The Back Yard -- Around the Chinaberry Tree
There was more to 753 (born 743) Meeting St. than the store and upstairs. There
was also the back yard.
The yard was first surrounded by a wooden fence and later a cinder block fence.
The large double-door gate opened to Maple St on the north. It was the entrance
way -- along a concrete driveway -- to the car garage, which occupied the southwest
corner of the yard.
On the west side lived the Chassereaus, on the south the Franks, whose yard
was parallel with ours. The Chassereaus had five children -- one, L.G., thought
he was a car. The others were a little more normal.
Like the fence, the garage, too, had been rebuilt in cinder block from wood.
On the house side of the garage, there was a small adjunct. In the days of the
wooden garage, the dirt floor area was used as a chicken coop where we could
pick up fresh -- very fresh -- eggs. The smell in the coop was not fresh.
The chickens also ended up in our chicken soup after a visit to the yard by
the "shochet" -- a ritual slaughterer.
After the garage became cinder block, the adjunct was used for grocery storage.
Wooden soft drink crates with empty bottles were also stacked in the yard along
the Maple St. fence and under the overhang of the house at the exit from the
The scenic centerpiece of the yard was the big Chinaberry tree which stood fairly
close to the
house and whose branches, in full bloom, would almost reach the kitchen window
The poisonous berries -- which I remember as green despite what the botanists
say -- were hard and good for throwing at things and each other.
In the Fall and Winter, they got brownisnh and mushy and made a mess on the
The lower branches of the tree were strong enough to be climbed on, but fortunately
you couldn't go very high.
There was just enough room in the dirt yard to run around in and play a little
catch -- hoping that the ball would not go over the fence into the Franks'
The clothes lines were in the yard -- reaching from the back steps to the
garage. One of our chores (although it fun) was taking down the dried clothes.
At times, Mom used the area near the Franks' fence for a garden where she
planted flowers -- I believe zinnias were her favorites -- and vegetables.
I remember corn stalks there.
She let us plant radishes and carrots, which got the quickest results.
During high school days when tans were in, the roof of the garage was good
for getting some sun -- about five minutes was enough with the sun baking
on the tar paper.
The problem with going to the roof was climbing on the Franks' fence and hoisting
yourself up. Also Mom hated it.
(Not the real tree)
Pinnately divided leaves and toothed or lobed leaflets. Has purple flowers
and yellow wrinkled, rounded berries, borne in terminal clusters.A tree
of northern India and China, naturalized in the southern United States as
a shade tree.
Back Yard Slam Dunks...by Solly
The back yard was also used as a basketball court. We would put a wooden
hoop, taken from a vegetable crate, over the garage door, probably before
the cinder blocks replaced the wood and the cement drive- in was laid, and
have vicious games of half court - involving kids from the neighborhood (
which ones I don't recall) . Another half-court was in the hall next to the
store before it became Itchy's radio repair shop and later the liquor store.
We would use a large rubber ball and shoot for the "basket," which was
a strip of molding above the door. We also used the stairs in the hall, leading
to the second floor, for step ball. I also remember the Fischers and the Lees
as the neighbors on the South.