During the early part of World War Two we lived on a cul-de-sac in Neosho, Missouri, while I was in the first grade and half of the second. The short cul-de-sac had six houses on it, just like the twelve or so identical cul-de-sacs in the subdivision, which consisted of the main subdivision road with cul-de-sacs coming off each side of the road every 300 feet or so. It was quickly constructed either by or for the Army. All the houses, which had been equally quickly and cheaply built, were occupied by Army officers, who were training at nearby Camp Crowder.
I don’t know whether or not everyone was shipped overseas at the same time because my Mother and I left a day or two after my Dad’s departure.
The cul-de-sac was gravel—no time for paving or curbing.
There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood, almost all older than me by a year or two or three. The cul-de-sacs, particularly the one just up the hill from ours, made good baseball fields. There wasn’t a tree or fence or any other obstacle in the entire subdivision, so access to the other streets was very easy—you just walked through the yards, none of which had grass because there wasn’t time to plant or grow it. Starting my baseball playing days with older kids had some challenges, including the time I was hit square in the eye with a very hard-thrown baseball, but it proved to be valuable, similar to Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue.”
The middle of the cul-de-sac was useful as the location for the can in games of kick-the-can, a challenging game because there was no place to hide except behind one of the houses, which left a long, exposed run trying to kick the can before you were caught.
I don’t remember the names of any of my friends there. I think we all sensed that we would never run across each other again, even if we didn’t really understand all that was going on. We all knew these cul-de-sacs were not home.
A note from Allison and Marcia: Charlie wrote this story for one of our workshops, reminding us all of the importance of home. What are your memories of places you have called home?