Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Frazier's and The Couch's



The map probably looks familiar because I've posted it before. It's my memory of the kids that lived in my neighborhood, plotted out on each street. When I was in Fort Wayne in May, I stopped by the old neighborhood and snapped pictures of the houses where each one of my friend's lived. That one up there is the house where the Couch's lived.

In 1971, I made a lot of great friends at Indiana Village Elementary School. One in particular was Ericka Couch. We sat at table #6 (Miss Crouse's afternoon Kindergarten class) and I think we bonded because one of the other girl's who sat with us (her name was Smokey - I kid you not) - well she kind of scared us. We paired up out of fear - I guess there are worse things to start friendships over :).

Like me, Ericka was the oldest child with one sibling (her - younger brother Aaron, me - younger sister Patty).

We also happened to live in the same neighborhood - well kinda - as she was on the "outskirts" or what was known as Kyle Road. Not that I was allowed on Kyle Road at that age. It might as well have been Sandpoint Road as far as my parents were concerned. Crossing over to it was like asking for a car to hit you. Really. They were convinced that Kyle Road was a main thoroughfare, with wildly - out of control cars and trucks - that struck innocent children - dozens of them.

Another biggie: we also had staunch Catholic mothers and non-religious fathers.

But none of this came to light until one day when my mother dropped me off at school. Ericka's mom was there too. They introduced themselves based upon the fact that they had heard each other's daughter talk about the other (of course they never did know about the "fear" factor and they must have assumed we had gobs in common to bond so quickly).

Before we knew it, my mom (who had recently left her KMart job) and Ericka's mom, Selsa, had made this arrangement in which my mom would babysit Ericka and Aaron during the week. Selsa was an elementary school teacher at Ward Elementary and was looking for help with her two kids during the day. With me and Ericka becoming instant friends, this situation looked very perfect to our moms.

And I absolutely enjoyed having someone else aside from my sister to play with. Although Ericka wasn't really into Barbies, she was adventurous and would play in the ditch with me or on the swings and she was definitely a fan of Gilligan's Island and the Brady Bunch. And she's also the one that showed me how to climb trees. There was one at Scott's Court that was great climbing material - it was a cherry tree and many cherries were collected for pies from that tree...

But anyway - this friendship between our families was a big deal because as I've mentioned previously, my father was extremely racist. And the whole babysitting situation almost did not come to be...because Selsa wasn't white.

But she wasn't black. I'm saying this from the perspective of a six year old because when it came up in a discussion between my parents (of course I was listening - duh!) my dad flat out asked if Selsa was 'that word' which he always associated with non-white. That's when I learned that Selsa was born and raised in Taos, New Mexico and that she was married to Larry who was white. So even though my dad labeled this as an interracial marriage, the fact that Selsa wasn't black but "Mexican" must have been okay. I didn't understand the reasoning then (or even now) - I just know that this distinction is what made it okay for our families to socialize together.

15 comments:

Colleen said...

So sometime in elementary school, Ericka moved to my district,and we did an exchange with her mom's class at Ward. I STILL remember that to this day. A whole class of white faces greeted by a whole class of non white faces. Going from our brand new school to an older school where they ate lunch in the gym because there wasn't a cafeteria.

Learned a LOT that day. Mostly about not being scared of people who looked different. good thing to learn early. With all due respect, I'm sorry your dad didn't learn that.

Cathy said...

I remember an Ericka Couch who went to Homestead in the '80s and was a state champion gymnist...same girl?

Jim said...

I went to Holland Elementary and we ate in the gym, too. Actually, it was officially called the "all-purpose room."

Kristina said...

Colleen - yep - she did (but you're jumpin' ahead of me!!!!).

Kristina said...

Cathy - yes - same girl. All of that will end up being in the Frazier/Couch story soon :).

Kristina said...

Jim - it's amazing that as youngster's we didn't seem to mind that we had to use one room for "multi-purposes".

Very different from today's generation where everything seems to need its own space.

WYA! said...

At Irwin Elementary we also had lunch in the gym (multi purpose room). For some reason, the brown baggers were seated separately from the hot lunch diners (which added a nice element of poverty shame to my Snoopy lunch box meal).

ida said...

didnt ericka couch also go to kekionga junior high. i think i remember her. when i was at lincoln elementry before my parents moved they were finishing up the cafateria and we ate in the gym for a few months. we didnt care eithor. i had the snoopy lunch box too. and my parents were ok about mexicans but not about black people. they changed their minds in 1992 when i had my daughter

Kristina said...

Hi Ida,

Ericka did not go to Kekionga. She moved during elementary school (as Colleen indicated).

I'm glad your parents changed their mind too. Sometimes it takes a life changing event - like a birth or a death - to reset people's assumptions and negativities.

Jim said...

Wya, it was that way at Holland, too. Hot lunches on one side of the gym, those of us who usually brought our lunch on the other side. And no talking!!

I can still remember the tokens we used to use. Blue squares for a hot lunch and red flowers for milk. Then FWCS introduced the new hot pack/cold pack lunch. Had to get the cold pack first so they could put the hot pack on top of it!

Sheila said...

I remember Smokey. She actually was really cool once you got to know her. Don't remember Erika. Memory fails me. I did live at that time in the Cozy Acre's Trailer park on Sandpoint though. I remember Kyle and Tyrone and all those busy busy streets...

Kristina said...

Sheila,

WOW! You remember Smokey?! I know if I had our Kindergarden class picture, I could point and tell you who she was. Any chance you knew anyone in my kindergarden class who would still have the photo?!

Anonymous said...

I guess you could really call Larry a non-religious father. My mother worked with him at Joslyn/Slater Steel. He was the Traffic Manager, she did his billing. My mom knew Selsa real well. I think she still has a picture of her headstone. Larry didn't deserve her.

Kim Coble said...

Yes, same one.

Kim Coble said...

Yes, same one.