Friday, July 18, 2008

One of My Boyhood Homes

I got this idea from (ed: a former blogger friend with whom I've fallen out), 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, Seine, France.” 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 Paris was why I was in Paris. But, then again, that’s everything, ain’t it?
So… what you see in these Google Earth screenshots (as always, click for larger) are…

Metropolitan Paris.

You can see a placemark over my neighborhood, which was on the south side of the city. The actual city of Paris 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.

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 Paris, which was relatively unscathed by the war, but certainly visible in London (where we’d moved from) and MOST certainly visible in Germany, where the family vacationed. Digressions ‘R’ Us…

And finally, the house I lived in:
3 Rue Mozart, Sceaux. Second house on the left, with the three cars parked in front.

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 Paris. 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.

Those clandestine trips into Paris 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?


  1. Sounds like fun in Paris. Not sure what your parents were thinking, though, letting you roam on your bikes all over the neighborhoods, in a foreign country no less. Child molesters/kidnappers/bullies are EVERYWHERE!

    Seriously though, can you imagine if a kid of one of the overprotective parents we have today rode the subway into a major city by themselves? Their heads would explode.

    Off topic, thought you might be interested in what one of your former employers has been up to.

  2. I've never thought of looking at Google Earth to check out the house I grew up in. VERY cool. Funny thing - growing up we had an inground swimming pool. Nearly every other house in the neighborhood did; it was THE thing to do circa 1971.

    The pool at the house I grew up in is the only one remaining in the neighborhood. All the others are gone.

  3. Oh wow! Ten years old and exploring Paris! I'm jealous!

  4. What a beautiful neighborhood and such fun memories! I wish I could have gone exploring with you - ride the Metro in to Paris - so very different from my childhood.

    When I was a senior in high school I remember talking my dad into letting me ride the bus to Dallas to meet up with a friend and go to a concert (no way would he let me drive by myself). It was really a pretty funny story. Dad kept saying, "But I don't like Dallas!" He said this several times before Mom walked by and pointed out, "You're not the one going to Dallas." I got to go.

  5. It is very interesting that the lot has remained...unbuilt upon. One would hope, for the sake of sentimentality of youthful imprinting that it well remains a garden the question...what desire now have you to see it again?'s your francais?

  6. Mike sez: Seriously though, can you imagine if a kid of one of the overprotective parents we have today rode the subway into a major city by themselves? Their heads would explode.

    Agreed. I'm not sure kids today would even think of doing some of the things we did, but that's probably very egotistical on my part. If you read my "When I Was Eight" post, you'll note I didn't mention this escapade. I didn't want to give SN3 any ideas...

    Thanks for the link! It's GOOD to read something positive about EDS... after all the EDS-bashing that goes on in the Navy 'sphere over NMCI.

    Wow, Kris... that's interesting! Do you suppose the pools were filled in because of the "safety hazard" they represent, or because it's expensive to maintain a pool?

    Ash: We were just boys, being boys. We probably would have done something similar, no matter where we were.

    Lou: Yeah, our childhoods were radically different, as I mentioned over at your place. I should have given you credit for triggering the Metro story, eh?

    FWIW... I'm with your Dad. I don't particularly care for Dallas, either. TSMP used to joke she'd divorce me should EDS ever transfer me to HQ in Plano (the ol' "find another job or find another wife" ploy). I think she was joking, but maybe not...

    Jay sez: now the question...what desire now have you to see it again?'s your francais?

    I've been back, but not recently. TSMP and I went to the "old neighborhood" a couple of times when we were in England in '80 - '83... so it's been 25 years, at least. I don't have any particular desire to see it again. But IF I went to Paris, I'd go out there.

    My French? It used to be excellent, so much so that French people thought I was French when they met me. Short war story: The family vacationed in Nice on our way out of France in 1956/7 (don't remember which), spending a couple of weeks in a villa owned by friends of the family. Neither of my parents spoke French, so it was on me to do the grocery shopping. My Mom would give me a list and I'd trot on down to the shops a couple of blocks from where we were staying and pick up bread, vegetables, milk, and such. She didn't trust me to pick out meat at the butcher's, though, so on about the fourth or fifth day we were there she went with me to the butcher shop, thereby causing a mini-riot on the part of the butcher and his assistants, who refused to believe I was "Americain." And so it went... everywhere.

    Mais aujourd'hui? Il est complètement allé. "Use it or lose it" is utterly and completely TRUE.

  7. That was a really enjoyable read, and you are so right about being boys and doing basically the same thing wherever you would be. I don't think children romanticize to much about their play spots until we are much older. Good memories help out with that and you have some really good ones!

  8. Of the many places I've lived....the 2 that come to mind that have changed a lot/not changed at all:

    328 School Street in Venice, Florida....almost can't recognize the town or subdivision we lived in...meanwhile, Grant Street in Scott, Ohio, has not changed at all(except for the people that have passed on and/or moved, since the day we left for Florida in 1953.


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