I grew up in Lapeer, MI, a small town about 20 miles outside of Flint. It was a bedroom community for many GM factory workers. It proudly boasted of the 'Oldest Operating Courthouse in Michigan." There was a main street no more than 1/2 mi. from start to finish, you could easily walk from one end of town to the other in a few minutes.
There was "Goodel's Sweet Shop", an honest to goodness soda fountain. You'd go in, sit at the counter and order up a cherry-coke which the "soda jerk" would mix up on the spot, and serve in one of those Mae West inspired Coke glasses (no bottles here) for a nickel. You could get an ice cream sundae or soda for 25 cents.
If you wanted to buy a the latest record from Perry Como, Dean Martin or The Four Preps you'd go to "Walter's Music Store," the only place in town that carried them. They'd play one for you on a turntable, just to make sure you REALLY liked it, then sell it to you for 80 cents. They also sold those little, cardboard carrying cases that the girls used to tote their records around in. They were a buck.
There was the Western Auto store, where you'd go to pick up a snazzy headlight, horn, carrier or some other accessory for your bike. You could buy the bike there too.
Or you'd go to the "Bike Store." The owner would sell you a new Schwinn (top-o'-the-line) or one that he'd rebuilt, and looked like new. Your bike told the world the kind of person you were, it was an extension of your inner self.
There was "Billy's News Stand" where you could browse the magazine rack for the latest copy of 'Famous Monsters of Filmland" or "Mad." He also sold those Duncan Yo-Yos which became a MAJOR rage back then. I can STILL "walk the dog," "make it sleep," and "go around the world" with one of those. If you see me with a Yo-Yo don't get me started!
There was "Crampton Park" THE destination in the summertime. The parks and rec service pulled out the stops on this one. Every day in the summer I'd ride my bike down there and play ping-pong, tetherball, tennis, baseball and generally hang wit' me homies until dusk, at which time I'd jump on my bike and head home only to do it all again the next day.
There was "Bare-ass Beach" where we'd... well, you figure that one out.
Up until I was 6 I lived downtown, and attended the 2nd Ward School. We lived next door to the firehouse, and every night at 10pm they'd fire up the town siren, a monster air raid siren powered by a Chrysler Hemi engine, and sound the curfew. You could hear it for miles around. No one, I mean NO ONE under the age of 16 was supposed to be out after 10, and they made damn sure you knew!!!
When I was about to go into the 2nd grade we moved out to the country, to a tiny cottage that had once been a chicken coop. It had no central heat, only an oil furnace in the living room. In the winter my dad would fire that bugger up and the living room would be 80 degrees. The rest of the house... about 40!!! When it was REALLY cold there would be as much ice on the inside of the windows as there was on the outside. That could be unpleasant, but what I remember is the acre of open field behind the house, and the wild berries that grew there. Riding horses bareback at McGregor's place about a quarter mile up the road. Playing tricks on 'Old Lady Merz," the land lady, and her kindly husband old "Doc Merz" who would grab his medical bag and high tail it over to the house whenever one of us kids got sick.
One day my dad decided that we needed a television. I'd seen TV before at my uncle's place. It was a HUGE cabinet with a picture tube about the size of a cereal box. It was a seriously amazing gadget, but what really got my attention one day was the goofy looking face in the middle of a test pattern.
There was no way we could receive strong enough signals from our little place in the country, so my dad bought a telephone pole, and put up a HUGE antennae. Once the thing was hooked up, we anxiously went inside to see what was on, and lo and behold there was the goofy looking face in the middle of a test pattern again. Howdy Doody.
For me, that was the beginning of it all.