Shared Stories: A Turning Point

Mina Anne Chudilowsky shares fond memories of her family’s move to semi-rural Bellflower in the 1950’s, when Rosecrans ended at the Rio San Gabriel River. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Mina Anne Chudilowsky

A turning point in my life was when we moved from Los Angeles to Bellflower when I was 7 years old.

In Los Angeles we walked a couple of blocks to Exposition Park and the Coliseum, the museums, the rose gardens, picnic areas, and play areas. We spent a lot of time in the park, especially in the museums and the kiddies’ pool.

We lived in the bottom half of a large house which was on Figueroa Street which was very busy.  We kids would cross the street and walk a block or so to the local movie theater where we would spend the greater part of Saturday afternoons.

We walked three or four blocks to the Catholic school and church. We took a bus or trolley to go on further excursions with our mother. She was a reader, and we became readers by frequent visits to the Los Angeles main library.

Our backyard was adjacent to the parking lot of the medical building next door. We had abundant room to bike, skate, play ball, etc., after business hours and on weekends. We were allowed to ride our bikes around the block, but no further. Nicky climbed the giant avocado tree and made a tree house up there. When I tried to climb the tree, I got scared and stuck, and our father had to come rescue me.

We rode in the car to Griffith Park on many weekends for picnics with friends and on our own. We kids were given free reign and explored the hills and the zoo on our own.

When we moved to Bellflower, we moved from an urban to a rural area. We were far from most things, although we had dairy farms, a pig farm, a horse in a field, a frog pond, a dry river bed with lizards, and horned toads living there.

We didn’t know too many neighbors in L.A. – mostly just the people above us, as we were in a business area. In Bellflower, we got to know most of the people around us as everyone was new to this new tract of homes, which was located in an agricultural area.  We even knew the names of our neighbor’s pets.

We rode a school bus to the public school, and later, when we were older, and wanted to, we’d ride our bikes to school. Because they were purchasing a new home, my parents could not afford to send us to a parochial school.

When our mother took us to get registered, the school wanted to promote us all one grade ahead because of our parochial education.  Fortunately, our mother wanted us to stay with our own age group.  

On my first day of public school in the third grade, the teacher wanted to make me feel welcome, so she asked me to name the vowels. I had no idea what a vowel was. So much for parochial education, and thank goodness that our mother kept us in our age group.

In L.A., we played mostly in our backyard and the adjoining parking lot. In Bellflower, we had the full reign of the tract of homes, and we rode all of the streets. Most of the families had but one car and it was used to take the fathers to work. The cars were parked in garages, so the streets were open and empty and there was not much traffic, so we could play ball there.

We rode our bikes beyond the boundary of the homes and explored the orange groves, the dairies, the frog pond, the river, and the pig farm. We visited the horse in the field and the little café on the corner of Woodruff and Rosecrans. We played baseball and kickball in the side street, and it seemed like most the kids flew kites on the front street. 

We’d play hide-and-go-seek.  It was easy to hide as there were no street lights at that time, and you could just lie down on a lawn and never be discovered.  We had some major dirt clod fights along the perimeter of the orange groves, and the riverbed, which was not yet cemented and was dirt, became a good place to play.

The closest store was across the river. Rosecrans ended in a dirt road by the pig farm, and there was no bridge over the river. Helms Bakery trucks, the Good Humor man, the milkman, and a store bus would bring us treats and needed staples.  

The Fuller Brush a came by frequently and we were visited by encyclopedia salesmen, aluminum siding salespeople, accordion sales people, and various other people trying to sell these new homeowners something to improve their homes or lives.

We kids had much more freedom in Bellflower than we did in L.A. Unfortunately, most of our friends lived closer to the city center, and we couldn’t bike to their houses for a year or two. 
Nicky and Barbara joined the Scouts, and I, along with friends my age, created a bike club and enjoyed our outings without any adult supervision, dues, uniforms or rules. We were driven into Bellflower to see a movie, and picked up afterwards.

Because everyone knew most of the immediate neighbors, the children were watched over and guarded by the community and were kept safe.

We kids gained independence by this turning point in our lives.