When January rolls around I’m reminded of our move to Tucson. Not unlike the Beverly Hillbillies we arrived in Tucson with the roof rack loaded with our worldly possessions including mom’s wedding crystal.  It was January of 1949 when  we left Chicago in a snow storm and arrived in Tucson to snow flurries, not exactly what mom and dad were expecting.  

I was only six and the weather wasn’t a big deal to me, but I was disappointed when there wasn’t a cowboy in sight.  We were out west, there were supposed to be hitching posts in front of every building and cowboys wearing six shooters roaming the streets.  I was assured we would see cowboys at the Rodeo in February and when the sun broke through the clouds to reveal the snow capped Catalina Mountains we were home.  

The first order of business was finding a house to call home and a cabinet to hold the crystal.  I don’t remember the house we left in Chicago but  I have fond memories of the little house on 13th street here in Tucson.   Every couple of years I drive by, just to take look at my roots, I guess.  . . . 

I hold my breath while I turn off Cherry Avenue on to Thirteenth Street. Thirteenth is paved now, not the washboard dirt road it was when I was growing up. I catch my breath, the house I grew up in looks so tiny. I am pleasantly surprised to see the house appears to be loved. The yard where I played as a kid is smaller now. The current owners built a sun porch across the front, it’s a nice addition. The two huge arborvitae trees dad planted and lovingly watered on summer evenings have been removed to make way for the porch. I got my first kiss behind those trees

I’d love to open the gate and walk up to the front porch, meet the people who call it home now and tell them about the old neighborhood. Maybe they would invite me in to see my room and the tiny kitchen where mom spent so much time.

The kitchen didn’t have a cooler vent so the window was always cracked in an attempt to draw cooled air that direction. In the summer it was a treat to open the ice box, even for just a minute or two. Mom kept the kitchen warm in the winter with an assortment of oven dinners that we never enjoyed in the summer.

I wonder if the new residents would listen while I reminisced about this old house, the one I lived in from first grade through high school. I wonder if they have kids who walk to the elementary school just a few blocks away. Do they hurry home for lunch, grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and run back to school to play before the bell rings?

I want to see if the bedroom floors are still plain concrete. Although concrete may be in vogue now, in the 1950s it meant there wasn’t money for floor covering. The kitchen and utility room had ghastly brown speckled tile and the carpet in the living room wasn’t installed wall to wall. The brown tweed carpet with the unfinished edges was laid on the concrete and ended about two inches from the wall. I made trains with marbles to run along that space.

The living room had a two piece sectional couch in floral pattern the end tables were finished in the latest light blonde finish. The bedrooms had unfinished pine furniture that dad put a coat of varnish on and called it good. Mom made curtains to frame the venetian blinds on the windows. It was my job to dust the blinds, one slat at a time.

The only heating in the house was a strange looking radiator contraption that occupied space on the wall in the dining room. One side heated the living area and the other heated the hallway leading into the two bedrooms. As a little girl I sat in front of the radiator to dry my hair after a bath.

The life I knew in Chicago was filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and neighborhood playmates. There was no family in Tucson, mom and dad had some friends here but there were no children in those families.  Dad went to work every day, mom didn’t drive so we just stayed in the little house, mostly waiting for the mailman to bring letters from home.

I wasn’t allowed to leave the yard the first few weeks we lived in the new house. One morning, while peeking through the fence I discovered kid size jeans and shirts on the clothesline next door. My hopes for a playmate were dashed when we met the Kelly sisters, spinsters, who took in laundry.

When the sisters moved a few months later a young policeman and his new wife moved in, we shared the telephone party line with them for thirteen years. Helen and Dick raised two girls and loved their little house that was identical to ours. Helen and Dick are gone now, and their house doesn’t have that loved look anymore, the yard is overgrown and a couple of pit bulls are pacing a well worn path by the fence.

When mom got tired of me moping around the house we scouted the neighborhood until we found Sandy, a little girl just my age a few houses away. Sandy became my best friend, we climbed the tamarisk trees in her back yard, tied thread on the legs of June bugs and floated imaginary fairies on leaves when the water ran on the chinaberry trees. We flew kites in the desert behind our houses and later played baseball there.

There are a lot of good memories in that little house, Sandy and I played jacks for hours on that old concrete floor, monopoly games that lasted for days, we played swing the statue, red rover and Simon Says in the front yard, at twilight. My first date arrived with screeching brakes in a cloud of dust. We arrived home thirty minutes late and dad met us at the door. That was not the night of the first kiss. 

So many memories, I wish someone would come out of the little house where I grew up. I would love to talk with them.

Our house on 13th street judging from the shrubs – about 1956

Coco Boy on the couch – pretty typical 50’s decor

4 replies
  1. Pat
    Pat says:

    Oh my goodness. So similar to the little house I lived in from age two to age nine. There was also a twin house next door. Every time I go back to Missouri my brother and I drive by and reminisce.

    • Carrie Bonello
      Carrie Bonello says:

      We have so much in common. Did you have a yellow flowered couch with red flowed drapes too. The 50’s decor is best left there!

  2. Carol
    Carol says:

    Bert really enjoyed the tour you took us on, which included the house on thirteenth street. On one of my trips to my hometown, my brother knocked on the door of our childhood home and asked if we could take a look…the owner was very gracious and showed us all the upgrades, they had added an attic room right under the roof that they used for a computer/office space. The old homestead never looked so good!

    • Carrie Bonello
      Carrie Bonello says:

      What a wonderful memory. Thanks. I’ve often though about knocking on the door of that house, I want to tell them how nice it looks now and what it was like when I was there. Maybe someday I will be brave enough to try it.


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