"Be home before dark," Mom shouted as we raced out the back door. I imagine thousands of kids heard the exact same words. Words I can’t imagine parents telling their children today. But that’s how it was in the fifties. As long as we were home before dark, our parents didn’t worry.

In 1954, my parents moved across town in Lore City. In reality, it was only three streets and a small field from our old home. It did mean new neighbors and new friends. Our new neighborhood was on a compact street where the homes were close together. Several of the neighborhood men were retired. This turned into a windfall for us kids.

Mr. Black was a retired railroad worker and an excellent cook. One day he told us he would be making pancakes in the morning. When he rang the dinner bell on his back porch, it was our signal to come and eat. It wasn’t long before his kitchen was filled with kids eating pancakes. Later, we named him "The Pancake Man."

Another neighbor, Mr. Long, lived across the street from us. One day he noticed my berry-picking stained hands. "You like to pick berries?" He asked. "Yes," I nodded. "Well, you ask your parents. I’m going blackberry picking tomorrow morning on Peach Orchard Hill; you’re welcome to go."

That turned into a yearly event that lasted until I was in high school. Years later, my family and I took an elderly Mr. Long to Peach Orchard Hill to pick berries. My mother told me that was all he talked about for weeks on end.

Mrs. Stone lived around the corner from us. In her backyard was a fenced-in basketball court. Compared to a hoop nailed on a telephone pole, her court looked like Madison Square Garden to us. Although her children were grown, she would let us play basketball in her backyard, as long as we behaved.

Our neighbors were like our second set of parents.