I had always wanted to go, but the thought of singing my old high school fight song at 8:29 on Friday mornings kept me under the covers. Yet at dawn last Friday, I drove the familiar route from my home in Oconomowoc – past the Payne and Dolan quarry, Fracaro’s Bowling Alley, Frame Park, White Rock School and crossed the Soo Line tracks – to arrive at The Spot On Broadway. The restaurant sits at the apex of Waukesha’s ‘other Five Points’ where Broadway, Lincoln and Hartwell Avenues converge on the east side of town. (As opposed to downtown’s Five Points – the fact is, getting anyplace is a mental exercise for anyone trying to navigate the maze of Waukesha.)
I was finally motivated to go by The Blackshirt Breakfast Group’s decision to move from the Sunset Family Restaurant to gather at The Spot for the first time. Located in my old neighborhood, as a kid I climbed the steps of Muehl Brother’s grocery store before it became Dutchland Dairy and long before it became The Spot.
Perhaps I should have known it would be a bittersweet morning. The BBG breakfast draws a diverse group of old high school alums – a long table of 30 or so men talking sports, past and present, and a table or two of women and couples. I was welcomed by three wives of former coaches – and quickly found a common bond as the daughter of a coach’s wife. My mother was a savvy spectator who supported my Dad’s Carroll College teams with pregame food (and coaching) from her seat in the bleachers. I’m glad I went, but I’m not sure I’ll return, because…
…as I drove out of the parking lot I found myself face to face across the street from the house I grew up in and loved – at 77, still able to hear the sounds of its doors opening and closing behind me. In my mind, it will always remain a microcosm of my life in the 50’s with a Mom, A Dad and sisters. The Place I grew up in.
The family that bought the house in the 70’s maintained it for years just as it was when our parents left it, but now it appears sad and neglected. They must have moved some years ago – the white fence, the hollyhocks, Dad’s rose garden and big fireplace have given way to rubble and weeds. The picture window that looked out on the street is covered by a loose bright blue sheet of something. The small garage still stands with a late model Cadillac parked in front of the door. The house that Lefty Shields and his happy family lived in is now an empty lot. Lefty was a good cop, and with less than 8ft between our houses, we always felt protected.
So – last week Nostalgia got a big jolt of Reality. But I can still sing my Blackshirt Fight Song, and tell some great stories about my old neighborhood. I’m going to do that.