We live in a part of town know as Fair Oaks. The little subdivision was platted in the late fifties as GI’s with their little families began to move into our little town. They needed a place to live and local builders provided.
Built on sandy ground a couple miles from the Pacific, the area had been home to Jack Rabbits and Horny Toads for millennia. The indigenous people had buried their dead here and left evidence of their habitation in the many midden’s scattered about. Kids could find heaps of broken Pismo Clams shells scattered through the native trees, sage and wild oats.
Arroyo Grande had scant room to grow, being nearly surrounded by the rich farmland that was it’s original reason for being. Needs provided on the old Beckett ranch and soon the bulldozers were at work pushing over the trees and then naming the new streets after them, Beech, Walnut, Aspen, Poplar, Juniper and Cedar.
Our house was built by Leo Mallory in 1959. As was common in those days a builder would buy a lot then build almost the entire house himself. He dug trenches, poured concrete, framed her and did the plasterwork. Subfloors were built using the form lumber and cabinets were knocked together from the cheapest materials. It took far fewer men than it does today but the little houses were “State of the art for their day.”
In 1989 we got a call from Judy Tappan who worked for Jack Berryhill ‘s real estate office. Judy knew we might be looking for a house to buy, suggesting that we take a ride to Sage St to view a former rental that was about to go on the market.
“The front door is open and I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.” She said.
We hopped in the car, a nice Volvo which we drove at the time, a nice middle class car, buckled our two little boys in the back and off we went. I had no trouble finding it as I had friends who lived in the neighborhood. We cruised down the street until the middle of the block, seeing the right address we whipped into the driveway, got out and went right in. We thought we’d just take the tour on our own while we waited for Judy to arrive.
We hadn’t been inside for more than a few minutes when we spotted two looming shadows at the front door, it wasn’t Judy, it was the coppers.
They did there policeman thing, with one standing to the side of the entry door and the other farther away at the edge of the drive taking down the license plate number and keeping the fish eye on me. I had just come from work and was in work clothes, dusty and dirty, not the best outfit to impress the minions of the law. I was trying to explain why we “Broke” into the house when Judy arrived to save the day. She knew both of the men, luckily her office was right next to the police station and she explained what was up. The three of them laughed it off for it was one of those absurd little things that can happen in a town where almost everyone knows each other.
After the police were on their way a stout women, in her early sixties I think, came across the street, dusting her hands on her apron and came right in the house like it was her own. Turns out it was.
She was Phyllis Anderson and she was selling one of her rentals and this little house was it. She was very nice. She was, I expected, the one who called the cops though it took a year or so before she laughingly told us that.
So, a house is a house you know and there are all kinds of reasons to buy. Size, color that suits your fancy, price range, amenities and what have you are all part of the deal. The neighborhood counts for a lot, school district if you have kids, the kinds of people that live around you and perhaps a subtle sense of the place.
Is it safe? No doubt about that in our case was there? If the cops arrive before the key tuns in the lock, well that’s it. We bought, paid the full asking price and have never looked back.
Our little street is just one block long and when we moved in almost every house was occupied by the original owners, people who had raised their kids on the block. People who looked out for each other in the old fashioned way. They looked out for us too.
If my teenage son was home from school when he shouldn’t have been, Phyllis, Wanda Blakemore, Bea Collier or Eva Agueda would be at the front door or crooking a finger for me to come across the street so they could let me know. My son Will called them busybodies and Nosy Parkers. He was correct, but his view wasn’t mine.
The front windows of those houses were better than any ADT or Ring systems and better yet the there was no cost other than being a friendly neighbor.
Most of the oldtimers are gone now, after all that was thirty years ago and I miss shootin’ the breeze with Chet Collier and Jim Blakemore. Both were workingmen and we had a lot to share. Phyllis’ grew the worlds best Lemons and the Blakemore’s had Fig and Avocado trees and one old Royal Apricot that produced the best cots you ever ate. Miss Agueda was always a fine sight to see, driving that old pink T-Bird with her scarf trailing in the breeze and that great big smile plastered with bright red lipstick. My kids called her the Pink Lady which was entirely accurate.
Today it’s all changed and I suppose we’re the oldtimers. Our neighbors have come from Russia, Syria and Hawaii. There are Japanese-Americans a gay couple and three generations of a Mexican family. On a good day we can put thirteen kids on the street. They range from three to thirteen and they all play together watched over by those same front windows. Different folks for the most part but the neighborhood is the same and we’re glad of it.
You can still go out your door and walk to the middle of the street, stand there, and before long neighbors will just magically appear. The next thing you know there will be a confab going on, mostly all about nothing but that’s what neighbors do.
What better recommendation can you get than a neighbor that calls the police on you. If it happens to you, buy that house. We did.
Note: I don’t wish to patronize the reader but here is one of the possible explanations for the term Nosy Parker. The most often-heard suggestion is that the term is a reference to Matthew Parker, a 16th-century Archbishop of Canterbury who was known for poking his nose into the business and activities of his parishioners.