Old Erskine Boulevard photos

I’m feeling all nostalgic after Monday’s post about Erskine Boulevard, where I grew up. So indulge me as I share some photos I took along the boulevard when I was as a kid.

This is the oldest photo I have from my days on Erskine. I was nine, and we had just moved in. The photo looks north at our neighbor’s house and gives a glimpse down the street. My brother took this photo with my garage-sale Brownie Starmite II, which I had loaded with some Verichrome Pan black-and-white film.

This is my friend Debbie standing in my driveway in the spring of 1981. When we started high school that fall, she always came by my house to walk with me. The photo is blurry because my lousy Instamatic clone had a very stiff shutter button. The red house is still red, but the tree is gone, probably a casualty of the big storm a few years ago that took out so many dozens of trees in the neighborhood.

In 1982, the city closed the boulevard for a week, removed the old road surface down to the underlying gravel, and laid down fresh asphalt. I had loaded a roll of 620 film into my old Duaflex II camera, another garage-sale find, and got these photos during and after construction.

For many years, the corner of our lot was anchored by an enormous blue spruce. I swear it was 60 feet tall. It died about 20 years ago and had to be removed, but until then when we invited someone over, we told them to find “the green house on Erskine with the big blue spruce.” Nobody ever got lost. I regret that I never took a wide shot of our corner while the spruce still stood. The only photos I have of the tree itself (right) came from an old Argus A-Four camera I once owned. I didn’t know what I was doing and overexposed them badly, and I have only tiny contact prints of them anyway. But here’s our house in 1985, with a few spruce boughs intruding into the photo’s edge.

One photo that did turn out from my Argus adventure shows a few of the homes on the boulevard’s north end in the autumn of 1984. But the photo is actually of my friend Karen and her big 1976 Chevy Impala.

And here’s a southbound 1985 photo of the boulevard. When I was in town recently, I happened to get a photo from almost the same spot; click here to see it.

A photo I didn’t get on my recent trip to South Bend was of the high school at the end of the boulevard. That’s because it was torn down in 1999 to make way for a new building a block to the north. Fortunately, just before I graduated in 1985 I got a couple good shots of the building. The upstairs windows looked into the library; the downstairs windows, the auditorium.

I took this last photo of the building as the sun was beginning to set. It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1924 when the building was built, this was way out on the south edge of town.

One thing I’ve noticed in putting this post together is how many of these photos I took with old cameras from my first camera collection. I liked to play around with them, so I’d load film into them (those that worked, anyway) and take pictures of everyday things in my life. Boy, am I glad I did that now, because otherwise I would have no images of some simple things that were the stuff of my childhood. And I’m still doing it with the classic cameras I’m buying today. I wonder which photos I’ve taken recently I’ll be really glad to have 25 years from now!

Other boulevard stories: I rode my bike all over the neighborhood and rode the city bus to middle school. I also survived the Blizzard of ’78 on the boulevard.


4 responses to “Old Erskine Boulevard photos”

  1. jonballphoto Avatar

    Love it. I have the same experience. I took photos of things just because and now they are such precious artifacts of my childhood. I especially like the line

    “I wonder which photos I’ve taken recently I’ll be really glad to have 25 years from now!”

    Keep up the great work.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Yeah, one thing I’ve learned is that it’s better to take photos of mundane days and everyday things than to bring the camera out for birthdays and Christmas. For example, I have but a handful of photos of my grandparents’ place on a little Michigan lake, just snapshots I took around the place. But those are dear because they’re a big connection to my summer visits to the lake, and all the great times I had there as a kid.

  2. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    LOL, I think every guy our age has the plaid pants photo. Mine’s on the doorstep from my first day of school in September, 1973. :) Forever Bobby Brady…

    Funny how similar the views of the street are between here and Flickr. Seems like only the cars change. The older I get, the more I come to realize that’s how I’d characterize the future, by and large, to someone living 20, 30, 50 years ago…

    Down by the river, started to drown, thought about Riley, couldn’t go down? Was that the school song? :) (The tune… anything I’d know? As in, “sung to the tune of Camptown Races/Battle Hymn of the Republic/Smoke On the Water”, etc.?)

  3. Jim Avatar

    Hey LP! Yes, it is kind of remarkable how little the boulevard has changed. A couple houses have changed color (my parents’ included) and there have been some landscaping changes here and there, but otherwise you’re right, the only difference is the cars. This is not the case on the streets that cross Erskine, though. My parents live on a corner with one of those side streets. I used to go west down it to the grocery for milk and while the houses were unremarkable they were well kept. Today there’s a fair amount of decay the farther west you go down that street.

    That’s not the school song — it’s the Hell Yes cheer. One lone voice would hell the Down by the River part and the rest of the students would holler Hell Yes! after each bit:

    Down by the river… HELL YES!
    Started to drown… HELL YES!
    Thought about Riley… HELL YES
    Couldn’t go down! HELL YES!

    Staff officially condemned it, but nobody ever stopped us.

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