East Side Park

by Tom Murphy


As far back as I can recall, it was officially Independence Park, but the original name had been East Side Park, and it was directly across Van Buren St from the main entrance to East Side High School, so everyone knew it as East Side Park.

Many of the local churches also looked over the park, or were only a block or two away. And several "social clubs," especially the Italian-American Association. It was a fairly standard city park, a concrete walkway threading through a grassy lawn with "lots" (or so it seemed) of trees and the occasional bench or water fountain. There was a gazebo/bandstand in the center, a bocce-ball court at the point directly across from the Italian-American Association, (There may also have been a basketball court -- my memory is a little fuzzy on that point.) and two buildings, one near either end, housing the restrooms, a small office, and I'm not sure exactly what else.

They also marked off two special areas of the park. At the North end, fronting Elm street, were two small baseball/softball diamonds. At the south end, fronting Oliver Street was the playground, with two large sandboxes, a slide, a couple of swing sets, and a set of "monkey bars." There was usually a matron on duty in the playground. For many of my childhood years the matron was my father's Aunt Annie.

It was too far to walk to from Vincent Street, but my mother's parents lived only a block away, on Pulaski Street. Whenever we visited them, we would, after a suitable wait (long enough to take off our coats and go to the bathroom), ask if we could "visit Aunt Annie" for a little while. (We learned early that we got better results if we focused on familial duties rather than selfish desires, so it was always "visit Aunt Annie," never "go play in the playground"). Aunt Annie always seemed happy to see us, even though we just ran up to her to give her an "hello" kiss, and then ran off to play. She often had a treat she shared with us. We didn't realize it then, but since she had no idea that we were going to drop by, those "treats" were probably her lunch.


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