Monday, August 22, 2005


There are not very many alleys in the town where I live in California. But alleys are an important part of the street plan in my home-town in Ohio. I suppose alleys were considered a necessity in the days of horse-drawn vehicles when, instead of garages, many houses had a stable at the back of the lot. Alleys also served as utility byways for delivering coal and picking up trash.

As children, we often played in the alley. There wasn't much traffic and when a car did come through, it was going very slowly. (The speed limit in alleys in Ohio is 15mph.) The alley was particularly exciting after a rain when the ruts filled with running water, and we could suddenly splash to our heart's content and sail little paper boats in the instant rivers. One night there was particular excitement when a tree fell, and the alley beside my bedroom window became a major thoroughfare for cars detouring around the blocked street.

Now my sister and I like to explore the alleys for a view of each property that is hidden from the street. There are interesting collections of out-buildings: garages, barns, tool sheds, playhouses, animal pens. Occasionally we see a substantial building that was once a small business: a machine shop, an auto mechanic, a one-man repair shop. We've sighted unknown apartments, even a swimming pool. And there are the carefully tended vegetable gardens: my sister remarks, "Why don't my tomatoes look like that?"

Our home-town is small, and as children, we walked, biked and even roller skated everywhere. Both my sister and I have lived elsewhere for our adult lives. Now my sister has returned after 40 years to take care of Dad, and I visit frequently. As we walk the alleys, we discover a different aspect to the town we thought we knew.


Post a Comment

<< Home