Through The Canyon

Eucalyptus was made into a thoroughfare eventually, but in the 50s and 60s, it was the last, or first depending on direction, of a series of rough rural streets on a grid that had been named in alphabetical order — ending or beginning with Alessandro –five streets altogether to make the little burb.

Alessandro was the thoroughfare at the time and eventually, going west, changed into Central where it continued to lace through their nearby big little city turning into Chicago by Downtown. It was hard giving out directions.

The bus didn’t go that way though because at that point, there wasn’t yet a mall. The old Main Street, where the only shopping was, had been paved over in concrete and the shops on either side were linked for walking freely without traffic. Before that it was for parades, getting through by car and parking.

By the 60s, it was becoming fashionable to get somewhere and hang out — if you didn’t have a car you couldn’t cruise Magnolia but you could walk around on Main. Pic N Save was there with Bargain Fare — lots of good cheap stuff that was the start of the China syndrome — and Woolworth’s still had a counter for getting a soda and some fries.

It might have been that a bus went the other way but for a teenager, if life was making you lonely you could always go Downtown. That’s where all the fun stuff seemed to be, even if you had to go alone.

She almost always had to go alone because by then what few friends she had were tangled up with boys or getting As. She liked getting As too, and boys, but she was very good at putting things off. She might have just been lonely. Her mother worked and her sisters were busy getting into trouble, which she didn’t like at all.

The bus stopped at the end of her street and it wasn’t too far to walk to catch it. It was a brave thing to do and she loved doing things that made her feel brave. It wasn’t anything to post about because posting hadn’t been invented yet, but it was enough that she knew that at least she thought she was being brave. It wouldn’t be long before others would say “You went ALONE?!” They couldn’t imagine it but would ask if they could go with her the next time that she went.

Eucalyptus had houses on both sides by then, but the ones on the north were newer and after them was nothing but potato fields all the way to the little string of hills that they called mountains. She liked to sit on the side of the bus that would let her watch the potato fields fade away.

The highway the bus was on was windy as it made its way to town. It went through a section of a canyon that had been carved out just for it. The top of that canyon was already starting to fill up with high-end houses and those poor rich kids still had to be bused to the school in the suburbs and mix with the poor poor kids.

She loved going through that canyon until her little burb was turned into the place to buy a new cheap house within commutable distance and before it was carved away completely for McMansions. By the time of total carving, she had a car and wasn’t on the bus – she had to pay attention to the bumper to bumper congestion and a road no longer so commutable.

Riding the bus to town in the 60s, you could make it almost all the way without seeing another car.

The first street the bus got to for getting Downtown was University Ave. Right for people to study, left for people to shop or play. It wasn’t long before University crossed Chicago and if you turned left on it, eventually Chicago turned into Central and then to Alessandro and back to where she had started — but she went as far as Market or Main because the bus didn’t take that loop anyway and she had come to stay. She was there for Pic N Save, 50 cent silk undies, Woolworth’s, French fries and for feeling like a brave girl. She might even be brave enough to pick up the bus again and go east on Market to Fairmount Park. The park had a giant pond with paddle boats. Riding the boats alone was really a brave thing and especially the paddle ones because without a partner, it was conceivable to get exhausted right in the middle of the pond and not know how to get help.

Maybe that could be saved for another day.

She got her silky panties, two layers of sheer, one black and one red that turned them into burgundy. She fondled figurines at Pic N Save because she loved anything made of ceramic. She mooched through Bargain Fare that seemed to just have bins and bins of useless stuff and then traveled on for French fries and a soda. By then she was low on money – she’d come with just enough — just enough to have a brave-girl day and she loved those brave-girl days.

The ride home went through the canyon again. This time the bus let out on the far side of the four-lane highway and there were no traffic lights. The scariest challenge of the day, and the least fun, was crossing those four lanes. Even though traffic was light there in the 60s, any car coming was a fright and it seemed so far across.

That night on the top bunk in a room with two sisters, she would admire the burgundy panties and think proudly of her thirteen year old self. It really was quite something to do all of that alone.

Those potato fields would eventually be filled up with industrial buildings. Her little burg would remain but be outlined with thoroughfares and newer homes that shadowed it. The bus might still go through but she had gone on to braver things and wouldn’t know. The last time that she saw it, the canyon was a blur of profit sharing — not anywhere near the value of a bus ride through it in the 60s.


through the canyon










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