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.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 : http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  Here are a couple of subjects covered: “Imagine…Being with Jesus” and “The Goodness of the Lord in Troubled Times.”

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The McGregor Library-A Highland Park Treasure

The McGregor Library as I remember it.  (Postcard provided by Pat Wion Hammond)

The McGregor Library as I remember it. (Postcard provided by Pat Wion Hammond)

Before there were computers, smart phones, video games, I Pads, and DVDs, there were books. Growing up, my mother tried her best to instill a love for reading in her children. Before going to bed, she would often read from a book.  I remember her reading a biography of Albert Schweitzer, the Great Locomotive Chase, and my favorite, a biography of Lord Nelson!

Because of Mom’s love of books, I became very familiar with the McGregor Library at an early age.  As a child, the first thing I noticed was the building itself.  It was the most beautiful building in Highland Park.  There was nothing in Highland Park that compared with the grandeur of the McGregor Library.  Even when the library was closed, the golden doors with the two figures on it were very impressive.

The Outer Doors of the McGregor Library: Photo by Courtesy of Anthony Lockhart

The Outer Doors of the McGregor Library: Photo by Courtesy of Anthony Lockhart

Once we would enter the library, I would be awestruck by the size of the library.  I would look left and see the periodical section and the adult section. Straight ahead was the checkout desk, with shelves of books behind the desk. As we entered the library, Mom would remind me that I was to be very quiet in the library. Mom didn’t have to tell me because the building itself communicated that this is a place of quietness, study and reflection.

The interior of the library (in the 1920's) Source unknown

The interior of the library (in the 1920’s) Source unknown

My section of the library was to the right of the entrance.  Mom would direct me to the bookshelves for children.  I would dig right into the books.  The first books that I would check out of the library were by Dr. Seuss.  I just couldn’t get enough of his strange type of humor and bizarre illustrations.

My favorite part of the visit was to look through the stereoscope that was in the children’s department.  The old black and white photos seen through the stereoscope appeared in 3D.  Not only was the 3D effect exciting, but the old photos gave me a glimpse of life in the past.  I would imagine going back into time and visiting the people and the places in the photos.

A stereoscope (Photo from Wikipedia)

A stereoscope (Photo from Wikipedia)

Also, in the children’s section was the famous doll house.  I didn’t spend a lot of time there, so I have this description by another former Highland Parker. “The doll house was absolutely fabulous! It was just to the right in the lobby as you entered the library. The house was a cut-away so that you could look straight ahead at all the floors. I believe it was a tri-level house (but it may have only been two). All of the rooms were furnished; bedrooms with beds; a living room with a sofa and chairs. The house had all the fixtures including miniature people and pets. The house was inhabited by what appeared to be a nuclear family.” (Pamela Galloway)

As I grew older, I left Dr. Seuss behind and the other children’s books.  As a result, my visits to the McGregor Library became very infrequent.  It shouldn’t have happened, but I became interested in sports and other activities.  Mom must have understood this because our visits to the library had stopped.

In the eighth grade, I became reacquainted with the McGregor Library.  Mrs. Smart, my eighth grade English teacher assigned us a research paper.  She mentioned that we needed eight to ten references.  The subject that I choose was the All-America Football Conference.  This football league competed with the NFL during 1946-1949.  However, I had the problem of where am I going to find these references

football4

In 1969, there was no Google; so I had to become acquainted with the adult area of the McGregor library.  The librarian was kind enough to explain the “Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature”.  This was a handy book that catalogued all the articles each year that were written on a certain subject.  I would write down the name and date of the magazine that I needed.  The librarian would take the slip. Soon, she would return with a satisfied smile and the desired magazine.  I spent several days studying dusty, old magazines with articles on the All-America Football Conference.  I was quite happy with my time in the library, but Mrs. Smart wasn’t very impressed by evidence of the grade I received.

Readers Guide of Periodical Literature (From the City College of San Francisco)

Readers Guide of Periodical Literature (From the City College of San Francisco)

This would be my last major foray into the McGregor library.  In high school, I would study at the Highland Park High School library or at home.  I also enjoyed looking through the dusty old books in the used book store across from McGregor Library.  Yes, I would drive past the library, but the wonder of Dr. Seuss, the stereoscope and the Readers’ Guide to Periodicals was gone.

Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was to have lived in a community with a library such as the McGregor Library.  It still is my favorite building in Highland Park.  The modern libraries lack the grandeur of the McGregor Library both on the outside and the inside of the building.  Perhaps, one day, people will again frequent this treasure that many Highland Parkers once enjoyed.

P.S. Here is a link of an interview that Al Jazeera did with Danny Glover inside the McGregor Library in 2009.  They give a twenty second view of the inside of the library at 1:20 minute mark of the video. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2010/06/20106277219669770.html

P.P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I write about spiritual topics such as: “When I am Afraid” and God’s Waiting Room”.