A Collage of Childhood Vignettes
1950s- San Francisco
When the Nabe' Protected Sacred Childhood
PORTSMOUTH SQUARE STORIES
THE PREQUEL TO THE EIGHTH PROMISE
The Sacredness of Childhood...
and the way kids get "It"...
I wrote down these rememberences from my idyllic inner-city childhood because Americans no longer believed in the sacredness of childhood: too many mik-carton kids and amber alerts, and parents who feared allowing their kids to "free-range."
Why was my own "free-ranging" childhood so careree, so safe - so sacred? It was because the adults in the nabe' silently conspired to watch over us...and stepped in when strangers threatened us on our street.
Portsmouth Square Stories is a collage of these sacred childhood memories, circa late 1950s, in the historic International District of San Francisco. This was no middle class suburban neighborhood, but an inner city one, of struggling families intermingling with down-and-outers of every race
Beatnik families, Barbary Coast strippers, & Financial District professionals.
Odd-ball locals, Filipino & Chinese shop owners, friendly black and white drunkards, wayward country singers who sang us a little Hank Williams on Kearny Street while the Turk Murphy New Orleans Jazz band wailed away down Clay Street.
The Italian American community of North Beach of Victoria's Bakery, Tomaso's Restuarant, Vesuvio's Bar, & Molanari's Deli.
The local Hall of Justice denizens - Irish policemen and detectives, WASP bailbondsmen and lawyers, and jailbirds of all types.
Our summers were days of catching baby crabs by hand at Fishermen's Wharf, eating summer raspberries on Telegraph Hill, feeding sea lions at Playland by the Beach, and catching butterflies, bumble bees, potato bugs, and pincer bugs in Portsmouth Square where we watched over by soon-to-be-famous writers and painters sunning themselves on glossy green park benches.
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE, CLICK ONTO THESE VIGNETTES:
The Writing Style - the seemingly fragmented child's mind
So too, as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fall into place, the reader re- experiences how as a child, we assembled the world. But in the end “ ...it will all come together... ” for the reader, as clearly and as exactly as in a more typically crafted narrative.
Interestingly, much of these vignettes poured down from memory banks on Sunday mornings, a time I associate as sacred time, from my Christian upbringing. Over a series of Sunday mornings at 9 am, a vignette would offer itself. Just one. When I finished writing it down, it was done for that week.
Told from the perspective a ten-year old child named Billy and presented in a non-linear narrative, and while everything actually happened, it’s not always clear even to this author the exact summer of a particular memory, or was it a fusion of similar events over several summers.
But that is just so like the way a child sees the world before she or he “ ...figures it out... ” into a first paradigm: before a child starts to chart things by day, month, and later by school year and new teacher or the new TV series or in my case, which Chinese animal of which particular lunar new year celebration.
But most preciously, we ran free protected by this conspiracy of sacredness of childhood. Our community of adults silently watched over us, protected us, entertained us, and gave us chores to earn money. This motley gathering of marginalized and yet kind souls guaranteed to us the innocence of our childhood and cast a warm, unquestioning spell onto our play and our days in Portsmouth Square...and beyond into every part of San Francisco.
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