Everyone Has a Story: When Neighborhoods were alive – with kids…

When Neighborhoods were alive – with kids…

Smoak Ave on map

I lived at 1321 Smoak Avenue

I have so many memories of my home and neighborhood where I lived at 1321 Smoak Avenue in Perry, Georgia. We moved there from Union Point, GA.

Daddy bought this small two bedroom home on July 24, 1958; it was built in 1944. At one time the subdivision was all farm land owned by Mr. Smoak, and even then times were beginning to change – the farms starting to go to make room for the new era of subdivisions.


1321 Smoak Avenue

Neighborhoods today are not the same as they were during the 50’s and 60’s. It was safe to play outside and no one immediately was scared if you were missing. My mom often sat me outside in my playpen and if a friend walked by – it was common that they thought I should have an ice cream cone and took me to get one. She never panicked when I was gone, she knew I’d show back up. Actually when she told me that, I had a hard time believing that she wasn’t worried when I was gone, as she sure wasn’t like that when I was growing up later on. If I wasn’t home at my certain time – she was waiting at the door – in a panic!

Growing up on Smoak Avenue in Perry was a great play – all the kids knew each other – and we all played. There were several girls around my age so I had many to play dolls with – mostly Barbie – she was my favorite, along with Midge, Ken and Tressie; she had the long hair that you pulled out with a push of a button.

barbie clothes

Sewing for Barbie

My mom sewed all my clothes for most of my early years and also sewed for Barbie. As we played with our Barbie’s, she often sat at the sewing machine and pretended she was Barbie’s seamstress. We’d go in while she sewed and place orders for Barbie clothes. Later in the day, we returned to pick them up. Mama remembers how we loved coming inside to place those orders. I played with Barbie probably longer than anyone; she kept me out of trouble. I still have my original Barbie’s, Midge, Ken and Tressie.

redlightgreenlight1My front steps was often the neighborhood gathering spot, and most likely because my mother spent time with all the kids; she played with us. Anytime we needed someone to sit on the steps and play “red light” or “mother may I” – she was nominated.

When it was dark, it was time for the quilts to come out for us to sit on and listen to ghost stories. Many times those stories she told, were so good enough scary, that she had to walk almost everyone home. No matter how scared they were, they’d be back for more the following week.


Dairy Queen in Perry!

Sometimes on Friday evenings after dinner mama piled a group of us in her car and off we’d go to the Dairy Queen. There were no seat-belts, so she could pile a lot of kids in that back seat.


Kick the Can!

Saturday night was “kick the can” night. That was one of my favorite games and I was very good at it; often hiding right near the can, so when they walked away to begin looking for us, I’d quickly – kick the can! We were often out till ten o’clock or later – or until everyone’s parents began calling them home. That’s how you knew to come home – there were no cell phones! And when your parents called, you “better” hurry home – or else! Often my mother would blow my granddaddy’s fox horn for me to come home; it was definitely loud enough to be heard – with no excuses!

Bike riding was a big event in our neighborhood – kids of all ages rode together. When I first moved there, I was the only one who couldn’t ride a two wheel bike; my training wheels were still on. All the kids made fun of me, but I quickly learned to ride it without those training wheels! But only after I ran into the bushes several times and fell off – but I learned.

Me on bike

Me on my bike – still with training wheels before we moved to Perry. Guess we were both cowboys here!

When we rode our bikes we played cowboy and Indians – our bikes were our horses. Kids would never do that today and someone would probably say it wasn’t politically correct. At the top of our street was a nice hill to coast down for a free ride – especially when you were being chased by Indians!

As I grew up and learned to read and wrote, I became obsessed with playing school with my girlfriends every summer. You’d think I would have had enough of school – during school, but… We lived just one street over from Perry High School and their dumpsters were a goldmine!  We’d scramble in to retrieve books, tests papers, even old pictures from class photo day. Those great finds could be had just for the digging! One year I even found a class ring – Mama eventually found the owner and returned it to them. I wish I remembered who it was now.

Every day, all day – we girls could be found out in the yard playing school. We would pull out mama’s play quilts and set ourselves up as the teacher, passing out tests and reading from the books – playing teacher! Those were fun times! Sometimes now I wonder, if I liked playing school so much, why did I never have the ambition to become a teacher?

From a young age, I was obsessed with paper. My mother still likes to tell me how if she gave me a box of paper and scissors, I could entertain myself all afternoon.  But as much as I loved paper – if only I had the love to write stories then – what great stories, full of family history that I would have today.


Mimosa Tree


Mimosa Flowers

My first craft adventure came from the Mimosa tree in the neighbor’s yard – it yielded us seed pods that we turned into necklaces. If you’ve never seen a mimosa tree – well they are a beautiful tree when it flowers with the fluffiest pink flowers you’ve ever seen. Once it flowers, then the seed pods grow. If you shell the seeds when green and string them, they will dry and  create a necklace. 


Seed pods hanging on Mimosa Tree. I don’t know why, but mama says I stuck a seed up my nose once – which resulted in a visit to the doctor! Now what was I thinking?

cam pout

Camping out!

My backyard saw many sleep-outs. I’d camp out on my side of the metal fence while the neighbor girls camped out on their side. Often by nights end, I think we both ended up going inside – too scared to stay out all night.

My mother was very creative in designing – she turned a large crate my father brought home  from WRAFB (Warner Robins Air Force Base) – where he worked. She transformed that crate into a playhouse for me. I wish I knew how he managed to get that delivered to the house – it certainly would never have even fit in the back of a truck. Mama cut windows out, cut a door, built cabinets inside and sewed curtains. She was a master of everything! Once she set her mind to doing something, there was no stopping her!

bobbsey twins

One of my favorite reads!!!

And if the playhouse wasn’t enough, I also had a tree house up in the Holly tree that bordered the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor girl liked to tease me that it wasn’t my tree house, that part of it that hung over in her yard. Of course, it bothered me and I’d go crying to mama; she told me to go tell the girl to move the tree in her yard if it was hers. Such petty fussing that went on over that tree house! It was actually only a platform up there, but I thought it the best place for reading comics or a Bobbsey Twin book.


Nancy Drew books – lined up just like they were in my bookcase!

Another afternoon reading spot was laying on one of mama’s quilts – on the grass. I’d lay there all afternoon with my stack of reading material; imageNancy Drew could mesmerize me the entire day as I followed her down the spiral staircase, behind the bookcase or in the attic looking for clues – wherever she went, I was right there waiting to discover….

perry library in courthouse

Perry library in basement of courthouse – librarian Ms. Beavers by door (right)

If I wasn’t playing detective with Nancy then I was reading one of my many library books. Every summer I joined the Summer Reading Program and I read until I completely filled it with stars. You received a star for each book you read and I always completed my certificate. I read every biography on all the Presidents as well as other important people and inventors from Thomas Edison, Daniel Boone and Helen Keller; mama told me later that she would also read them before they were returned. I can close my eyes and visualize the inside of the library in Perry – it was in the basement of the county courthouse – kind of dark with low lighting going down there, until you reached the library. It was one of my favorite places to go when I was downtown; I was a reader!

This was my neighborhood and my memories –

                                                   What was in your neighborhood?

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in Family Stories and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Everyone Has a Story: When Neighborhoods were alive – with kids…

  1. Lyn Smith says:

    Very good story. I remember a lot of those things. Plus jumping rope, hopscotch, and many more things that made our childhood so special and pretty worry free. Neighbors watching the neighborhood children as if they were there own. Walking to the dime store on Saturday’s. The huge boxes Papa would bring home and Mama would make us a house under the staircase, with a shoe box for a chimney. One thing I use to do, which would make Mother so angry, was to lay in the grass of the front yard after school looking for 4-leaf clovers. It wasn’t the looking that upset Mother, it was the fact I was still in my school clothes. But she always managed to remove the grass stains. Simplier times with tons of memories. Maybe we should follow you, Jeanne and put pen to paper before we forget.


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