The Last Guardian of the Street

A few days ago the last guardian of the street said her farewells. She was the last of the families that had at one magical time graced Riverview Avenue. Her white house held court up at the corner, looking over both the 15 and 16 hundred blocks of Riverview, a street that never did have a river nor a view. 

Fifty years ago, though, the neighborhood sang with the voices of children as we organized games of kickball in the street, appointing one child the job of lookout at the top of the hill who yelled “car!” when one was spotted. We scattered, allowing the automobile to pass, and then resumed our game, sometimes mid-play.

Most of the families had two to four children, providing built-in friends for my siblings and me. My best friend Michelle lived down the block in a neat, white brick home. My sister’s and brothers’ friends were scattered up and down the tree-lined street. On warm summer evenings we met in our front lawns to play games of Ghost or Red Rover or Statue.

Family names like Kester, Steele, Yettaw, Stahulik, Fisher, Loftus, and Beyer peppered the two blocks. Doors were rarely locked. We wandered in and out of each other’s houses carrying balls, board games, and Barbies. Most days we ruled the neighborhood, exploring the gully or the gravel pit. Rainy days sent us to our basements where we played marathon sessions of Yahtzee or “School.”

My sister Ann is four years younger than me. When you are growing up, four years can seem like decades. When I was discovering Jim Croce and John Denver, Ann and her best friend Ann Beyer were giggling over the Bay City Rollers. They poured over Tiger Beat, googling Leif Garret and other cute teen pop stars. My dad would often ask, “What are those girls screaming about now?” I would just shrug and stick my nose back in the book I was reading.

The Anns and their friend Jani formed a fierce pre-teen trifecta. They often met at the Beyer house after school where Ann’s mother would serve snacks on a tray. Our messy house had a choice of the hose or Dixie cups of Kool-aid, so according to my sister, we couldn’t compete with Mrs. Beyer’s tidy home.

As the seventies moved into the eighties and nineties, families began to move away, one by one. As the new century approached, the only ones remaining were the Beyers and my parents, but even that eventually fractured as my dad’s memory faded and my mother moved to a smaller home in a senior community.

Mrs. Beyer was the last guardian of the street. After she lost her husband, she kept to herself, mostly spending time with her daughter and granddaughters. And now she’s gone, leaving the memories of Riverview Avenue to those of us who recklessly careened our bikes down the hill or played hours of four-square at the end of driveways. We can still hear our mothers calling us home for dinner. We often feel the cool spray of the sprinklers we jumped through on hot afternoons. And we will never forget the freedom we held tightly during those treasured sepia-colored days.

We, the children of Riverview, the holders of those precious snapshots of childhood, say goodbye and thank you to the last guardian of the street. Or as they say in the Navy, “Fair winds and following seas, m’am. We have the watch.”