Who would have thought this young girl would be a mom to an amazing son, working in radio for close to 25 years, owns a business, runs her own online radio station, running several online media & networking groups, event planning and two blogs? She had no idea!
Gentrification may have taken down the buildings but the memories are still there!
My love letter to my childhood:
Growing up in the housing projects of Elmore Square and Bentley Drive, I remember the smell of the hallways. Some smelled like “piss” and struggle and others made the best hiding places for hide and seek or hide and “go get it”. They were where we stored our bikes and baby dolls, fought our boyfriends, braided hair, smoked weed and hid from the rain until our jitney came.
The “courts” (courtyard) was a way for us to find out where you lived. For example, if someone were looking for you, they’d say you lived in the pretty court or in the court with the hole in the middle. You were lucky to live in the pretty court or the quiet court, but no one wanted to live in or visit the “old head” court. That’s where all the seniors lived, and you weren’t allowed to do anything there.
My neighbor on Bentley Drive, Miss Penny lived across the court always cooked. Sometimes you could smell the fried chicken all the way to the playground. You could smell a lot of food when the “stamps” came in.
Miss Brenda lived on the first floor with her 2 sons. On most days, you could smell a strange odor coming from her front door. My mom used to tell my siblings and I to hold our breath all the way to the top (we lived on the third floor). We thought it was a game, but mom later told me Miss Brenda smoked crack.
I remember the neighborhood store bus “Mack Mack” that would pass through all The Hill projects (Whiteside, Elmore, Grove Street, Reed & Roberts, Bentley Drive, Burrows Street). Mom would send us to get a pack of Newport cigarettes, pumpkin seeds, Pepsi and a bag of Snyder potato chips. If there was change left, we could get penny candy. I had no idea that back then, that was illegal!
Everyday wasn’t a scene from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but it was my hood. We played outside, rode on the backs of buses, swam in the pool (even after it closed) and spent our money on candy.
Years went by and people moved in and moved out of the projects. We grew up and had families of our own. Some even raised their families in the same project they grew up in. But it was cool; it was what it was.
I don’t remember when the buildings were torn down because I left after I graduated high school. There are times I wished the projects were still there but standing vacant just so I could show my son where I grew up. Sharing stories of where we played “Release The Den” and showed him how to play “Poison” in the hoop court. But that’s all gone now.
Those memories will forever live in my heart.