik and his famous “CLAW” hold… Thanks for the memories. I have been tmendously blessed as I related so closely to very much of what you have stated in your blogs Mark. Thank you.

    Of course I knew you mom, dad, sister and brother and spent many a day in your home and even sleep overs with my buddy from Kindergarden forward, Wayne..

    I remmeber your dad taking us in his car out Six Mile Rd. to Silversteins army surplus on weekends. I remember playing off the wall in the alley, bounsing the ball off the alley onto the big garage wall.. Tiny tots at For Field and wiffle ball in your back yard and then counting every time we hit it into the neighbirs yard 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 … while you would run and retrieve the ball, Mark. You were pretty fast!

    Your brother and I played class F hardball and bro, Wayne would come to my house and patently wake me at my bedroom window at 250 candler, on Saturday mornings to go and play ball at Ford park or Ive’s field. those were special times…

    Your friend,
    Matt Sarkela

    • Yes, those were great days in HP. I also played class F baseball. I do hope to write about it sometime in the future. The strange thing about class F baseball is that we had no adult direction or coaches. There was only an adult as the umpire.

  7. Mark reading your comments bring back so many memories of early life in HP. I remember the alleys as our play area. We played kick-the-can and kick ball and the alleys were clean! I remember that so many neighbors had Holley Hocks growing along back fences which added color and old fashioned charm to that area.

    We had a big empty lot on the corner of Glendale and Lincoln. In the winter the boys made snow forts armed with snowballs as weapons. Much ground was lost and gained. One large tree stood on the lot but got too big to climb. Kitty corner from us was HP General Hospital and when we heard the sirens we would go running to see if anything gory would be going on but we were mostly disappointed. My Mom worked in the hospital kitchen for awhile setting up the patient trays and when she would take me to work with her on occasion I felt so important putting the napkins and utensils on those trays set into dumb waiters to go up to the patients. . Now at our local hospital, a patient makes a call to the kitchen for food at any time. In college I went to work in the Admitting Department of HPGH and learned to use a teletype to send insurance information to Blue Cross. I also would use a machine that typed patient information on metal tags. No plastic bracelets then. We hand wrote the names of admitted patients in a very large book. Strictly low tech. My Dad worked for the HP Water Dept. so nepotism ruled as one other summer I worked in the Treasurer’s office at City Hall. I learned then that I never wanted to work in an office. The full time clerks left all of their filing to the summer help–boring!

    There were so many wonderful facilities and activities that took place in that city. People find it hard to believe when I tell them that every grade school had a library and swimming pool. I’m so glad I was lucky to live and attend school in Highland Park.

    • Betty,
      Thanks for sharing some of your memories. Anytime, you would like to write an article in my blog about growing up in Highland Park, I will be glad to share it. You have some great memories of HPGH. Could you write about your memories of the hospital? I know a lot of people would enjoy reading about the hospital. I was only there once when I fell and hit my head so I don’t have any memories to share.
      I have found the photo of me in the AV room of Ford School. I will write about it when school starts again. I do hope that you are keeping well. Again, thanks for reading my blog and commenting on it!

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