As I round home stretch, heading for Medicare age, I thought it would be interesting — at least for me — to record the 10 things I fondly recall growing up in Johnson County before the age of 10 that no longer exist or have changed radically.
You have to keep in mind that between 1947 and 1957, living in Johnson County was like living in a small town.
I think my fondest memory of bygone days is the Manor Man. The Manor Man, from the Manor Bakery, would come to every home on our Prairie Village street, bringing with him assorted pastries, including delicious sweet rolls. I remember standing at the front door, pointing to those rolls, and his handing them to my mother. He disappeared after not too many years and eventually was replaced by QuikTrip.
Following close behind as a favorite was the milkman. I loved milk, and it was a real treat when the milkman showed up with his little crate of milk bottles. He was replaced by the neighborhood grocery store and, yes, QuikTrip.
Butterflies. Oh, how I do miss those butterflies. They were everywhere and every specimen. Kids today do not know what I am talking about, but our butterfly collections were filled with dozens and dozens of beautiful butterflies. The most beautiful of all was the Monarch, with its multi-colored wings. Where did all those butterflies go? I have a hunch the pesticides have killed most of them off.
This may sound like an odd fond memory, but I do recall with some nostalgia being in a school classroom at Porter School (now a park) with 40 or more kids. How could anything get taught, when today’s elementary school teachers will tell you that 24 kids should be the maximum, and 15 kids per classroom is ideal? I don’t doubt them, but I made lots and lots of friends, and we seemed somehow to learn. Of course, unlike today, the special needs children were segregated to their own room down the hall, making it far easier for a teacher to handle more children.
The ice cream truck is still around, though very difficult to find. But back then, a real truck with sliding windows would come up the street, ringing its bell, on a daily basis during the summer. The ice cream man would reach out the window and hand down my favorite, the Drumstick. I think I never missed a day with the ice cream man. Where are they now? You can maybe find one if you hunt enough.
We were one of the first on our block to get a television, and every afternoon our living room was filled with neighborhood children, all squished together, watching those fuzzy cartoons on a tiny screen. Of course, we also had to watch Kate Smith sing “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain.” I still remember the radio dramas and comedies we listened to before the television came along and wiped out that radio era.
My memory of the streetcar is not exactly a Johnson County memory, because we would have to go over to Missouri to catch the streetcar that took us downtown. How many people in this community today know we had a high-tech, energy-efficient, pollution-free streetcar system in Kansas City? What a colossal mistake it was to tear up the miles of track that stretched from south Kansas City to downtown.
The Christmas light contest in Prairie Village was always a favorite, because my street always won. The street with the most decorated homes scored Santa Claus to pay a personal visit. He would arrive in a Cadillac convertible, driven by my Uncle Joe.
I became a coin collector at the ripe age of 10, and how I did it now seems incredible. I would walk down to the bank and change as many dollars as my parents would lend me into coins. In those days a roll of coins could include buffalo nickels, some very valuable dimes made of real silver, often dating back several decades. It was like a treasure hunt. Today, of course, all those special coins have all been collected and are totally out of circulation.
The city of Prairie Village had a part-time marshal, and he happened to live on my block. About once a week, he would let us kids sit in the car and run the siren. Today, you can’t even sit in a police car without signing your life away, unless, of course, you are suspected of a crime.
And, finally, there is the memory — probably never to be repeated — of literally hundreds of kids living on one street, two or more children in every single house. The games we played, the snow forts we built, the baseball cards we traded, the butterfly hunts we went on, playing into the darkness of night with no safety concerns, all of this is gone.
But not forgotten.
| Special to The Star