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.”


Winter Memories in Highland Park

My friend and I in 1959 (Candler Ave. between Brush and Oakland)

My friend and I in 1959 (Candler Ave. between Brush and Oakland)

In spite of being in my fifties (I do hate to admit this), I still have a love for winter that I had as a child. Winter was not only Christmas, but it was also a special time of year for me.  My memories of winter are probably similar to other people who grew up in the fifties and sixties.

The memory of snow coming down excited me. The snow meant making snow forts, snowmen, and having snowball fights. Unfortunately, the snow in the playground at Midland School was wasted during recess because snowball fighting was not permitted.    I never tried to break this rule; so I never did discover what the punishment would have been.  It was one of those rules that I didn’t understand in elementary school.

Winter also meant cold weather. As a Safety Boy, my corner was at Brush and Ferris. It was the furthest post from Midland School. The winter meant cold mornings doing what I thought was a very important job. When the temperature reached ten degrees, all the Safety Boys would get free hot chocolate in the gym. This may not seem like a great perk, but at the time the hot chocolate sure tasted good.

One day, in second grade, the temperature went down to minus twelve degrees.  Mom didn’t see a problem with the cold; however, she did drive me to school that day. There were only four other students in our class. This made for a very long day for the five of us as well as our teacher, Mrs. Schlabach (sp?).

One year, we experienced a big snow storm.  I am sure that we had a couple of rare snow days. When we returned to school, several of us on our walk home took a detour through Ford Park. We were quite pleased to see that the city had dumped a lot of the excess snow by the track. These dumps made perfect snow mountains where we could play, hide and toss snowballs from our hideouts. This lasted for several days, which made for a very slow walk home.

Whenever we had snow, the city would do a great job of taking care of the snow on the streets and even in the alleys. Dad didn’t appreciate the snow being thrown upon his car, but we didn’t have a garage. There was also the small snow plow that plowed all the sidewalks. This was an expensive luxury which in my later teen years had ceased to exist.

As I became older, I also learned that winter meant work.  I soon would be recruited to shovel snow on our sidewalks.  To me, it seemed like our sidewalks never ended. Obviously, shoveling the snow was not my favorite part of winter.

Winter also meant that I would spend more time inside the house, watching more television than I should.  Of course, there was Captain Jolly at 6:00 P.M. and then there were the Hanna-Barbera cartoons at 6:30 P.M.  My favorites were Quick Draw Mcgraw, Yogi Bear, and Huckleberry Hound. I felt fortunate that there was an alternative to the 6:30 P.M. news. Living in the Detroit area meant that we had access to Channel nine out of Windsor, Canada.

Captain Jolly

Captain Jolly

Besides watching television, we would have family game time. We enjoyed playing Jeopardy, Password, and especially Scrabble.  I always enjoyed trying to make up my own words with the tiles given to me.  My favorite sentence was: “Is this a word?”  My mother was quite patient with me during these games, though my older brother was not amused.

One last thing about winter that I remember was how cold my bedroom would become. The heat from the basement barely made it up to my second floor bedroom.  After reading me a story mom would cover me up with several covers and give me a kiss goodnight.

The winter appeared to go on forever. The snow stayed on the ground for three months. However, the snow would eventually leave the ground. The temperatures would rise, and spring would arrive. The snowballs would be replaced by baseballs. The hot chocolate would be replaced by Hires Root Beer. With the warmth, we would return to the alley to play our favorite games. However, the joy of winter would come again.


Christmas Memories of Growing Up in Highland Park

My brother and I (Christmas-1959?)

My brother and I (Christmas-1959?)

“The helicopter is coming!”  This would be one of the greatest highlights of my young life.  Yes, I had sat on Santa’s lap at Hudson’s and Sears and Roebuck’s, but this would be special.  Santa was arriving at Ford Park in a helicopter.   The helicopter soon landed and there he was!  Santa  climbed out of the helicopter as gracefully as possible for a man of his girth.  He then gave a hearty “Ho Ho” and passed out candy to all of us children.  I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come.

Reflecting back upon my Christmas memories, takes me to a time where life was quite simple for me.  My parents helped make Christmas the special and joyous time of year that it was.  Here are several random memories of my Christmases as a child growing up in Highland Park.

Our Christmas season would begin on Thanksgiving.  Dad would make all of us sit in front of our black and white television and watch the Hudson’s parade through the streets of downtown Detroit.  The floats were a sight to see for a young child as well as the marching bands.  However, one of my greatest memories is Dad’s complaining about Sonny Eliot talking too much during the parade as he did the commentary.  He would also say: “Why do they have so many commercials? They are wrecking the parade.”  Yet, every year, he would have us in front of the television for more of Sonny Eliot’s jokes and more commercials.

The other highlight of the parade was Santa Claus coming at the end of the parade.  As a child, I thought he was the real thing.  He sure looked the part.  To this day, I never have seen a better Santa than the one that would stand in front of Hudson’s and receive the keys of Detroit from the mayor.

The "real" Santa Claus-Photo by permission from:

The “real” Santa Claus-Photo by permission from:

The next step of the Booth Christmas was to check out the Christmas lights in downtown Detroit as well as a brightly lit neighborhood somewhere off of West Outer Drive.  The lights in Downtown Detroit gave me great joy as I would say: “Look at those lights!”  There was nothing like the lights in Downtown Detroit during the Christmas season.

Hudson’s Christmas lights-1960: With permission from:

I also enjoyed the lights on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park.  Early in my childhood, the lights would be surrounded by real evergreen and wrapped around the light poles.  The real evergreen around each light pole made Woodward look classy during that time of year.  I never did like the artificial lights that the city eventually used on each pole.  I am sure it was cheaper, but it also looked cheaper.

After the parades and lights, the next step in the Booth Christmas was the Christmas tree.  I have shared this adventure in my previous post, but looking back I appreciate all that my parents did to make our Christmas tree a sight to behold, at least from the perspective of a young child.

During our preparations for Christmas, Mom loved to decorate the house with all sorts of Christmas decorations.  She always loved to make the house as joyful as possible during this special time of year.  She would also lay out several Christmas books.  My favorite was “The Night Before Christmas”.  I would love for Mom to read it to me. It made my anticipation for Santa’s coming even greater.

Christmas Eve created a great amount of excitement in our home.  The lights on the tree were lit.  The cookies and milk were placed by the tree for Santa Claus.  Once, when I was a bit older (maybe six years old), I asked my parents, “How can Santa Claus come into our house?  We don’t have a chimney.”  Dad had the perfect solution.  He told me: “We will leave the front door unlocked for him.”  At the time, it made perfect sense to me.

Before going to bed, the last thing I remember doing was turning on the television and checking out Santa’s present location.  At that time, a local commentator would come on throughout the evening giving us the location of Santa and his sleigh via “radar”.   Dad and Mom would then say: “He is getting closer, you need to get to bed.”  I didn’t argue.  Six o’ clock in the morning couldn’t come soon enough.

Christmas Day began early for us.  Looking back, I realize that it was because of me everybody would wake up at 6: 00 A.M.. We would head downstairs to check out what Santa Claus had brought.  Every year, Santa would bring exactly what I had placed on my list.  I always was excited about the toys and games that I received from Santa.  However, the one gift from my parents was always the same, clothes.  This didn’t bring me much excitement.

My parents went out of their way to make my Christmas a special time of year.  They sacrificed a lot to keep the wonder of Christmas for us.  I never thought about thanking them for everything they did.  As I reflect back upon my early years, Christmas revealed how self-centered I was.  Christmas seemed to be all about me and what I wanted for Christmas.

It wasn’t until later did I really understand the true meaning of Christmas.  I remember songs like “Hark, the Herald” and “Joy to the World”.  I knew that there was a baby born in a manger named Jesus, but I didn’t know Him.  I didn’t know that He (God in the flesh) came to earth to die for my sins.  When I was nineteen years old, I finally received the greatest gift.  The gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ, my Lord.

There are many other memories of my childhood Christmases, such as the Ford Rotunda, and Hudson’s 12th floor, but I will save those for a later post.

P.S.  Please check out my other blog in which I write upon spiritual topics.  Here is a link to my Christmas post called: “The Wonder of the Babe in the Manger” Here is the link:

P.P.S.  Here is a link for more photos of the old Hudson’s store: