Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Prompt (Week Eighteen) at AnceStories2

"Your Neighborhood" is topic of the journaling prompts over at my other blog, AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants. Did you have a favorite hangout, secret hideaway, or haunted house in your neighborhood? I imagine you have favorite memories of running around your neighborhood as a child, something our children don't often have opportunities to do. Leave a record of these memories for your descendants in a journal.

Although my mother was very protective (with good reason), I still had a lot of freedom in roaming my neighborhood as a child...more than my kids have today in theirs. For eight years, we lived in and near the town of Klawock, Alaska (population about 300 in the 1970s) located on Prince of Wales Island in the Southeast Alaskan panhandle. If you click on the link to Klawock, the photo on the page does not actually show the town; it shows the rural area to the north of Klawock, and my childhood home is located on the bay behind the blue tarp in the photo. You can't see the house, it is in the woods to the right of the bay. Although it looks quite small, it's about a half-mile from the tarp to the buildings seen behind it.


Miriam, age 11, in the Alaskan woods on our family's farm

My best friend was Chon [pronounced "shawn"] and she and I and her older brother Shannon, who was in the same grade as I, would ride our bikes from one end of town to the other (about a mile in length). When I use Google Earth or Windows Live Local to "visit" Klawock these days, I can see that all the streets are named now, as well as paved. When I was a kid, the roads were dirt and heavily pot-holed, and none of them were named. They were great for bike rides!


Chon, age 9


Shannon, age 12, in his best Last of the Mohicans pose

Chon, Shannon, and I would hike the heavily-wooded trail up the Klawock River, which emptied into the bay near her home, and often see deer. There are no snakes in Alaska, so that was never a worry, although I was always wary of black bears. Sometimes we would ride over to Crystal Dairy, which was a little convenience store in a mobile home, located halfway between her home and mine. We would buy a Shasta soda or a Popsicle, the kind you could split in two, each piece with its own stick.


A class field trip to the Klawock River.
Miriam (age 5) is standing in the red sweater;
Shannon (age 6) is sitting on the left.


Sometimes we would be invited to play at the home of the chip mill owner when his granddaughters were visiting from Ketchikan. We were not supposed to play on the mountains of wood chips and sawdust that were piled in the mill yard, but we never could resist. I shudder to think how we took our lives into our hands and played and climbed and rolled down and dug into those huge hills of chips and sawdust. It would have been so easy to have them collapse on us and be suffocated!

I never learned to swim until I moved to Washington State. We did not have a pool on the island, and mom wouldn't let me swim with the native kids on the beaches in town because the sewer dumped into the water there. When we moved to our place about a mile out of Klawock, we would sometimes go wading at the waterfront on our property. But there were no nice sandy beaches...just tidal mud flats with seaweed, scurrying small crabs, and the occasional clam squirting out at you as you walked by. It was also too cold to go swimming, and on a really "hot" day (75*F), the water was still pretty chilly for anything more than wading waist deep.

One of my favorite hideouts was a "cubbyhole" that Chon could access from her bedroom. Her room was located next to the stairway on the second floor, and a large cupboard was built from her room into the unused space over the stairs. Louvered hinged doors concealed the cubbyhole, and as it was about three feet from the floor, you had to scramble to climb in. It was a two-story cubby. The floor of the "top story" was even with the bottom of the cupboard doors. A trap door in the floor led to the "bottom story" of the cubbyhole, which was really only big enough for two little girls to squeeze into. Once, Chon's cat, Thomasina, had a litter of kittens there. I still have dreams about being a kid and playing in the cubbyhole!

And last, but not least, I remember we used to think it was so fun to slide down the stairs of her home on our rear ends. It was a long flight of stairs, and as my home was single-story, it was quite the attraction! However, one day we were really stupid and did it over and over again, wearing shorts instead of long pants. We had horrible rug burns on our legs for weeks after that! I'm surprised I don't have scars!

What are the memories of your neighborhood?
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