A Collage of Sacred Childhood Vignettes

1950s- San Francisco

When Childhood was Guaranteed by Neighbors



The Sacredness of Childhood...

and the way kids get "It"...

I wrote down these tales 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 childhood so safe - so sacred? It was because the adults in the nabe' silently conspired to watch over us.

Portsmouth Square Stories is a collage of my sacred childhood memories, circa late 1950s, in the historic International District of San Francisco:

Beatnik families, Barbary Coast strippers, & Financial District professionals.

Odd-ball locals, Filipino & Chinese shop owners, friendly black and white drunkards, and wayward country singers who sang us a little Hank Williams.

The Italian American community of North Beach.

The local Hall of Justice denizens - policemen, detectives, bailbondsmen, lawyers, and jailbirds.

Carefreely, I spent a childhood catching baby crabs by hand at Fishermen's Wharf, eating summer raspberries on Telegraph Hill, feeding sea lions at Playland by the Beach, catching butterflies, bumble bees, potato bugs, and pincer bugs in Portsmouth Square - watched by soon-to-be-famous writers and painters sunning themselves on glossy green park benches.

So too, as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fall into place,  the reader re- experiences how as a child, we assembled the world. In the end “ ...it will all come together... ” for the reader, as clearly and as exactly as in a more typically crafted narrative.

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