Bob and Donna are original owners of their 1959 Brookford home. When they bought their home many of their neighbors were WWII veterans, like Bob. For this essay, Bob and Donna supplied family photos documenting the years they raised their three children. Two of them, Cindy and Al, told the story of growing up Brookford-style.
"Growing up in Brookford was paradise for kids. Each of the three streets in our hood (36th, 37th, 38th) was lined with new homes, filled with new families with children. There was never any shortage of kids to play with." –Al
"There are 13 houses in our cul de sac of Admiral and 37th Ave and 34 kids lived in those houses!" –Cindy
"The streets weren’t through, so there was never any worry about traffic. After school, after dinner, and all summer long we would be out the door and into the street to play. There was never any shortage of things to do. Ravines ran behind the houses and between streets. Creeks ran down through the ravines. At the end of the street was Kelly park, the crown jewel of the neighborhood." –Al
"We all went to the same public grade school. After school we walked home and had a quick snack. Then we changed our clothes and we were all outside. Everyone pretty much played together—we'd split into teams for Capture the Flag or the ever-popular Red Light/Green Light and of course, tag football.
We rode our bikes up and down the hill—our dogs were off leash, barking and running along with us. There were races, tricks, obstacle courses and playing cards attached with clothespins that made a constant clacking noise which I'm sure drove our 'stay at home moms' nuts!"–Cindy
"We played in the creek that ran through our back woods. When I was very young the crawdads that lived there provided hours of entertainment to my brother Al and his cohorts. We spent hours on those muddy banks." –Cindy
"We would tie string to raw bacon and use it to catch crawfish in the creeks and ponds. I once brought home a bag of crawfish for mom to cook. That didn’t happen." –Al
"Sometimes my dad would call us to the window that looked out toward the creek to see the family of pheasants walking through our lower yard." –Cindy
"There was a giant pile of tree trunks from when the neighborhood was cleared. We would climb around on it for hours on end." –Al
"We had the field then (now Kelly Park). In the summer the city would cut the tall grass, and leave it on the ground. We somehow built huts with the dried stuff. We must have had some help from a few older kids because we could stand up in these things. We built towns in the dirt track and rode bikes there too." –Cindy
"Another pastime was snake hunts. Someone would bring a garbage can and we would catch garter snakes and put them in the can—to all be released later. We built forts in the woods and spent hours climbing trees or building dams in the creek.
There were huge swaths of blackberry bushes and mom would give us pots to fill and send us to pick berries. She used them to make pies or cobbler." –Al
"We played 'Army' a lot, or the boys did. They were a majority so...I was given the honor of the only girl allowed to play...as a nurse of course." –Cindy
"One of our favorite pastimes was playing “army”. We drove our mothers insane, running between houses with makeshift wooden guns incessantly shouting 'pow, pow, pow—gotcha!'
In the evening, mom would ring a brass bell to get us home for dinner since we were almost always out of yelling distance." –Al
"The field also held the Easter Egg hunt—put on by the ever present Brookford Garden Club that I think every mom belonged to.
When I was a little older a helicopter landed in the field so that the pilot living at the end of the street could take his lunch break—at home!" –Cindy
B/W Images courtesy of Leslie Begley
"On the 4th of July there was a big parade. All the kids got dressed up and decorated their bikes, trikes, and wagons. We’d start at the top of 36th and parade down to the park where there were ice cream bars waiting for us." –Al
"Before the annual 4th of July parade we worked for days decorating our bikes in red, white and blue crepe paper streamers and anything else we could find for our 5 minute parade. Our clothes were true to the theme and often quite patriotic.
We gathered at the top cul de sac in "upper Brookford" and rode to the other end of the street where popsicles waited for us (Thank you Brookford Garden Club!)" –Cindy
"Halloween was a big deal. So many kids around and so many houses to trick or treat. We left after dinner with pillow cases that we filled with loot. When we got home we’d compare our hauls." –Al
"There were lots of summer sleepovers, mostly outside. We had a treehouse, clubhouse and the occasional tent to sleep in. Once in our sleeping bags we had flashlights, food, and our trusty transistor radios. We listened to our favorite songs on KISN radio, or Casey Kasem’s Top 10 Countdown.
When it got too hot to play outside or when we were tired out we retired to someone’s basement or garage to play a board game, usually Monopoly. Our games would last for days. The board remained in place until we could return.
We did plays together often organized by one of the older girls. I remember after Mary Martin's 'Peter Pan' appeared on TV we tried our best to reproduce it— Brookford style!" –Cindy
"Weather permitting we were always outside. When it did get cold we would gather at each others houses. Back then it was girls with girls and boys with boys. We watched a little TV but there wasn't much on. We usually did something else—Barbie's or board games, while the boys played GI Joe's or matchbox cars.
One year after a "good snow" we got our sleds out after dinner—a big deal because it was dark. All the parents came out and everyone went sledding. It was EPIC, a magical night—the only time it ever happened." –Cindy
"There was always something happening just out the door. A constant cacophony of kids and dogs in constant motion. Sledding the hill and in the park in winter, riding bikes, hide and seek. It was the Norman Rockwell childhood I wish every kid could have." –Al (1961-70)
"As a child you don't realize how lucky you are in many ways but as we have grown up, we kids of Brookford now know what a special place it was. Our neighborhood shaped who we became and many of those friendships have stood the test of time." –Cindy (1960-69)
D. Larson, Editor