Crystal’s Corner: Front Porch Culture

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I grew up sitting, jumping and playing on front porches.  As a little girl, I played with my sister and my brother on our front porch in a neighborhood in Chicago.  We also played on our friends’ front porches. My close friend, Debbie, lived down the street.  Her front porch had three levels.  It was great for pretending, bringing our dolls and toys or just lounging around.  No one we knew had air conditioning and neither did the stores or churches or even the libraries.  To keep cool we ran through the sprinkler, drank lots of lemonade, Kool-Aid and iced tea and water from all the hoses in the neighborhood.  No one minded if the kids drank from the hose when they were overheated from playing.  The whole neighborhood, at that time, took care of the children and disciplined them on occasion.  We also threw water balloons at each other and sprayed each other with squirt guns.

In the evenings the whole neighborhood sat on their front porches. Visiting with the neighbors helped my mom find out what was going on: who was getting new furniture or appliances, and who was getting promoted or married or having a baby.  Everyone read the newspapers and women read magazines so recipes and ideas were exchanged in their front porch conversations.

After we moved to the suburbs, we sat on our front porch and talked to the neighbors.  During the 4th of July week our nearby park had a carnival every year.  From our porch we watched the families walk to the carnival.  The people we knew would stop by and chat for a while.  My dad always said “people watching was better than TV.”

On the 4th, the park would have fireworks which we could see from our front yard until the trees grew too tall.  My parents usually invited friends to come for dinner and stay to see the fireworks.  I remember those days like they just happened.

I can taste the sweet cold watermelon, the corn on the cob slathered in butter, biscuits or cornbread and either my mom’s chili or hamburgers and hotdogs from my dad’s grill in the back yard.  Mom would make many Jello salads and desserts in the summer.  We like most of them especially with whipped cream.

Today, maybe because we live in a small town, maybe because Ron and I had similar experiences growing up, to some extent, we keep the tradition alive. Even though air conditioning tends to keep people inside, we sit on our front porch and many of our neighbors do too.  Ron grills salmon, chicken, pork and hamburgers and hotdogs on our porch even in the winter.  You might see me roasting marshmallows for s’mores or just swinging on the porch swing listening to the robins, cardinals and blue jays and watching a brown rabbit in our front yard.  Some things don’t change and for us sitting on front porches is one of them.


Ron’s Parents and our Grand Daughter on  Front Porch 2007

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