Lakewood of My Youth - Revisited

“I believe I will go to my grave without seeing any significant change to my old neighborhood in Lakewood.”  This was the first line in a November 2006 article I read in the Lakewood Observer titled “Lakewood of My Youth.” The author, Mike Reilley, who grew up on the corner of Edgewater and Abbieshire, wrote of life in his neighborhood in the sixties, recalling the families on the street and the memorable experiences they shared. At the time, I lived on the same corner, having similar experiences with my family, but 40 years later.  I saved the article and vowed to share the Lakewood of My Youth – Revisited, sometime down the road.

My wife Nancy and I raised our four children and assorted pets on the corner of Edgewater and Abbieshire for 28 years from 1986 until we moved in 2014. (Actually, our first home was next door on Abbieshire, and seven years later webought the corner-house because we were so fond of the neighborhood).

When the author walked down the street in the 60’s, he recalled the families that lived on the street. 40 years later, three of the families he mentioned - Mrs. Jenson, the Schubert’s, and Gerlach’s – were still there. But by 2006, most the houses had turned over to a new group of homeowners - the Velcios, Millers, Boratos, Morans, Monts, Vigliancos, Kramers, Rowells, Singletaries, and Shaikhs – whose families grew up on the street in the 90’s and 2000’s. Many are still there.

In the 60’s, the circle on the Abbieshire-Edgewater corner became a baseball diamond, with one of the corner yards serving as left field and the side of their house as “the gray monster”, named after Boston’s left field wall, the green monster. That gray monster was our house, and over the years alternated blue, then putty, before returning to dark gray as it currently stands. In the 2000’s, youth sports were played more in local leagues and travel teams, but the circle was still active on summer evenings with more casual games of kickball or 4 corners, and after dark became the setting for games of ghosts in the graveyard, capture the flag or chasing lightning bugs.

Our corner house was physically very close to our neighbors on both sides. We by necessity got to know each other very well and felt blessed that our proximity helped nurture our becoming close friends. There were no fences or driveways between our three houses, which enhanced those night-time games of ghosts in the graveyard.  

We had a side yard on Abbieshire between our and the Kramer’s houses. There we built a wooden swing set/fort which became a neighborhood park and toddler play area. For some reason, Mr. Kramer would cut our grass every week. He was either the world’s nicest neighbor, or pre-empting me from mowing – as my landscaping standards were slightly lower - or both. In the winter we could return the favor. I only needed to use the snowblower a few times a year, but during a big storm, could plow the Abbieshire sidewalks from Lake to Edgewater and around the corner with little effort.

Our Edgewater-side neighbors were the Singletaries. Only 6-8 feet separated our houses, which made for some warm and unforgettable experiences. We recall with a smile how our children would at times say good night across bedroom screen windows like John Boy on Little House on the Prairie – “Good-Night Abbey.”  “Good-Night Dan.”  The unforgettable occurred on a summer day when a roof replacement accident at the Singletaries caused a house fire. The fire department’s swift response included both extinguishing the fire at the Singletaries, and hosing the side of our house to prevent the fire from spreading. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the homes were restored.

We called our street a ‘Fourth of July Street’. The annual parade would pass by the end of our street on Lake. Our Lake-corner neighbors, the Ziegenrueckers, would treat all gathered to donuts while viewing the parade and waving at friends from Safety Town, H2O, Taft Unicyclists, and the High School Bands. After the parade, most families would picnic with extended families and friends, and by late afternoon the street’s population increased 10+fold. Near dusk, children and parents would gather at the Kramers front yard for games of ‘Rini-Says’ (a version of Simon-Says) with prizes and bragging rights for the winners. Finally, around 10 pm the Lakewood Park fireworks show would cap the evening. We would be joined by total strangers viewing from cars, bikes, and the tree lawns on the circle for a prime view. On July 4th’s when winds came from the northeast, the fireworks appeared to be almost directly over our heads, making the show more special.

Like many Lakewood streets, we had a summer block party. Parents organized games, bike parades, and even pooch parades. During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the block party had a parade of nations with homemade flags and the ‘Abbieshire Games.’ One year the Lakewood Fire Department visited with a fire truck for show-and-tell.

Being close to Lakewood Park, we would walk or bike to the park to enjoy the playground, pool, fields, Friday Night at the Movies and Sunday Night Concerts. We would feel comfortable letting our children meet friends at the park or bike to their homes – everyone we knew seemed a mile or less away.

We left our Lakewood-Abbieshire home in 2014 after our youngest child left for college. We feel lucky we were able to ‘downsize’ to a home in Lakewood’s West End. We still keep in touch with our old neighbors with whom we shared so much.

As I pass our old neighborhood again today, I notice things do change. Most things are the same. But the gold autumn leaves of our old shagbark hickory tree that towered over Abbieshire are gone and have been replaced with the red leaves of the maple tree we planted just after moving in. Lakewood Park’s more diverse group of daily visitors no longer find a skating rink at the Oldest Stone House Field in winter, but do find the Park’s new Solstice Steps to applaud a spectacular Lake Erie Sunset.   The old gives way to new. The good remains, and some of the good gets better. And that’s reassuring.

Tim Rowell

Hello, I am a lakewood resident since 1986 and am registering to submit an essay on my old neighborhood for consideration to publish.

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Volume 19, Issue 2, Posted 12:31 PM, 01.18.2023