My twenty two month younger sister, Rita Ann Gardner Langworthy, and I spent our growing up years in Findlay, Ohio. Nestled in a town of 35,000 was a short street approximately two blocks long called Eben Avenue. It was this neighborhood we called home that brought the greatest joys and memories any child could experience.
We were born in the forties to Robert and Nellie Gardner; however, our bank of memories were birthed in the 50’s and 60’s.
If you are familiar with reruns of past TV programs, “Leave it to Beaver”, “The Donna Reed Show” and “Happy Days” and the like, that is the life we lived. Mom didn’t wear lovely dresses with a pearl necklace and high heels while doing housework and caring for the family. She was a stay at home Mom until Rita and I were in junior high school. She then began wearing the nice dresses and high heels for her office job at the headquarters of The Marathon Oil Company until her retirement.
Dad’s sister, Verna Mae, lived with her family on the same street up one block. Dad’s parents, Pearl and Hazel Gardner, lived next door to us. It was definitely a family affair.
The street was peppered with other families with children about our ages. The houses are still there today. The McAlexanders, DePuys, Wooleys, Hagermans, Sands, Rikers, Davises and Clines were the kids we spent most of our time playing out door games.
Rita and I walked to the elementary school only 2 ½ blocks from home, along with the other neighborhood kids. There was a huge, old, creepy house located by the railroad track we had to cross. We would run full speed ahead past it and over the tracks before slowing down. We knew it was haunted and would take no chance of a monster coming out after us.
The students who attended McKinley Elementary School were walkers. When it was time for lunch, we walked home. Mom was at the door waiting to greet us. Lunch was ready.
We had an hour lunch break. Following our meal, Mom would sit down to watch her two soap operas…”Search for Tomorrow” and “The Guiding Light”. They were only 15 minutes long and were performed live on TV. She really got into them. More than once she would send us back to school with tears streaming down her face at what poor Joanne was experiencing.
After school was time for play until dinner when Dad arrived home. We helped with dishes and then scampered outside to play hopscotch, jump rope, hide and seek, jacks or sometimes off to the backfield to play ball until darkness sent us home. Our parents did not need to worry about our safety as they do today.
Our house was a small two bedroom home. Rita and I shared a bedroom. Bedtime had its own routine ending with Mom and Dad lovingly tucking us in.
Those early childhood days seem like only yesterday. It was the best of times growing up with Rita.