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A gently curving road off of Larch, Ash Avenue is nestled against a sere, brown hillside and has an angled cement median dividing the upper and lower parts of the roadway. We kids used to jump from the steepest part to the bottom and it felt like we were flying.

My parents moved us there in the mid-1950s into a small, boxy house, cheek-by-jowl with the other boxy houses. In fact, the neighborhood could easily have inspired Malvina Reynolds to write the song "Little Boxes," although I prefer Pete Seeger's version better

However, not all of the people in the houses "went to the University" or played "on the golf course." My father wasn't a "Doctor or a Lawyer" or even a businessman--he was a mechanic and my mother was a waitress at a restaurant in Burlingame. They rented the house for about $25 a month (I looked at it on Google Street View recently and it "still looks just the same," but according to Zillow the estimated value is a totally ridiculous sum of almost one million dollars). But in a way, my brother and I did "go to Summer Camp;" he was farmed out to our Grandparents in Washington and I went to Aunt Peggy's in Oregon.

One of the reasons we moved there was because my Dad's eldest sister and her husband owned a house at the very upper end of the street (they were always more "upwardly mobile"), but across the median from us. They eventually sold the house and relocated to Burlingame, but luckily the new owners had a large family (they were Catholics, after all, in an era when the Pope frowned on contraception), including a daughter who was my best friend while we lived there.

Since it was the 1950s we children were pretty much allowed to play in the street and run all over the neighborhood and into the hills. We spent our allowances at the penny candy store, played Hide and Seek, tag, and took turns swinging on a tire swing that hung from a large tree halfway up the hill. It was probably dangerous as hell, because if one fell (or jumped) off at the wrong point you could tumble halfway down the hillside.

But the most diverting activity for the kids was to take flattened pieces of cardboard over the hill and slide down the huge cement letters:


You could really pick up some speed flying down those letters!

So far it sounds like your typical white-bread neighborhood (emphasis on white, of course--remember it was the 1950s), but it was, in fact, pretty much as scandalous as Peyton Place.

Several houses up from ours, an unwed teen somehow got pregnant, which was a huge scandal. Of course that was eclipsed by the scandal of my Dad's younger brother, who lived with us, having an affair with a married woman whose boys were friends of mine. Her husband tried to commit suicide, but fortunately failed. Those boys are now grown old and are my cousins by marriage.

It does seem many scandals seem to revolve around "the birds and the bees." There were probably many other scandals that went right over my head whilst I was playing Jacks or skipping rope, but looking back it seems strange that many of us kids seemed to know a lot about those birds and bees, since Sex Ed wasn't being taught at the time. I guess it's true that little pitchers have big ears.

Some of us, even though we were under the age of 10, had "made out" or--in a mostly innocent way--"played doctor." These games always seemed to be the boys' idea.

Of course some of the information we believed we knew about sex was a bit imperfect. I knew where babies came from, and I knew what and even which part of a male was involved. I was a bit confused on the timing however. As the teen neighbor got bigger and bigger I did wonder who she was going to get to "drill" in so that baby could get out. What do you expect? I wasn't even 10.

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