Friday, May 29, 2009

The old neighborhood

From age 12 to 19 I lived in a part of Salt Lake County called East Millcreek. We had a junior high school just across the street, and a high school three blocks east of us. We were able to look out our window and see beautiful Mt. Olympus.

The street directly east of me had some really different types. Mrs. Alvin, for instance, lived with her son, Gary. We never saw Mrs. Alvin. There didn't appear to be a Mr. Alvin, and Gary was her lifeline to the outside. In retrospect she might have been agoraphobic, wouldn't leave the house. She was totally paranoid, that's for sure. She called the cops nearly every day. She turned in the neighbors across her fence for having nude swimming parties. They were a Mormon family with 10 kids; the dad wore a bowtie even when he was mowing the lawn. The cops got to the point where they wouldn't respond to her calls. Lord knows what would have come of it if something really bad happened to her. I walked my dog every day, in the summer twice a day. I was walking Kim and went by the Alvin house, which was all shut up as usual. A hot summer day and she had all her windows closed, drapes drawn. It got up to 100 degrees sometimes and I don't know how anyone stood it in those days without air conditioning. I saw a playing card on the ground in the gutter in front of her house, so I picked it up, noticed it was the ten of diamonds and stuck it in my pocket. I was 13 years old, and 13 year old kids do stuff like that. I was halfway up the street by the high school when a motorbike pulled up alongside me. "Hey, kid," said Gary Alvin, "what did you pick up in front of my house?" I reached in my pocket and pulled out the playing card. He studied it for a few seconds and without saying anything threw it on the street and took off on his motorbike. When I had looked at the house I saw the drapes drawn, but apparently Mrs. Alvin had some sort of way of looking out so you couldn't see her. I guess it was too much for her and she had to send her boy to see what I'd found in her gutter.

Directly behind me lived a family, the Checkmans, who had three kids of varying degrees of homeliness and a mom and dad who didn't drive. To live in suburban Salt Lake in the early 1960s and not drive a car was thought to be completely strange. Everyone had a car. Everyone had two cars! Only total oddballs didn't have a car. The father, Victor, walked several blocks to a bus stop to go to his job. The mom worked as a school secretary and the principal would pick her up for work and deliver her home. When they went shopping they had a shopping cart in their otherwise unused carport and they would push it up a steep hill and walk several blocks to a grocery store. Later in life what I once thought odd I realized was probably the healthiest thing anyone could do. They walked a lot and they both lived to be very old. When the youngest child got driving age she got a driver's license and bought a car. She became the designated driver for the family.

There was a house with a couple whose names I didn't know. The man looked like he tipped the scales at 250 pounds. He was very fat. He drove a small Ford Falcon and sometimes he struggled to get in and out of the car. His wife, on the other hand, was a beautiful woman, tall and shapely. Those were the days of tight skirts, high heels, garters and nylons. What seems exotic now was once everyday wear. When the lady came home from work one day my buddy Paul and I were riding our bicycles in circles, a couple of horny teenagers waiting to catch a glimpse of her.

She got out of her car and her skirt rode up to her thighs, exposing her stocking tops and garters. Paul let out a loud wolf whistle. She got out of the car, pulling down her skirt. "Well, I guess," she laughed.

A few doors down from her was the lady who was the biggest scandal of the neighborhood. She was a beautiful woman who looked to be about 30, and she lived with her mother. The daughter, Linda, drove a brand new 1962 Thunderbird, aqua in color, with a white top. She didn't appear to work and the buzz on the block was she was a high-priced hooker. Sometimes Paul and I would ride our bikes by her place and she'd wave at us as she got into her car. Wherever she went, it was always after dinner time.

Sometimes we'd see cop cars; police officers on shift would stop at her house. Once we saw her greeting a cop in a friendly fashion while he stepped through her front door. The rumor was that she was entertaining the cops, that they were dropping in to get a piece, probably what she paid to stay out of jail. There was all sorts of talk about her but no one had any proof of anything. In 1970 a friend of mine came to town and stayed in an upscale downtown hotel. My wife and I visited him. We were talking at 1:00 in the morning when there was a knock on the door. He opened it and I saw Linda standing in the doorway. "Did you call for a girl?" she said. Tom was flabbergasted and stood with his mouth open. Linda looked over and saw me with Sally, sitting on the bed. Linda instantly recognized me. "My mistake," she said, and walked off. I told Tom, "Well, that solves a mystery for me," and explained it to him. "Gee," he said. "I don't know what I would have done if you and Sally hadn't been here. I might have invited her in."

Nowadays a friend of mine lives on that street, and I often wonder if anyone half as interesting as my old neighbors live there now.

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