What would I say if my grandson asked me about where I got my identity?
Christmas celebrations are made for real families

Growing up in the Banks neighborhood of Bay City

I grew up in a neighborhood called Banks because it's situated right on the Saginaw River which runs out into a bay.  I grew up with boats big and small going right by my house.  There were gravel boats and big foreign ships.  There was a shipbuilder about a half-mile down the river where guided missle destroyers were built.

I can't wait for my grandson Xavier to ask about where I grew up.

It was a world onto itself that had an old rickety bridge as its main doorway.  When bigger boats wanted to pass through,it had to swing its center span open where there was a bridge tender in a neat little house. As a kid, I'd stay on to get a free ride that would disconnect me from both sides.  As I got older, I'd go down there on Sundays during the spring and summer when the bridge would open and close constantly.

Riding the center span provided an escape from the rigors of growing up in a single-parent home in the fifties and sixties.  It also fed my imagination as big freighters and tug boats passed through.

Next to the bridge on the shore were big gravel piles that were replenished on a frequent basis by boats that would come in right in front of our house.  They had big conveyor belts that took the gravel from the boat to the shore.  As a kid, those gravel piles were my imaginary mountains that could be climbed with some risk that the rocks would move and cover you.

On our street, there were two separated little business districts with bars anchoring each end, the Town Tavern and the Last Chance Bar.  They were patronized by neighborhood people and by a regular group of bar flies.

Our neighborhood had a couple of convenience stores, a little restaurant, a city dairy, a fire station, a barber shop and when I was four or five years old,there was a milling company kitty corner from our house that made wooden pallets.  I remember the day that it burned down.

This is the neighborhood where my mom and dad bought a big old house that had to be way over a hundred years old.  My mom talked plenty and with some detail about the circumstances of moving there when I was a baby.

But most of the details went in one ear and out the other.  She talked about such things often.  I'd listen and nod my head and acknowedge what she was saying.  Now I wish I had taken notes.

I feel some pride in being able to say I grew up in Banks.  I'm not sure why.  It was a place where there were no pretensions.  There were no country clubbers where I grew-up and a minimal amount of fanciness.

This is the house where we were living when my dad walked out one day in 1948 and never came back.  He left for a carpentry job and just vanished into thin air.  

It's where I grew up.  I did a whole lot of learning here.  It's where I became a man.  A lot of my personal history took place right there.