‘Historic Newberry’ Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Life in the neighborhood was noisy. There was always the sound of dogs barking or the purr of lawn mowers mowing. At the bar down the street there was a man in an apartment who owned a talking cockatoo. As you passed you were almost always sure to see a woman lifting her thighs over and around the cool metal of a Harley Davidson, and squeezing her hips to the man in front. There were boys with frizzy fros on the corner drinking coke from metal cans and lights on in houses with families gathered around supper or collectively watching the tv. Life as you know it was there in every shape or form. If you hopped down to the Italian Deli on the corner there was sure to be the chef smiling, holding out his baby boy in his arms as the sous chef prepared a pizza behind him. He would present his boy to the customers beaming, reciting his age and weight. The chef was always eager to say how important it was his boy grow up in the kitchen surrounded by people, music and laughter. It was a good kind of place the neighborhood, it had its dark back alleys, but then it had its front street, the warmth of humanity like a press of bodies spilling out doors and windows into the streets. It was copasetic.There were bony ass mutts with scruffy fur and kids on corners, riding bikes while the little ones rolled down the street in prams. There were 50 cent candies at the convenience store and ice cream shops dishing out hot fudge sundaes with a cherry on top. It was the kind of place where mothers remained in contact with mothers, hanging on coiled phone lines and the utterances of their nearest neighbors. Word got out about trouble, about kids growing up, about marriages. These were all the idle topics of conversation kept in your back jeans pocket scrunched up against your wallet. There were kids with short hair, kids with long hair hooping hula hoops and basketballs. The playground was a place to be surrounded by the flurry of human life. Kids jumping up and down, sliding down slides, swinging on swings, vaulting over jungle gyms as their parents look on. There were barbershops, bars and baby daycares. Even a bookstore on the corner of 4th and 9th streets. It was the place I grew up playing kickball in alleys with the boys and popping down to the corner store for candy. A woman lived just down the block from me who used to smoke cigarettes by the pack and every day walking past there was a cloud puffing from her front porch like a smokestack. This was our territory and you would never forget it. Not with the way we paced the streets marking out corner by corner, block by block our way of living.

Alice Baldys