Friday, January 24, 2014

The EHHS Social Order – 8.2 – Our Houses

By the fall of 1958 and the start of 8th grade, with puberty more or less behind us, a kind bewilderment began to set in.  At that stage, the boy/girl stuff was what it was, competitive athletics was starting its culling process, and different academic challenges were thrown at us.  Some of us thrived and some of us didn’t.

In addition to all that, we were beginning to observe that certain among us appeared to have even more advantages than ourselves and others.  Prior to those nascent observations, play was entirely focused on the games we played and whether we could win them or not.  Notions of cool and not so cool kids took a firmer hold during these early junior high years.

Only a couple of years beyond playing Little League baseball, jumping rope, and riding bicycles as our principal life focuses, almost imperceptibly we became aware of Bill Short and Gay Burton’s big, white Cadillacs.  Gay’s Mom picked her up every afternoon after school out on Somerset St.  Cadillac….that was a big show on the 1950s East Side.  Everyone else drove Chevies and Fords and maybe an occasional panel truck or Studebaker.

About the time we started noticing some differences in our family transportation, we also began to notice some differences in our living quarters.  In truth, there wasn’t much difference in the houses throughout the East Side.  However, there were a number of subtle changes underway during the years we attended school in those neighborhoods.

For the purposes of this piece, I’m assuming that Handley-ites lived in a fairly static situation; that is, there was not much new construction in those neighborhoods—the HHS graduating classes were about the same size each year throughout the 1950s.  The most useful information available for these housing thoughts has been my memory, a 1952 Meadowbrook Elementary student directory, and the maps in this post.  There have also been a number of very valuable individual recollections from both those in our class and others, both a few years older and younger.  Some of them were Poly grads who were our classmates at Meadowbrook Junior High, but did not attend EHHS after it opened in 1959.  This split focus among my friends was always something I found puzzling since I didn’t live it.

The 1943 map of the area shows the area about the time we were born and was printed only 6-7 years after the Meadowbrook Elementary School was built.  During periods of rapid growth, elementary schools were always the first built in recognition of the incoming families being mostly young adults with young children.  Junior Highs and High schools followed by 3-4 years….MJH opened in 1954; EHHS opened in 1959.  WWII delayed early development of the area as pre-WWII maps show evidence of a number of the streets with which we would become familiar having been established.

Throughout the country and on the East Side, returning WWII soldiers placed a heavy demand on local markets for housing.  For most of us, it wasn’t until the early 1950s that our folks were able to settle down and afford a house.  Although much of the East Side housing was not the more standard GI configurations found in large housing tracts like Levittown, a lot of it was. 

The earliest of us show in the 1952 Meadowbrook Elementary directory as 2nd graders.  The streets most frequently associated with our Class of 1963 Highlanders at that stage of life were Martel, Maryel, Grandview, Martha, Norma, Lambeth, Tierney, Queen, Jenson, Meadowbrook Drive (as far as the future EHHS), Junius.  The center of our early fifties population would have been approximately the Meadowbrook Elementary school building.

As our parents' fortunes improved during the 1950s and as they were able, many of them moved into larger homes to provide space for their growing families.  There were a number of instances of families that first lived in the small post-WWII "cracker boxes" many of which were built in the mid to late 1940s to the south of Meadowbrook Jr. Hi. toward the Poly area.  As the Central Meadowbrook area built out, the new residents there consisted of both new arrivals to the area and local families moving up from their smaller homes in the older areas near Meadowbrook Elementary.

Throughout our area, the house sizes and arrangements followed a repetitive pattern.  They were built in a somewhat random fashion rather than in large, organized tracts shown in the Levittown example above.  The smallest of them were about 750 sq.ft. and the largest were about 2600 sq.ft.

Our GI Bill houses were most frequently 2-bedroom, 1-bath crackerboxes of about 700-950 sq.ft. usually without a garage, or at most they had a carport.  These houses were built immediately after WWII, about 1947 for a few years.  One Highlander told of their family of 6 in one of these homes, first flooring the attic to provide additional sleeping space for the brothers but, quickly finding that the next limiting factor was trying to live with 6 people and 1 bathroom.

Step-up houses started appearing in the early 1950s and were built in several configurations:  3-1-1 and 3-2-1.  By the mid-1950s, living space started gradually increasing to 1100-1400 sq.ft.; then, 1500-1800 sq.ft. as newer housing was built east along Meadowbrook Drive and pushing north into the Central Meadowbrook area between the golf course and Oakland Park.

Starting in 1953, the first homes in the soon to be seen as the wealthy neighborhood of Eastern Hills, located just east of the golf course and north of the high school were built along Blueridge Dr. adjoining the golf course.  Other early homes in that neighborhood were first built along Danciger and Monterrey then, construction substantially stopped about 1954 due to a recession.  The homes in the Eastern Hills neighborhood came to be distinguished by hilly, wooded terrain, wide curving streets, and significantly larger, custom-built brick homes of 2200 - 3000 sq.ft.  Most were configured as 3-2-2 with the additions of formal dining rooms and large dens with fireplaces.  

About 1950, just 3-years before the Eastern Hills neighborhood started building, the areas just east of Meadowbrook Junior High went in.  Most of these were configured as 3-1-1 containing about 1450 sq.ft.

About the same time the 3-1-1s near the Junior High went in, in 1950 another area just south of the golf course developed adjacent to that end of the course.  The catalyst for developing there appears to have been the straightening and extension of Meadowbrook Drive further to the east.  This newer area further east, near the future EHHS were generally configured as 3-2-2s containing about 1700 - 2000 sq.ft.  In the early 1950s when these streets were developed, for a few years before the Eastern Hills neighborhood started building, they were the newest, largest homes in the area.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, if it was a white panel truck that would be the Real McCoy!