Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Harlem... Kansas City

I was in the sixth grade when we left the farm where Daddy was a hired hand and moved to Kansas City.  I cried for weeks, perhaps months, for my old way of life.

I'd been a free spirit there, after all.  Mother worked all day in a dry goods-grocery store, and Daddy was busy with farm chores.  I could play with the calf in the barn that belonged to the cow Daddy milked twice a day.  There were kittens in the same barn.  I watched setting hens hatch out their babies.  In May, I found wild strawberries along the roadside, and in July there were blackberries, back in the woods.  I was in heaven, and nobody bothered me at all.

Daddy shot my old dog, Cookie, before we moved to the city.  She had a huge tumor on her belly that dragged the ground, and she was at least ten years old.  I remember hearing the gunshot.  It was a mercy-killing, but it was rough for me.

We got an apartment in Harlem, an unicorporated village just across the Missouri River from downtown Kansas City.  I had cousins nearby, and that helped me make the transition from country to city.

Most people, when they hear "Harlem", think of New York City.  Well, Kansas City's Harlem was all white folks, but it was a very poor neighborhood.  There were times I felt unsafe on the school bus.

However, I found some pleasant diversions in Harlem.


Back then, the big airport in Kansas City was the Municipal Airport, and it was only a few blocks away.  Every time a plane took off, it messed up our TV reception.  In summertime, I'd walk down there and watch airplanes taking off, and dream about the romantic places they were headed.  Me and my mom once met Pat Boone's plane when it landed, and on the front-page picture in the Kansas City Star, you could pick out me and my mom reaching toward Pat as he got off the airplane. 

And then there was the levee.  I'd go up there, walk right down to the riverbank, and watch the strange (and sometimes nasty) things floating past.  I could go right up to the ASB bridge and climb steps that took me to the top, where cars whizzed by.

Underneath that bridge I'd see evidence of the places where hoboes had camped:  traces of campfires, whiskey bottles, and sardine cans (now I find out sardines are one of the safest seafoods to eat, because they are at the bottom of the food chain).

My parents bought their first home in Harlem, then sold it and escaped as soon as possible (to "Kansas City, North").

Isn't it strange that I can have so many good memories of such an impoverished place?

12 comments:

lanurseprn said...

You must have felt secure and loved.  That's why the memories are good.  A child needs to feel that.
Pam

plieck30 said...

Guess just being a kid brings lasting memories from where ever. I was so happy when we moved into a small town from the country so we could live near classmates and have electricity. Paula

tendernoggle said...

Oh DOnna, that had to be hard on you, not only leaving your home in the country but also having to have your dog put down too....I am so sorry...
WHere did you live after that?
love ya,
carlene

ksquester said...

I think "Cookie" must have been a popular dogs name back then.  I remember a dog named Cookie in my family.  Sorry about that hard lesson :-(  Now I understand better why you like exploring so much...........you always have been a pioneer! :-)    Anne

siennastarr said...

Some of our best memories are when we didn't have much..

Jackie

marainey1 said...

Memories are such gifts.  I think we remember much more of the good times than the bad. At least my memores are very selective.  Thanks for sharing yours !
'On Ya' - ma

mutualaide said...

I look back and realize that I sometimes ache for the old, simple, less complicated, lean years of my youth.  They were happy even when things were tough.

hestiahomeschool said...

I love that song...I have been listening to my Johnny Cash CD alot lately. Did you know that Sting wrote I hung my head? It sounds like an old folk song, doesn't it?

magran42 said...

More evidence that money isn't everything!  Most of us have let progress clutter our lives.....not you though....you have kept your free spirit.

rebuketheworld said...

Wow, what a change....I could envision all that you said....arent kids amazing...we will take the mud pie and make a dinner fit for a king with our imagination...but I would have missed the country....Have you written more about North Kansas as a kid on your blog?...would love to read what that was like....Funny, I have this map on my blog...I get over 600 people a month from Kansas reading my blog...Its actually about 70% of the people that stop by that are from Kansas....

I had one place as a child called Alpenrose Dairy...I am going to video tape it soon...it was my home away from home..magic....all I needed was my bike and I could find the surreal...just as you mentioned the Airport...we dont need much when we were kids...-Raven

bhbner2him said...

I don't think its strange.  You had no expectations imposed on the places you lived.  You just took what you enjoyed from each experience.  Seems you've made a nearly complete circle.  -  Barbara

Jason Withington said...

I found this blog while googling Harlem....i grew up in the northland and attended church at the Harlem Baptist church. When was the last time you were there? The church is still there (104 years now)