I got this idea from Becky, who posted Google Earth pics of the street where she grew up… as background to one of the strangest dream stories I’ve read in quite a while. The idea, such as it is, that occurred to me was “could I even remember the addresses of my childhood homes, and if so, would the house(s) still be there?”
Well… I remembered two addresses right away, the first being “3 Rue Mozart, Sceaux,
.” This is the house my parents and I lived in for about three years, give or take a couple of months. My father was stationed in downtown Paris… in a small non-descript sort of building on Avenue Kléber, just a stone’s throw from the Etoile, aka L’Arc de Triomphe. His workplace was in keeping with his mission, as he was in the USAF’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI). His building was actually an apartment house, and there were no signs or other indicators that the building was an Air Force installation. “Air Force office” would probably be a more appropriate term than installation, come to think on it. But, I’m digressing. What my father did has no bearing on what we’re on about here, other than the fact his being stationed in Seine, France was why I was in Paris . But, then again, that’s everything, ain’t it? Paris
So… what you see in these Google Earth screenshots (as always, click for larger) are…
You can see a placemark over my neighborhood, which was on the south side of the city. The actual city of
is within the boundaries of the ring road, which is quite visible in the screen shot. I went to school at Orly Field, which you can see in the lower right quadrant of the screenshot. I lived in Sceaux, but one street over was the village of Bourg-La-Reine, which was where the metro stop was. More on that, in a moment. Paris
Second: My neighborhood.
Sceaux and Bourg-La-Reine.
The salient feature of the neighborhood is the Parc de Sceaux, which I’ve talked about a little bit here. The park is quite large, as you can tell from the screen shot, and was only about a six minute bike ride from my front door. I spent many, many hours riding my bike through that park and playing “cowboys and Indians” sorts of games… which were mostly Americans vs. Germans, Big Bang Two style. Keep in mind, this is around 1955 or so, and World War II wasn’t something a kid read about in history books. World War II was recent history back then and my father, and all my friends’ fathers, fought in it. There was also physical evidence of the war that hadn’t been cleaned up completely in the intervening ten years. Not so much in
, which was relatively unscathed by the war, but certainly visible in Paris (where we’d moved from) and MOST certainly visible in London , where the family vacationed. Digressions ‘R’ Us… Germany
And finally: the house I lived in:
The amazing thing…for me… is that I recognize the street quite well. Even MORE amazing is the fact the vacant lot across the street from my house is STILL vacant, even though 50+ years have passed. That “vacant lot” isn’t as vacant as it seems, or at least it wasn’t when I was a child. The lot is (or was) actually a very large garden, with vegetables and fruit trees, and it looks like the garden is still tended today. The garden was owned and tended by my boyhood friend Christian’s grandparents when I lived on Rue Mozart, and my family was the recipient of a lot of goodies that came out of that garden. Christian, a young French boy my age, was one of my partners in crime. My two other closest friends, Tommy Wallace and Skipper Amey, were the sons of US military families that lived in the area… and there were only three such families, including my own.
I mentioned above that I would say more about Le Metro. The metro was my friends’ and my ticket out of the ‘burbs and into The City. Now, being as how we…all of us boys… were only ten years old, we had limits placed upon us by our parents. We were free to ride our bikes all over the neighborhood(s), and were allowed to venture as far as the Parc de Sceaux. Everything else was “off limits.” But… we were boys. Very imaginative and a lil bit daring boys, too. Tommy, Skipper, and I figured out how to read the metro maps, locate the places we wanted to go (this being our favorite destination), save money from our allowances for train tickets, and actually travel into the city for the day… and get home by mid-afternoon. Without ever being caught. Which we did about once a month throughout my final summer in
. Years later I told my parents about our adventures and they were suitably horrified. Well, Mom was, anyway. Dad just kinda smiled a little bit, and I can’t help but feel he thought “That’s my boy!” But he would never have said something like that in front of Mom. And he would of beat the livin’ daylights out of me, had I been caught back then. But, Hey! I wasn’t. Paris
Those clandestine trips into
are the things I remember most about living there. There are other things, true, but one never forgets one’s very first taste of independence, no? Paris