Recalling Life on the South Side of Allen’s Chicago Road

I was a north-sider. I lived in the same house from birth until college.

But I spent most of my time on the South Side…

…of Allen, Michigan.

Population when I was there: about 300.

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As I lay in bed last night in our new small town, my thoughts drifted to life in Allen in the fifties. I wondered if I could recall who lived in the houses I passed regularly on the South Side.

Why would a North Sider venture to the South Side of Allen Michigan? Because that’s where the sidewalk began. We lived in the nicest house in town, right on the west edge of town. We lived on the north side of US 12, also known as Chicago Road.

The city limit sign was right out our front door.

To jump on my bike and go meant crossing to the South Side to grab some sidewalk.

It started in front of Shenefield’s Standard Oil Station.
Here are my recollections of the people who lived on the South Side – in order from Shenefield’s.

I didn’t do so good. I seem to remember only those neighbors that had kids about the same age as me… I guess that’s normal?

  • Mrs. Lambright (maybe) – I took piano lessons from her for one excruciating summer.
  • Unknown
  • Fidler family – Bruce was younger than I but we played together sometimes.
  • Unknown single lady that sold junk off her porch
  • Daniels family – can’t remember the kid, but he was a few years older. Sharon, his sister, used to babysit me I was told.
  • Mrs. Fromm – really nice lady
  • Wilson family – the dad was a cop in Allen and was murdered. Ivan Wilson – didn’t know him, but imagine the impact that had on my home town. Allen was speed trap. He stopped a guy who pulled a gun and murdered Ivan.
  • United Methodist Church – where I went to church and got a pin for 52 weeks perfect attendance to Sunday School.
  • Unknown
  • Unknown
  • Unknown
  • Diedrich family – The funeral home. Bob was my age and we were pals. We did a lot together. Couldn’t play much at his house because there was always a body in the parlor. But he had a great garage because it was big enough for three cars – including a hearse. (Diedrich is prounounced deed-rick, Died-Rich wouldn’t be a good brand for a funeral home.)
  • Unknown – 1/2 house
  • Unknown – 1/2 house (my dad told me these houses used to be one when he was growing up in Allen, but they split them.)
  • Unknown
  • Trall family – Doug was my age, but moved away. His dad was a prison guard. Big tough guy intimidated the hell out of me.

Start of the central “business district”

  • Green Top Tavern – I don’t recall ever setting foot inside. The door from the tavern opened right onto the sidewalk. Had to be alert so it didn’t swing open right in front of a careening bicycle (that’s the only way we rode – careening.)
  • Two ancient buildings – Knights of Pythias Hall I think, the Masons used to meet upstairs. The place of many, many potluck suppers – which is the best food in the world. I forget what the other one was.
  • Barber shop. I have two crowns in my hair and the barber only knew one way to cut my hair – a buzz. I hated my hair in junior high school – I tried to adapt and wear a flat-top, but never got the hair trained, so I had to use that gel that made the hair stiff. By the end of the day, I looked like I had horns. What a dork.
  • Unknown – but it was a beauty shop in half the house.
  • Unknown
  • Unknown (not even sure how many houses there are/were.)
  • Englehart family – the owners of the phone company!  Wilma ran the switchboard and Carl was the technician. Our phone number was 45. Four-five, not forty five. No area code back then.  I’m now living where there are eleven digits in the phone number (including the area code). Destiny.

Cross Street: Railroad to the south and M-49 to the North.

  • Batt family – Chuck Batt was a little older, but he was odd. He loved to cut down trees. With an ax. His axes were so sharp, a neighbor just about cut his hand in half between the fingers when he swung around and it the unprotected blade.
  • Grandpa’s House – Harlow and my “grandmas” lived there. I can’t even remember if he was married four or five times. Nina, divorced him. I remember she had me come visit and gave me a shoe shine shortly before she left. I guess she wanted to create a memory. She did. I recall Pearl and Bess were two other wives he outlived. Pretty sure there was another one.
  • Unknown – but when I was in junior high school it was the DeLine family. Dad owned a bar at the end of town. Judy was younger and had a crush on me. I didn’t care about girls at the time.
  • Post Office – 49227 was a big deal. Our mail was delivered by car because we lived on a Rural Route
  • Allen Public Schools. When my dad attended it was K-12. I think there were three in his graduating class. I attended until sixth grade, then the school consolidated with Quincy schools and I rode a bus six miles. I always blamed this for my bad experience in high school. Us “Allen kids” were never accepted. Always having to catch the bus after school meant not “connecting” with the Quincy kids.
  • Hoopengardner family. Diane was younger and her brother was a “hood.”  Her brother and my older brother tangled.
From here on, my memory gets really hazy… because most of the time I crossed the street back to the North Side so I could ride by
  • Sanderson family. I had a huge crush on Myrna all through grade school. It was unrequited. She even returned my Valentine’s Day Candy and card one year.  She grew up nicely through high school – aka: she was “stacked.”  As a result, she only dated older jocks from other towns. Dorks with dual crowns didn’t even try.
The last stop was a little general store where I would blow my money from selling Grit newspapers and my allowance on candy. They had the best choice.
Life on the South Side for a North Side kid was pretty good. If it sounds like Stand By Me, it wasn’t. Well maybe if you take away the dead kid, it was.
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Recalling Life on the South Side of Allen’s Chicago Road — 1 Comment

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