My older brother, Bill, and I spent much time playing in our backyard when we lived on Clearview Drive in Metairie, Louisiana. He was two years older and was quite tolerant of me when we were about six and eight years old in the 1950s. We loved to play pretend, designing a city across the concrete driveways and patio with chalk. Anything that wasn’t nailed down was fair game to be confiscated and repurposed as city “equipment.”
We created chalk walls, street signs, stoplights, and storefronts on the concrete. The red wagon was a stagecoach when it was an old timey day, complete with a barbecue grill driver’s seat. Most of the time I was the horse. Bill liked to drive. On days when our city was a modern day one, the wagon became whatever tricked-out car Bill thought was the coolest. The car was powered by the little sister engine in the back. I took that in stride because I was an unpredictable driver, crashing often.
When hunger struck, we ran inside to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and then dashed back outside to continue our pretend saga. If we lost interest in the city, we took the tiny plastic army guys under the shade tree in the front yard. We could be lost in play all day. Sometimes, we took a break in play to ask Mom if we could go to the snowball stand, or to Mr. Rudy’s Hardware store across the street for a visit and a Coke. We loved operating the big red Coke machine almost as much as the smell inside the old store while looking through the bins of nails, nuts and bolts. Of course, that didn’t happen too often. Before dinner, we had to have the backyard city dismantled and put away. This usually brought arguments, but we finished because we were hungry. I didn’t like the clean up because I knew we’d just drag all that stuff out another day.
My friend around the block had it made. Her parents let her set up doll families and toys all over their unused garage and leave it there. She and I played often in her garage. We never wanted to stop for dinner. Boys were not allowed there, nor would they want to be.
Between the two, I enjoyed playing with Bill in the backyard the most. He was just good company. He had a good imagination and a sense of humor. I loved my big brother.