Monday, June 16, 2014

Broad Ripple Effects

It's funny the littlest things that will trigger a torrent flood of memories. This morning, it was a loaf of bread. Opening the inner bag of a loaf of Pepperidge Farm bread, I was reminded of my childhood in Broad Ripple. That was back when Mom could afford to buy thin-sliced Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread. She was only feeding three little ones, not five, at that time. That's not to dis my baby brother or sister, but they just hadn't made it into this world yet and times seemed simpler back then. Maybe it was because I was so young and innocent in those middle years of the 70's decade.

We moved there when I was five and almost out of kindergarten. Dad had landed a secure job with the State of Indiana and saw his chance to escape the confines of smalltown, cornbread Princeton. By 1975, we were living in a limestone ranch at the corner of Delaware and Laverock across the street from the canal. That's where I made some of my favorite childhood memories which I will try to recall here.

The Broad Ripple canal, running northeast along Laverock, held so much adventure for me in those days. A walk along the tow path up to the Hook's Drugstore seemed like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There were ducks, honking geese holding up traffic along Westfield Ave, skipping rocks and a six-block walk that seemed like miles to these stubby legs. I'd venture up that way with a pocketful of change, intent on getting Sour Apple Now-n-Laters or Jolly Ranchers, Candy Cigarettes (which I'd "smoke" before I got home), and some Fun Dip. It was simple pleasures like that which lit up my world at age seven.

When Grandpa Doyle came to visit one summer, he died in '77, we walked the canal together. He was going to Hook's for a paper and some "hooch" and I was just happy to have some quality time with my Grandpa who no longer lived in Indiana, but had retired to south Florida. He was my only real Grandpa, as Mom's Dad had died in St. Louis when I was just three and a half. Anyway, I enjoyed that walk along the canal the most.

There was Broad Ripple Park, where I started and never finished swim lessons in what was once the largest swimming pool in the country, Meridian Street Methodist, where I played three years of baseball and Dad coached, and Baskin Robbins, where we went after every baseball game for a scoop or two of ice cream.

I started parochial school at Immaculate Heart of Mary on Central Ave, where I took first communion and went to my first confession. Right across the street was the Kennerk residence, where I spent many an afternoon and a few overnights. Hugh Kennerk and I were best buds back then. Sadly, we drifted apart when my family moved away from Broad Ripple. His family eventually moved, too, to the outskirts of Zionsville.

Other best buds back in the day were Wes Priest and Cullen Ryan. I remember going on my first jog with Wes and his Dad one day, then returning to his house to wash up in an open shower in his parent's basement. That was a novelty. It was also a far cry from the Ryan residence, a palatial estate on North Meridan Street, near where I played baseball. I spent a few overnights with Cullen and enjoyed exploring what my parents called "the Coke mansion," complete with working elevator.

During those years, I also played basketball and football, though I've never been overtly atheletic. Football
was practiced and played at Riverside Park in downtown Indy, a good 15-20 minute drive from home through some of the most fascinating areas of town, to my young mind. Most intriguing was the long closed and run down Riverside Amusement Park. The old wooden coaster still towered over the trees but was guarded and obscured by a tall fence and overgrown brush. I used to imagine what it was like back in it's heyday, and that was before you could Google something and see old postcards online, so it was left up to my imagination. In the mid-seventies, that place looked like a scary ghost park. Why it hadn't been demolished by then, I have no idea, but I looked forward to that drive every time I had to be at Riverside Park to wear the green and yellow Packers uniform.

The last thing I'll recall here is the crazy way my Mom had decorated my bedroom at 6116 N. Delaware St. She found this black and white wallpaper of a male lion's head with a full mane. I guess it was pretty cool and haute couture for 1975, but it scared the dickens out of me. She had also handed down her old bed with the wooden headboard that had two sliding door cubbies on either side, the doors of which she also covered with a lion's head from the wallpaper. My bed backed up to sealed french doors that used to lead to the backyard, so there was no shortage of windows in my room. Let me just tell you, that when lightning would light up my bedroom, I was petrified. I'd pull the bedspread clear over my head and clutch it there, shaking and sweating until I couldn't bear it anymore. I'd pull it back after a loud thunderclap and yell through tears to my parents just beyond my bedroom wall. They'd always call back for me to come in their room. What they failed to realize is that what stood between their room and mine was a long, terrifying walk through the living room, past the world's largest picture window, around the corner and into the safety of their bed. I couldn't do it. I was paralyzed with fear. I carried that fear of storms into my late teens. Sad, but true. I don't know if it was the lion's fault, but that den of horrors during lightning storms certainly didn't help. Thanks, Mom ;)

We moved away from Broad Ripple in 1977 thanks to Mom's growing belly and our growing family. We relocated further east, nearly to I-465 and 56th St., and I was transferred to St. Matthew's for a year before a three-year stint in public school (IPS, btw, stands for Indy Prison System). We didn't leave Broad Ripple altogether, though. We still attended Central Baptist Church and I went back to the area for high school, reconnecting with many of my childhood classmates from IHM. Some of those connections are still strong as ever, thanks to Facebook.

Hard to believe that was so many light years ago. All of these memories are brought to you courtesy of Pepperidge Farm breads. :) You're welcome.

No comments: