By Robert Scheel
Above, the intersection of Boone and Nettleton, looking south, circa 1956, with Doyle’s Ice Cream to the left (southeast corner). Photo courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (L87-1.85022-56) Haven’t been to Doyle’s in a while? Be sure to visit them this summer! Their home-made ice cream is on offer until about October.
It is still easy to remember my age, probably about ten or so, when we lived on Gardner, West 2305 to be exact, next door to the Hamers. They owned the Hamer Pickle Company, where my dad worked throughout all of his working life that I can remember. Les Hamer, my dad’s boss, was the father of one of my best friends, Charles “Junior” Hamer. Incidentally his younger brother, David, later owned “Hamers,” an upscale men’s clothing store. Along with Junior Hamer, Sam “Jerry” Baird was also a very close buddy.
Holmes Grade School was central to a lot of our activities. We played marble games before and after classes, and there were paper drives, May Day, and then our first male teacher, Malcolm Sharp. Holmes had a beautiful grass front yard that you dared not step on. You had to use the paved walkways.
Junior’s dad was a good friend of Bill Ross, who owned Wandermere. In the summer, he would take us there, and we would dive for golf balls in the lake. In the winter, we were able to team up with some big kids, and sandwiched between them, ride down the toboggan run.
We often made rubber band guns from old inner tubes that were used in car tires. With a good clothespin for a trigger and strips of rubber from the inner tubes, we could spend hours hunting and shooting one another in alleys and woodsheds.
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Refrigerators were not part of the household then. We had iceboxes, instead, delivered by an iceman about once per week. He would chop off a large chunk of ice, bring it into the house, and put it in the icebox. While he was doing this, it was great sport to raid his truck for slivers of ice to suck on. Oreck the iceman would yell at us and chase us away when he discovered our sneaky behavior.
On the corner of Nettleton and Boone was Doyle’s Ice Cream Parlor. It was a hangout for the neighborhood kids, whenever we had a nickel or dime for a pop or ice cream. Art Doyle was a gem. Not until you grow up do you realize the patience and understanding that Art Doyle had for the kids.
Kitty-corner from Doyle’s was Oscar’s Barber Shop. Oscar cut hair, and he also sold Christmas trees during the winter. Unlike today’s designer trees, Oscar’s were natives, which were sometimes sketchy and took a lot of tinsel and decoration.
The streetcar terminus was at Natatorium Park, and the rails to town in our neighborhood were on Boone Avenue. A number of pennies were flattened on the rails, when you were daring, and you had a penny and not much else to do. I can easily remember when busses, fueled by butane, replaced the streetcars. In celebration of the change, they burned a streetcar to the ground with a lot of fanfare at Nat Park.
We played with cars in little roads carved in vacant lots from morning to night. No TV or radio, internet or video games. Imagination fueled our time, and it was good.
In the winter, the ice rink was on Sinto, a block from Cannon Park. Eleven cents, as I remember, got me in on Saturdays. Jerry Baird and I skated pretty well, and at the usual Saturday race one of us would almost always win. The prize was a free ticket for the next Saturday. There were two girls we liked to skate with: Ruth Salmon and Lillian “Bubbles” Axton. It took courage to ask them to skate, but later in life, Jerry and Bubbles were married.
Time passed. The solid, middle-class neighborhood, where the doors were never locked, where you could play in the streets and yards until after dark and never worry about crime or leaving your bike or ball glove outside have become history. Jerry Baird, Norm Miller, Junior Hamer, and Joe Lee are all gone now. But they live on in my memories of my childhood, and the memories are so good.