Do you ever think about how stable our neighborhoods are?
I was at a block party about eight years ago and started counting the houses on the block and how many years my neighbors had lived there.
We’d been on the block for 20 years at that point, but there were more than a dozen families who had been there longer than we had.
Some grew up here, moved back and stayed, while others (including my wife and me) who had no early connection to Beverly, moved here and haven’t left.
I was reminded of this when I heard that my across-the-street neighbors, Ed and Marge O’Farrell, were moving to Florida. They had lived in their house 53 years and, I guess, were finally tired of walking up and down stairs and dealing with Chicago winters.
Ed was briefly famous (years ago, before we moved in) for winning the lottery. I asked him what he did with the money, and he had a good answer.
“Tied it all up,” he said, “so our future and our kids’ futures are secure.”
Ed and Marge didn’t buy expensive cars (he was driving a Grand Am when we moved in and a Camry this year), but, best of all, they didn’t move.
They elected to stay in their solid (but nothing fancy) middle-class home for another 30-plus years. They’re good neighbors, and we’ll all miss them.
About 15 years ago, I read an article in the New York Times, “The Five-Bedroom, Six-Figure Rootless Life,” by Peter T. Kilborn. It was about transfer suburbs—places where corporate transferees would live for three or four years before being transferred to another city.
No of them ever expected to stay in one place for more than three or four years, so the families who were depicted never made long-term friends or set down deep roots.
Honestly, it sounded awful.
Although I moved when I was ages 1, 6, 10 and 14 and survived, I will admit that it took a full year to settle into new situations in the fifth and ninth grades.
Places such as transfer suburbs seem just the opposite of what we have here.
We’ll be in our house on the 9100 block of South Leavitt Street for 28 years in June. I recently went down our block again, and of the 22 houses, four have had three owners, seven two owners and 11 only one owner during that time. A few have been rented and have had multiple residents, so there have been a few more families here than that.
That’s what I call stability.
People might think that this block is especially stable, and that could be true. I haven’t conducted a more general survey, but my first house in this neighborhood was on the 9300 block of South Hoyne Avenue (1984-87). I still know members of five families living there who were there when I moved in almost 37 years ago. So, I believe it’s not just on my block.
The point of all this is simple.
The Beverly Area Planning Association promotes the concept of “Love Where You Live,” and it seems that most of us do.
The architecture in Beverly, Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood is great, but the people are better. We know most of the families on our street, and they know us. If you need a hand, someone will give you one. Most come to the annual block party; several of us get together at Halloween to hand out candy, after which we adjourn indoors to share pizza.
When someone is stuck in the snow, neighbors help dig him/her out. In other words, we know—and care for—our neighbors. That’s the point: we live here because the neighborhood is safe, the schools are good and the people are friendly and helpful.
Who could ask for more than that?