Our stay in Texas was to be the longest for me in any one place for quite a while...about 7 years. I remember less about the trip from Arizona to Texas than the longer one from North Carolina, and my first recollection was staying for several days in a motel (that word hadn't been coined yet; the place was called the Blue Top Cabins, I think) in the area of College Station that I learned later was called North Gate. I have to presume now that this was while final negotiations were made for the house we were to live in, which was at the South Gate area, at 300 Montclair, on the southern corner of Grove Street (Montclair runs northwest to southeast; Grove southwest to northeast, but ends at Montclair). Somewhat later during our stay, the house was re-numbered 400 Montclair. I've found it in Google's Street View—It looks strangely small to me now, and of course the neghborhood's much changed. Half a century will do that.
Dad, Mother, Hale, Elinor and I stand in front of "Our Car" as I'd dubbed it, on the street by what would be our new home for the next seven years or so.
I had my seventh birthday there soon after we moved into the house. The house itself was pretty good sized, sitting on the north corner of a large block with few other houses on it, all at the opposite corner. There was a substantial yard on all sides—but no trees. The recent Google street view shows that's all changed, including full-size trees. The house had a veranda extending from a master bedroom and front door, facing Montclair, around to the right side facing Grove, reaching to the kitchen; on the other side of the kitchen was a small porch with exterior door. Inside, the living room was adjacent to the master bedroom, but a walkway led past them to a central dining room, with another bedroom off to the left and the kitchen to the right, then it continued to a former sun porch on the southwestern side. There was a back door with a little grape arbor over it leading to the back yard over at the southeast end, at the corner.
One of the curiosities of the place was a line of mismatched short floorboards that ran through the middle of the house. I was to learn that the entire house had been cut in half at some point and moved to its present location, and those boards marked the line of the cut. There was, in fact, another house that this had been partially done to further on down Montclair... but it was still just half a house; the cut side was just flat wall! The other half may have been somewhere else in town; I never learned where.
Elinor chuckles at my self-absorbed finger-play, with Hale and Grandma sitting on the porch and Grandpa bemused on the right. Circa 1946 at a guess.
When I started school, there, at A&M Consolidated Schools, about a mile away to the north, I was initially put into the second grade. I'd probably have been better off in the long run had I stayed there, but when I inquired about it they did move me to the third...where the bigger kids were. At that time the lower grades were in individual sets of single-story buildings comprising adjacent classrooms, commonly referred to as the "chicken-coops"—each classroom opened straight to the outside, to the sidewalk and play yard for that set of classrooms. This sort of kept each grade separated from the kids of the previous and next years, until the third or fourth grade, when the buildings were longer, had more classrooms adjacent to each other. The last set before going down the hill to where the junior high and high school buildings were, had maybe the fifth and sixth grades sharing a larger play yard, with trees and room to play work-up softball and flies-and-grounders and tag and other such activities in it.
The first kid I got to know in my neighborhood was a tow-headed rascal named Billy McKay, about my age, who thought my name was Royce (which I thought was pretty funny). He had a kid brother, Georgie, although I didn't get to know him until a bit later. They lived on the other side of Grove. I have a kind of bittersweet story about them elsewhere, called "I Had This Friend." It says pretty much whatever I need to about them, but also reveals a bit of my own life failures.
Then there was Jon Ray Perryman, who lived on other side of Montclair, a little north, on the corner of the next street up. He was, I guess, for at least the first few years, my best friend there. He was younger, though, and later on my best friend was Jack Smith, who was my own age and shared with me interests in a variety of intellectual pursuits. And escapades... But that's another story for another time—if ever, all things considered.
Other kids that became a kind of coterie with me over the years were Michael Luther, Micky Williamson, John Price and, to a lesser extent, Bill Little. From this perspective, I realize that I was not really a good friend to most of them, including the McKays and Jon Ray, though some of them hung in there despite my poor behavior toward them—I'd grown stronger and tested my ability to coerce and play mean jokes, and, indeed, I suppose I became something of a bully. Bill Little stayed away after one such occasion; I wasn't smart enough then to understand it fully. I have realized for quite some time, actually, that I was out of line with them back then; unfortunately, unless any of them should run across this, I don't know of any way to apologize to them directly. That never happened with Jack, though; he and I renewed acquaintance in later years, as I may get to eventually.
Of course, there were a couple of kids that I considered bullies. One, Tommy, about my age but lively and strong, terrorized me every time I passed through his neighborhood, getting me down on the ground and promising untold ravages to my person, then letting me go with warnings of what would happen if he caught me again. Unfortunately, his neighborhood was between my house and school and on the route past my friend Jack's place. One year, however, after Jack and I had cut ourselves some "swords" from branches in a park-like area* near his place, I was walking home with mine and Tommy saw me going by and, acting very friendly, asked me about it. I showed him how I made it; he made one, and we played sword fighting with them, not aggressively, and there was never any further bullying from him. It's nice that we ended up on good terms. Actually, I don't recall that I ever saw that much of him after that, anyway.
I can't even remember the other guy's name, now, nor much of the circumstances of our encounters, save that I was not so much forced to visit his neighborhood and so avoided him whenever possible.