The Mishawaka of our youth
On the north side of town, Main Street ended one house north of Ardennes Avenue. Normain Heights kids would hang out at the dead end and watch the cows in the farmer's field. The cows grazed directly behind Pam McCarter's backyard, and the field extended clear over to Juday Creek.  

On the south side of town, the "Mishawaka hills" were the end of town. On 11th Street, just before Mishawaka ended on Dragoon Trail, the Hy-Ration company produced Eagle dog food.

We began kindergarten in September 1955, soon after the polio vaccine became available. Over 40% of us had no television at home; many homes had no telephone. And three months after we began kindergarten, in far away Alabama, a lady named Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus.

Our lunch-time milk came in small glass bottles, each covered with waxed paper and a cardboard plug.

At recess, we played marbles. If a kid lost all of his marbles, the attitude was, "You shouldn't have joined the game if you couldn't play."

The price of a double feature and cartoons at the Tivoli Theater was 15 cents. The theater was on Main Street, just north of Lincolnway.

Kuss' bakery made the best cupcakes, each with creamy filling inside and buttery frosting on top. Cost: five cents.

Many of us had parents who worked at Ball-Band, and we got our Red Ball Jets by sorting through bins of "seconds." We'd find a left shoe and then try to find a matching right.

The library was an old stone building across from Main Junior High. It was a Carnegie Library, one of 1,689 libraries in the United States built with Andrew Carnegie's money. The "children's section" was in the basement. To read the "adult books" upstairs, a child needed a permission letter from a parent.

We telephoned other numbers in Mishawaka by dialing (not touching, but dialing!) five numbers. Then came the time when two numbers were added at the front, in the form of a word. For example "Blackburn" stood for BL, and BL stood for 25.

Many of the girls were at the Blue Birds & Camp Fire Girls summer day camp. We'd meet at Castle Manor in Merrifield Park, play games, sing songs, make things, and hike to Monkey Island for lunch.

During the Christmas season, the city paid for decorations on downtown street lamps. On Good Friday, the downtown stores closed from noon to 3 p.m.

Bock's Roller Rink was north of the river, off Main Street. When we were children, the teenagers just above us were in the era of poodle skirts, and Bock's was where they did their best showing off.

We begged our parents for the new toys: Silly Putty (1949), a Slinky (1955), Play Doh (1956), Frisbees (1957), a Hula Hoop (1957), Legos (1958), Etch A Sketch (1960).

In the summers, we competed on volleyball and baseball teams based out of the neighborhood parks. Girls played vollyball; boys played baseball. No exceptions, even though it was Marsha Brown who taught most of the north side boys how to pitch a baseball.

Rainy summer days meant hours-long games of Monopoly, Chinese checkers, and Parcheesi with neighborhood kids on a covered back porch, or in a garage, or in someone's basement.

And when the rain cleared, we'd all play kick-the-can, hide & seek, and frozen tag, running through neighbors' yards with no thoughts of tresspass laws, and neighbors seldom complained.

We had sleepovers in our backyards. And doing so was safe!

Whole families would go to the drive-in movie theater at the St. Joseph/Elkhart County line.

If we swam anywhere, it was in the Potawatomi Park pool or in the St. Joseph River. Mishawaka did not have its own public pool when we were children.

We had the hill at Central Park: Grab some friends and a few pieces of corrugated cardboard, and you could spend the day sliding down the hill, no snow needed!

Most of the physicians were general practice doctors. They did everything from delivering babies to performing basic surgery. When doctors gave us injections, most would give coupons for free ice cream cones at Bonnie Doon's.

Remember the Cedar Street hill? With enough pleading, you could coax your mom or dad to drive down the hill at just the right speed, and it would feel as if you'd left your stomach at the top of the hill. In winter, ice made that same hill impossible for many cars to climb.

We had no shopping malls. Our moms shopped in downtown Mishawaka or in downtown South Bend. In about 1960, Town & Country Shopping center opened on McKinley Avenue, on the north side of town. These days, it would be called a "strip mall."

Diltz' record store on Main Street distributed printed "Top 50" lists every week. By junior high school, some of us would stop in weekly to pick up the new list.

We took typing in high school, not "keyboarding." We had to learn how to make gentle erasures because "White Out" was not yet available.

All of the boys took one year of shop, and all of the girls took a year of cooking & sewing, and no one asked why.

Across the street from MHS was Klein's Pharmacy, with an authetic soda fountain. We could get hot dogs and special soft drinks: cherry Cokes, lemon Cokes, vanilla phosphates, chocolate phosphates, even suicide Cokes. And if you left the school building at lunch time to get lunch at Klein's, you risked getting caught and given detention.

The boys wore shirts with collars, and those shirts had to be tucked inside their belted pants. The girls wore dresses or skirts & blouses or skirts & sweaters, and no hemline could be above mid-knee.

In June 1968, there were no calls to keep prayer out of the graduation ceremonies. At baccalaureate, we heard from a Methodist minister, a Church of Christ minister, a Jewish rabbi, and a Catholic priest. At commencement, we had a Catholic priest and a Lutheran minister. And we sat in long, silent prayer as class president Randy Marks asked that we pray for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had been shot in the early morning hours of that day.

Graduation day was Thursday, June 6, 1968, and the number one song was Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson."