What was the neighborhood you grew up in like?
I grew up on Ashwood Avenue in the North Riverdale section of Dayton, Ohio. In 1955 my parents bought this house, the largest on the block, not that 1,173 square feet is all that big, particularly when it would eventually hold seven people. My parents were in the process of moving from Vandalia and by the time I arrived on October 8th, they brought me home to the only house I would live in for my first twenty-two years.
North Riverdale was mainly single-family homes with some apartments and mostly populated by empty-nesters. We had a variety of businesses within a few miles, plenty of parks, schools, cafes, and a library. There was Shawen Acres, now known as the Montgomery County Children's Home, a scary place to deliver fifteen Sunday newspapers in the dark. The area had quite a number of alleys, something you don’t see much of today, and many garages were accessed that way, which provided convenient places to mount a basketball hoop, a favorite pastime of mine.
Ashwood Avenue runs east-west, but because it runs uphill from Riverside Drive to North Main Street, and maps always had up as north, I grew up believing my street pointed north. To this day when I see a map of North Riverdale, part of me is shocked to see Ashwood running right-to-left. The particular section of Ashwood I lived on, between Kathleen and Merrimac, was the steepest section of the street and after a few inches of snow had accumulated, my siblings and I would put on our Sunday shoes, with their slick bottoms, walk up to Merrimac and spend hours sliding down the sidewalk. The biggest thrill was getting a short start and making it all the way to Kathleen in a single slide. By the time we were done the sidewalk was pretty much a sheet of ice. I didn’t realize until I was an adult that our neighbors probably didn’t that like it so much.
My grade school, Our Lady of Mercy, was about half-a-mile away, and I walked or rode my bike to school most days. On the way was Victor drugstore, my favorite place to buy comic books. Across the street from Victor’s was the Riverdale Ice House, where my Dad would back in the station wagon to its 40-foot-wide dock and load up on soda and beer. North of Riverdale’s was the Shell station that my father always took our General Motors cars to get gas and any needed maintenance or service.
About three miles north of our house was Liberal Markets, at the far end of Forest Park Plaza, where my mother would do all her grocery shopping. Just beyond Liberal’s was the Putt-Putt golf course, where you could play from 9 am to noon on Saturday mornings for only 60 cents. I would wake up early, ride my bike to Putt-Putt and play as many rounds as I could squeeze in. It’s also the place where I had my first cream soda. Forest Park back then had a Woolworth store and that’s where I got my first post-paper-route job. Also the first time I got fired. I could be a stubborn cuss. Across from Forest Park was Sherer’s Ice Cream, my second job and one I loved, and didn’t give up until I began getting jobs during college related to my computer science major.