The best thing about living on Cherry Street was Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller owned 8 or maybe it was only 6 run down little houses. The upper row faced Cherry Street and the bottom row faced Beverly Drive. I can remember us living in 3 different of his houses at one time or another.
Mom waitressed most of the time, raising 4 of us kids. It was hard on her, I’m sure. Mr. Miller’s houses weren’t fancy, but they were there when we needed them. I’m sure my mother and Mr. Miller developed a relationship of sorts after a while, since we had rented from him on numerous occasions.
I don’t remember a lot about how Mr. Miller looked, except that he had gray hair. He was a kind man with a bright smile.
In the summertime, Mr. Miller would pull into the neighborhood on his motorcycle. It was a big bike with the saddle bags on the back and all the bells & whistles. He would spend time giving all the kids in the neighborhood rides on it. He didn’t give rides in the way you would think. He would pile as many kids on that bike as he could! There would be a couple in front of him, on the tank, a couple behind him, maybe one on the handle bars and maybe even one on the front fender! Then he would slowly putt around the neighborhood with all us little kids squealing with delight!
Now days, of course you would never think about doing such a thing! The parents would sue!! But this was in the 1960’s, when the world was much different than it is today.
Mr. Miller made sure that every kid that wanted a ride had a turn.
Mr. Miller must have loved kids. He would save the toys that were left in his rentals and pass them out to the needy at Christmas time.
Mr. Miller’s houses were furnished. Even though they were a bit shabby, he tried to decorate or dress them up a little. When you moved into one of his houses, not only would you find furniture, but you would also find pictures on the walls.
I was in elementary school when we lived on Cherry Street; so some of my memories might be a bit fuzzy. But I do remember Mr. Miller always being very kind and patient.
One hot summer day, I poked my head inside the open front door of a house that I knew was vacant. There was Mr. Miller, with sweat pouring down his face. He had sawhorses set up with a piece of plywood on top for a make-shift work table. He was slopping paste on the back of a strip of wallpaper.
I think Mr. Miller Loved wallpaper! Maybe it was cheaper than sheet rock & paint. Whatever the reason, he used the stuff a lot!
I can remember a bathroom that was wallpapered with pretty ladies in big hats. Some of the ladies where applying lipstick. Some of the ladies had big feathers in their hats. I thought that paper was so pretty and glamorous!
One bedroom that I remember quite well had a ceiling that was wallpapered with a background of dark blue with white stars covering it. You slept under the stars at night!
Life on Cherry Street was hard for my mom. She was struggling to raise 4 kids alone. Back then, you didn’t get Food Stamps, you got commodities. From the government, we got big blocks of cheese or big cans of peanut butter. The kind where you had to stir the oil back down into it.
Money was Always tight. There were times when we would have pancakes for dinner; because that’s all there was. Mom would try to make light of the situation. We would have a pancake eating contest! I could Almost eat as much as my big brothers, but not quite.
Clothing was either church donated, hand-me-downs, or second hand.
In the summertime, to make our shoes last longer, Mom would take scissors and cut the top of the toes off a pair of tennis shoes, so that as our feet grew, the toes could hang out over the front edge. These became our sandals for the summer. Somehow, Mom always managed to get us shoes before school started in the fall.
Looking back on this time is bitter-sweet. I was very young and very innocent. I never felt that my life was a hardship. I was happy. I had friends; I had a family that loved me. I went to bed at night tucked into my nice warm bed, under the stars! I didn’t know that I lived any different than anyone else did.
I thank God for Mr. Miller and his houses on Cherry Street.