20 December 2008

Chester Lane

We lived at 221 South Chester Avenue in Bakersfield. I remember feeling there was some mystical connexion between our address and my Grandma Lena's, whose address was 2110 Chester Lane. To a child, perhaps, every fact about the world is new - and every fact has some mystical meaning. The coincidence of the street names and the repeated "twenty-one" and the fact that she was our grandmother made everything come together.

Looking on Google Maps I find that the distance is an impressive 1.3 miles - half an hour's walk. Peter thinks we walked up Chester Avenue - which was state highway 99 and the main route from Los Angeles up the Great Central Valley of California (the motorway in the map below was not there then), turned left in Brundage, went down to 'H' Street, and then north . Brundage was a pretty busy street and I expect we would have avoided walking farther than necessary on it.

View Larger Map

But we certainly went past Beale Park. The memory of Beale Park has a kind of Edenic flavour to me. Certainly it was not much of a park. But we could walk there or ride or bicycles, whereas anything the other side of Chester Avenue was (officially :-)) forbidden. There was a swimming pool. When we could talk my mother into taking us to Union Avenue Plunge (which was, I suppose, Olympic size - at least to my child's eyes it was enormous) that was our preference - but we could go to Beale Park ourselves.

The area on this map was our home. The elementary school I went to for my first four years (until the Big Earthquake) is still there in Verde Street, but Roosevelt School has new buildings now. I think they must have torn down the old brick ones because of the earthquake. Haybert Court, just around the corner, was practically our backyard.

At Grandma Lena's house we were always on our best behaviour. I find this interesting as I don't recall anyone's ever telling us we needed to be. It was just clear to me that we didn't run around, or make a lot of noise, when we were there. Perhaps it was just always very clean!

The same, I think, at Anna's. Anna had a much smaller house, but I always felt more at ease there, for some reason.

And I see I have not even mentioned my father's stepfather Porter.

OK, I have - separate post. Actually I started this one earlier, got fascinated by the google map and got a bit hung up. But this was our home territory. Here it was that we fought (in our imaginations) the other gangs (who did not exist) who were going to attack us (this is all before I was 12!). Here we built our forts to defend against them. Here we lived and moved and had our being.

No comments: