A Few More Memories of Ferguson
I used to hate it when people called it Kirk Street. It was Kirk Drive. Said so right there on the sign. It could not have been more of a middle class, suburban existence in the early 80s. It’s where my earliest memories take place; hitting my head on concrete after being flung off the merry go round. It was the street at the end of Kirk Drive. It was home. Ferguson, Missouri was not the place we’ve seen the last few weeks.
So, with my semi-photographic memory, here’s what I remember…
Before I started kindergarten, my two best friends were a boy named Anthony and a girl named Patricia. Just in case you’re wondering, one was white, one was black. I remember playing with each in the basement of our three bedroom brick home. My sister’s room had carpet, some pale yellow color, and I was jealous, thinking she had the better room. Which, in retrospect, she should have had since she was the oldest.
Kirk ran north into Highmont and south into the park. One of the most awesomest days of my childhood was when Mom finally, FINALLY allowed me to go down the big slide by myself. At the edge of a park was a river. Well, probably just a good sized drainage ditch, but it was deep enough to have a driving bridge. My parents wouldn’t let me go under the bridge, even though other people did. Typically, they were big kids. When I finally got a look down there, there was just trash. Empty bottles, cigarette butts, what was probably a porno magazine. Stuff that I now recognize as the remnants of the early days of shame and hiding. I was curious, but was also wary of the big kids that went down there. Being taught a healthy respect for not going under that bridge may very well be where I learned the first notion of people doing what they were not supposed to do.
In my early 20s, I sat on the front porch of Camp Mo-Val with Kevin Dooley, a guy who grew up in NoCoMo (that’s north county Missouri.) Since my family moved from Ferguson when I was just out of third grade, I remembered landmarks (Showbiz Pizza, the horse farm, the old Venture store), but I didn’t remember the street names. From 60 miles away and with Kevin’s current knowledge and my memories of Ferguson, we took a tour of the old neighborhood. Griffith Elementary on Chambers, the Velvet Freeze ice cream store which had a bubble gum ice cream and a TV at every table you could watch for a quarter. I always begged for a quarter and my parents always said no. We had TV at home we could watch for free. Duh!
The YMCA where I learned to swim. Tadpoles was the baby class and my sister made it to the Flying Fish class. Neither of us ever got to the Shark class because of the move. January Wabash Park where we’d go to watch the fireworks, Little Creek which (I think) was some sorta pioneer educational park along 270. The Children’s Palace toy store which was no place for a hyperactive, overly excited boy like me.
The Peaches record store at the corner of Chambers and West Florissant. That place looked so cool! But, I don’t think I ever got to go in because, well, my parents weren’t hippies. That random WWII era tank along a street I can no longer remember. The children’s barber shop where I could sit in a toy car while I begged my mom to let Mr. Joseph to cut off my curly hair because a bully in class made fun of my hair. Jason looked like a wolf. Or maybe his last name was Wolf. I can’t remember. The Schnucks in Dellwood, St. John and James little league team, the Ferguson library on Church Street with the clawfoot bathtub covered in carpet in the children’s section. I fell asleep more than once in that bathtub while my Mom studied for her Master’s at UMSL. My Dad putting a swing set in the back yard, the playground at Griffith where, no kidding, I once got a rope around my neck in a tug of war game. Yeah, that could have been fatal.
Ferguson, I miss you. Or, maybe I just miss my childhood. Maybe we all do.