A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME

Margret’s small townhouse apartment was on the second and third floors, one of four rental places over a large retail business in the center of town.  The store and apartments were old and worn after years of neglect from former tenets.  Seventy years ago, it may have been fashionable to live in town and commute via a trolley to another town for business or shopping.

Very few families who rented these luxurious apartments owned cars at that time.  Bankers and their well-off clients usually drove expensive autos, but the middle class took the trolley or walked.  With a charming park just across the street, featuring a beautiful fountain, with flowers and shrubbery lining the walkways, was a lovely way to while away many an afternoon for the tenets, especially those with children.  

Small shops lined the streets; hat and shoe stores, flower boutiques, woman’s and men’s fashionable wear, to name a few, offered all the amenities one could ask for without leaving this small township.  The numerous tearooms and small cafés offered delightful menus for every palate and pocketbook, and charge accordingly. Gracious living at its finest.

There was even a small cinema on the corner showing a featured movie on the weekends for adult entertainment.  Saturday morning, usually reserved for children, showed cartoons and oaters, and on occasion, cliffhangers to make sure the audience returned the next Saturday to see the dashing hero escape the threats of death.  The “Perils Of Pauline”, also had a large adult audience, since it evolved a rather famous actor eluding her nemesis every week.   

The ticket price for children was five cents, but the penny candy made the experience even more enjoyable.  Sometimes the theater featured a double movie, giving the children a three-hour treat and bleared vision as they walked home in a dazed but contented bliss. 

What an amazing experience it must have been, living in such a thriving part of town.  The city band performed every Sunday evening in the gazebo in the center of the park, while people strolled about the flower gardens so prudently cared for by the city.  It was a more serene way of living, a polite and courteous society, prospering in harmony.   

Nevertheless, times change, and with little concern, the owner of the building ignored the apparent aging taking place, as the apartments fell into disrepair.  Each family renting the apartments were responsible for its upkeep; painting, wallpapering and floor coverings.  The rent was very reasonable, and most tenets were happy to rehab to their liking. 

One door leading to the street served two apartments, with a landing at the top of the stairs separating two residences.  At the entrance, a small parlor and dining area, separated by two large pillars extending to the ceiling were certainly characteristic of the early twentieth century but very antiquated for the present day.  An extremely small kitchen and limited cupboard space completed the second-floor space.  A large communal porch accommodated all the tenets using the back stairs, with a small overhang over each apartment’s back door.

The winding staircase off the dining room led to the third floor.  Three small bedrooms and a bathroom with a skylight were adequate for the family, for now.  The promise of a home of her own kept her dream alive as Margret waited for her husband to find steady employment.  When her youngest child started school, Margret intended to work as well and save for a real home.  This apartment was in the heart of a small hamlet in the center of the shopping district.  Not an ideal place to raise children, just a temporary arrangement assured her spouse.  The building had street stores, rented to three small businesses, with cars coming and going in the parking spaces at the back of the apartments the entire day and thankfully, the drivers were acutely aware of the children’s play area and took extra precautions driving in and out.

Her son, Jimmy, barely four years old, loved to play in the sandbox next to a page fence in the backyard of their apartment.  In the summer, when the weather permitted, both of her children played outside in this makeshift playground.  It was a small play area with a sandbox, swing set, and climbing bars.  His sister, Tina, who was two and a half years older, usually watched, Jimmy, diligently, since the parking area for the apartments and businesses were very close to the play area without a fence to separate the two spaces.

While doing housework, Margret often watched the children playing from her third-floor bedroom window, or she would step out the back door for a peek from the porch.  She was a worrisome mom and insisted her children play on the porch as the time neared for the tenets to return home from work and the businesses closed.  Her worries justly founded, saw the swing set bumped on occasion.