Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Snapshot of Life in Irvington in the 1940s

Editor's Note:  Richard Gaskill spent most of his formative years in Irvington. His family moved out of the neighborhood in 1947 and he has never been back.  Now in his 80s, Mr. Gaskill can still vividly recall his time here. He wrote that he remembers every inch of ground and he jokingly penned that he became quite acquainted with Principal Lloyd Blue at School #85. He would love to hear from any of his former classmates so drop me a note at and I will put you in touch.  

At the Edge of Irvington
By Richard C. Gaskill

The Gaskill family were the first to dwell at 35 North Elizabeth Street.  They lived here from 1941 to 1947.
When my parents and I moved into 35 North Elizabeth Street in 1941, I was seven years old, and we had lived at two other addresses in Irvington. First we lived at 5608 E. Michigan Street (1939-40) and after that, we moved into apartment six in the Audubon Court (1941). My parents were the first owners of the house on North Elizabeth Street, and we lived there until my dad changed jobs, and we left Indiana for Pennsylvania in 1947 when I was thirteen.

When we lived on North Elizabeth Street, there was nothing but fields, farm, and woods to the north and to the east. Edmondson Avenue was a dirt road, and I never even knew that it had a name.  At the north end of Elizabeth, there was a little creek, where we kids would turn over rocks, and catch crawdads. The fields and woods were well explored, and endless hours were spent roaming around the area away from the houses. The space between North Elizabeth and Edmondson Avenue was just an overgrown area where they piled the brush from clearing the lots to build the houses.

I would walk along the little creek to my friends' houses over on East Saint Joseph Street and vicinity. This was quite an adventure for a little kid, because the weeds and grasses grew up taller than we were, so we felt like explorers when we did that. We also rode our bicycles.

During my time at Audubon Court, all of the kids would play on what we called the "big lawn" around the Layman Mansion located just south of the apartments (demolished). The most exciting thing we did was to explore the utility tunnel which ran north under the eastern building of the Audubon Court. It was too scary to do more than a couple of times, though. Our mothers freaked out when we told them what we did, and instructed us not to go there anymore.

The Gaskill Family lived at #6 at the Audubon Court (5703 East Washington Street) in 1941. Now in his 80s,  Richard Gaskill noted that he and his friends used to play under the giant horse chestnut trees on the grounds of the Layman Mansion just to the south of Audubon Court. 
I remember less about East Michigan Street, except that I did manage to fall off the porch railing, one day when I evidently leaned too far back while sitting on it. I got a big surprise, and a quick trip to the ground, flat on my back between the shrubbery and the foundation of the porch.

The Gaskill family briefly dwelled at 5608 East Michigan Street from 1939 to 1941.  
I attended kindergarten at 9 N. Arlington Ave., where it appears that there is now a carpet store. My elementary schools were #57, #77, and #85, and one semester at Howe High. The original #77 was, of course still in existence, and in use then. I'm not sure how I got to #57, but for #77, I rode my bicycle during the end of my "tenure" there, and walked to #85, or rode my bike.

The streetcar only ran east as far as Sheridan Ave, so when I went to high school, I rode the streetcar (or the "trackless trolley") when the weather was nasty, or my bike if it was pleasant. Howe High School was very nice then, and the high school I attended in Lansdale, Pennsylvania was a real shock to a kid from Irvington. Fortunately, I only had to go there for a semester, while waiting for the closing on a property my folks bought in Bucks County.

I have never been back to Indiana, and I have no idea what ever happened to any of my friends, with the exception of Phil Padgett (see "Tragedy at the Tracks -- 1950," April 30, 2013 post) If there is anyone who was in either the Class of 1947 at IPS #85, or the Howe High School Class of 1951, please get my email address from Bill, and drop me a note. Those of us who are still here are 80 years old now, and I would like to hear from other childhood friends.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this place is only a couple of blocks from where we grew up - 313 N. Kitley Ave. We went to #77 and Howe, too.