Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v04n18)
Right in my Own Backyard - In Homage to Alleys - by Brandt Carter
posted: Sept. 07, 2007
In Homage to Alleys
I think one of the things I miss from my childhood is an alley. As an adult, none of the houses I have lived in had an alley. The alley easement to my first home had been deeded to the property in the mid-1900s. When we moved to a house built during the post-war suburban sprawl, alleys were not even part of the landscape.
Alleys - filled with mystery and secretive hiding places - were the backway to many destinations. They were the shortcut to our favorite corner drugstore. What's more, a good game of cops and robbers or kick-the-can could be played out in neighborhood alleys, which I now realize were a whole other playground.
image courtesy of Cortellini
Who can't remember the cinder paths of the alleyways? Taking a disastrous fall during raucous play could turn a late afternoon into a painful ordeal of picking small cinders out of your knee. Sometimes a knee blackened by cinders took days to look normal again.
Picking through trash on foot was also part of the alley scene. A garbage can would never go in front of a house back then. So it was nothing to see my brother drag home "finds" from his travels down the alley. He even used the route to collect flower urns from a local mortuary and later dragged home discarded Christmas trees to build a winter fort.
What's interesting is that for as well as we knew our alley and maybe the alley of the street next to ours, we usually did not venture into just anyone's alley. They were not like sidewalks or streets. They had a different feel, a different look - narrow, bordered by garages and fences, lined with garbage cans and storage units. They were part of our neighborhood network. It seemed like they belonged to the kids who ruled the neighborhood while adults considered them little more than access routes to park their cars. Hooray for alleys and the way they kept less picturesque elements like garages, basketball hoops and trash receptacles out of view.