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