My first childhood memories are connected with our home at 1117 Phelon Street in Saginaw. In 1956 we moved to that home from our little country house and lived there until 1958. For most of us, any memories from our preschool years are vague, but a few things have stayed in my long term storage – perhaps only because I’ve heard my parents tell those stories.
I have a fuzzy memory of the front porch of this house. Did we play there? Sleep there in the summer? I can’t recall details, but it’s interesting that the porch is the only part of the house that I remember! Our landlords were Bea and Murray Muellerweiss who lived around the corner from us, and with whom my parents remained friends for many years after we moved away. I recall that they had a long, tall wooden stairway leading to the second story of their home. Maybe they rented the upstairs to another family?
My most significant memory of this house and neighborhood still has an impact on me today. One day while outside with my mom, a large – maybe German Shepherd – dog came bounding towards me. He was not vicious, just happy, friendly, and looking for a playmate. Because of his substantial size, my skinny little body was no match for his energy, and he knocked me to the ground in his excitement. His enthusiasm to play was obvious as he licked my face all the while jumping around and wagging his tail! I can only imagine my shrieks of terror, but Mother has described them as loud, long, and impressive. When she was finally able to get to my rescue, in probably only a matter of seconds, she pulled me to safety and assured me that I was fine. I suffered no cuts, bruises or scrapes – just a little dog slobber on my face! But to this day I have a “healthy respect” for large dogs and avoid them whenever possible!
As a child in the 1950’s, I spent many hours playing outside. Because of my naturally darker skin tone (and the lack of sunscreen), the summer sun tanned my skin to a deep shade of brown. My elbows and knees were particularly dark, and no amount of scrubbing with Comet cleanser would clean them up! Mother had to resign herself to the fact that I just looked a little unkempt during the summer. However, in the mid 1950’s segregation was still an issue, and one of the neighbor girls refused to play with me, because she didn’t want to play with “that little colored girl.”
This house now sits in a run-down and somewhat questionable neighborhood, but after 50+ years I guess that’s to be expected.