Monday, March 12, 2012

Bicycling Around Town

By Guy Sharwood, Groovy Reflections Team Member

When my folks returned to Fresno in late 1958 after spending a few years in Bakersfield, we rented a house five or six minutes driving distance from my uncle's home. My uncle had encouraged his widowed mother and siblings to move to Fresno from Georgia after World War II had ended. All except one brother relocated out here.

Easter of 1959 we had a family gathering at my uncle's. As I did pretty much anywhere we went, I decided to go for a walk. I loved to just walk, but as I discovered, the neighborhood my uncle and aunt lived in was on the tricky side. It was all curves, squiggles and turns. There were no actual streets or avenues, just "drives." Most anywhere else I'd been the streets were sliced straight and easy to maneuver when walking around the block.

Not so with my uncle's neighborhood. In no time I was lost without even realizing it. A man at this one house inquired if I was "lost." I wasn't sure exactly what to say..."No I'm not, I'm right here." I might have said that but I don't remember.

It was then and there that a familiar car pulled up with the whole family in it. When we got back home, Mom whacked me good. Then  we joined the others to dye eggs.

I was five at the time.

But I never got lost after that. Ever.

As I slowly gained more independence over the years, I got increasingly familiar with Fresno. By age eight I was allowed to walk to the supermarket to get gum or a comic book, and return home.

It was a couple of years later that I thought it would be cool to just hop on my bicycle and just travel anywhere in town.

Where I'm writing this from.
Mom was all for it. In the summer of 1964, if I wasn't eating a meal, reading a comic, swimming or watching TV, I was on my bike. And I went all over Fresno--the airport, the Santa Fe Depot downtown and the Fresno State Campus (where I'm typing this). Ironically I loved to cycle through my uncle's neighborhood--the very place where I had gotten lost. Eventually with my brother, we would conquer Roeding Park and Millerton Lake.

Looking back, I am convinced that a chief reason my Mom approved so much of this activity was it got me out of her hair. Mom was an obsessive housekeeper. While gardening was her favorite hobby, she felt obligated to always have a neat, clean house. She wouldn't even have time to look at my drawings or stories, as linens and vacuuming took on a greater priority. Plus it didn't cost her anything if I was out riding.

So if I wasn't around to create additional messes, so much the better. I could make like Lewis and Clark, conquering "uncharted territory." And Mom could enjoy relative peace and quiet while scrubbing the floor or doing laundry.

Another reason I'm glad I grew up when I did. Such an innocent period back then. Mom didn't have to worry about assorted crazies lurking about, the way it is now. They just weren't around back then. They certainly weren't that day I had wandered off from my uncle's house back in 1959.


Joe Haller said...

I was "abused" as a child also. Whacked on the buttocks for various offenses. How come I turned out OK?

Lynda said...

I can totally identify with your mother. Too bad I had to worry about my own children encountering "crazies" or I would have let them wander all over Reedley on their bikes. They did it anyway several times but I didn't like it and they were punished by being grounded.

Andy Ray Phillips said...

Love this reflection, I was age 4 in '59, so I can relate. I wandered off a few times myself at that age, but since I was raised in rural sw Oklahoma, my story is a bit different. The family looked everywhere on the farm for me afraid I had fallen in the creek or something. They finally found me in the chicken house watching the chickens, haha.
Yes sir, riding a bike around in those days was a great adventure and a great freedom, and those innocent days of that era are much missed. Thanks again , I really enjoyed your trip down Memory Lane :)

Anonymous said...

Ah such a nice evocative piece. I'm a touch older than you, but have such similar memories.I too around the age of five decided to go walking...the bus was late picking us up from kindergarten and I decided I'd just get myself home. I didn't think I was lost, but the same car of familiar, worried family members found me. I also was allowed to walk up to the corner market for gum. But I had to bring my three years younger sister. One time she lifted something, and I had to walk her back up to the store to return it. Oh and we rode our bikes everywhere when we got them. It was a different favorite memory though is hide and go seek all around the neighborhood on a warm dark summer night.

Guy Sharwood said...

Thanks for all the comments. Mom wasn't abusive, but a very fair disciplinarian.