As a card-carrying member of the Baby Boomer generation I can state that growing up in Canton was a unique yet all-American experience, and it ain’t like it used to be. Hon!
I was born and raised directly across the street from Canton Elementary/Junior High School. With a schoolyard and playground with monkey bars and an active rec center right across the street, I had everything any kid could ask for except maybe a pool.
For me, going to school from kindergarten through eighth grade meant rolling out of bed, wolfing down a bowl of cereal and making a quick dash across the street. My brother was lae more than he would admit to, and my mother would give him hell for it. Today when new folks move on the block I point out my old kindergarten classroom window. Some find this amazing.
The 230 Rec Center kept me and every kid in the ten-block radius completely involved in softball leagues, stickball, arts and crafts and specialty shows—shoe shows, hat shows, pet shows, you name it, we put on a show for it.
In the winter, besides basketball leagues, ping-pong tournaments and shooting pool, you could take tap-dancing lessons and even learn to play an instrument. You don’t find this any longer anywhere.
On Saturdays my brother and I would go up to Highlandtown to the Grand Theater to see a double feature, which was often a horror or monster movie. We would stop at the Little Tavern next door and buy six burgers and a Coke for 75 cents. The Grand and the Patterson, also in Highlandtown, were our window to the world of film. Ticket price was 25 cents, even for a double feature.
We would ride our bikes to the foot of Clinton Street, and along the way travel through the most heavily industrialized parts of the city. We could get a birds-eye view of all kinds of merchant ships. We also explored a place called Harbor Field, an old airport down on Broening Highway. We were adventurous and our Western Flyers could take us just about anywhere.
Going up to Patterson Park always seemed like a trek, whether it was to do some great sleigh riding on a winter’s night or gather snails off the side walls of the boat lake for our aquarium back home. Patterson Park is still one of THE best parks in the city.
I got my first libray card at the Pratt Branch on O’Donnell Street, and I recall I still owe them two books on dinosaurs and one on tropical fish from when I was in the fourth grade. Can you imagine my library fines?
Growing up in Canton included everything from playing curb ball with your best Pennsy Pinky to playing redline with all your buddies in the back alleys after supper, or going to the St. Brigid or Sacred Heart carnivals and winning a five-pound bag of sugar. It was truly American, and yes, very unique.