On the corner of Erskine and Woodside, 1976-1985

Rerunning my post about the street on which I grew up, Erskine Boulevard in South Bend, Indiana, the other day made me nostalgic. So I looked through my photos for childhood images from the old neighborhood.

Here I am standing on the sidewalk in front of our house shortly after we moved in. It was 1976, and I was nine.


I had Verichrome Pan in my Kodak Brownie Starmite II, which my grandmother bought me for a quarter at a garage sale. I hadn’t learned to smoothly squeeze the shutter button; shake marred most of the photos. And then I stored the negatives carelessly, allowing them to become scratched. But I’m still very happy to have them today. Especially this one below, of my brother (right) and neighborhood friend Kevin, who passed away unexpectedly in his 20s.


We played a lot on the sidewalk and even in the street on Woodside, which is the street pictured below. Woodside was only lightly traveled, so it was the better choice for street soccer. That’s my brother there on the left and neighborhood friend Phil crouched on the right. The fire hydrant was painted as a Revolutionary War figure in honor of the Bicentennial the year before, as I shot this in 1977. Hydrants all over the city were so painted. I shot this on Kodacolor II with my truly awful Imperial Magimatic X50 camera, which took 126 cartridge film.


The shutter button was so stiff on that camera it was virtually impossible to avoid shake. Here I aimed the camera east along Woodside a little. The old Plymouth station wagon there is the only thing that dates this photograph, which is also from 1977.


The city repaved Erskine in 1982. I’d never seen a street stripped of its asphalt before. I had Kodacolor II in the Kodak Duaflex II I had recently purchased at a garage sale, and photographed some of the equipment in action.


Soon a fresh, black ribbon of asphalt had been laid on Erskine and cars could again travel our street. From the looks of the above and below photos, I made them while sitting on our front stoop.


1982 was the year I began to experiment with the growing collection of old cameras I had amassed. I made this photo with an Argus A-Four, probably using Kodacolor II film. I feel fortunate any photos from that roll turned out, as I didn’t know what I was doing with f stops and shutter speeds. My guesses were lucky. This is just another shot of Woodside from our front yard. The house on the left was owned by the Mumford family, who had owned a small grocery near my mom’s childhood neighborhood downtown.


In 1984 a friend who was in my high school’s photography class gave me some hand-spooled Plus-X for my A-Four. I asked him for advice about exposure and he said, “f/8 and be there.” It worked out well enough. When I made this shot of the street blades on the corner of Erskine and Woodside, I chided myself a little for wasting a frame. But these unique embossed black-and-white blades, which were on every South Bend street corner, were removed during the 2000s in favor of more generic green-and-white blades with stick-on letters. Now I’m glad I have a record of this time gone by. If I had known the city was going to replace these blades, I’d have stolen this one.


I shot a roll of color film, probably Kodak, probably in my A-Four, as I was about to graduate high school in 1985. I climbed the giant oak tree in our back yard for this view. The van was Dad’s; he used it to haul lumber and finished pieces in his cabinetmaking business. It had, for a few years, been our family car.


Here’s a quick peek down Erskine, showing its distinctive curve, from that 1985 roll of film. I remember being deeply disappointed when the city replaced our minuteman fire hydrant.


Here’s one photo looking up toward our house from that 1985 film roll. Erskine was dubbed a boulevard because of its curve and because it was noticeably wider than other streets on the city’s grid. My childhood home is visible, above and to the left of the station wagon rolling up the hill.


Our house was quite famously green. When we gave directions to our house, all we had to say was “the green one” and people found us with no trouble. We never really liked the color, however.


I left for college in 1985, and moved out for good in 1989. My parents stayed on until 2014. Somewhere along the way they had the house repainted in light gray. I never got used to it. In my dreams, my childhood home will always be green.


14 responses to “On the corner of Erskine and Woodside, 1976-1985”

  1. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    You wrote recently about the way places imprint on us. There is probably no stronger imprint that the neighborhood of childhood.

    Your pictures and stories brought back a flood of memories of my neighborhood. Everyone I knew there is long gone but that place and those people will be with me forever.

    And wasting film. I took some pictures of common street scenes once. My mother got all over me for wasting film. I love those pictures today.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh yes — it’s the photos of the common things that we treasure later, after they’re gone in the normal evolution of things. It’s one reason I photograph things I find by the roadside. You never know when they won’t be there anymore.

  2. DougD Avatar

    Very cool that you were collecting cameras even then. My awful 110 cartridge camera discouraged me from being interested I guess.

    I grew up in a rural area that is being developed now, my childhood home will survive but I had worried about losing the farmers fields and caves where we played as kids. Luckily they got made into a Conservation Area :)


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here in central Indiana, the farmers all pretty much hope developers will buy them out, I think. So much money in it!

  3. SilverFox Avatar

    Great set of photos to bring back those memories. Now you have me thinking about all my old photos :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m so happy I have all my negatives right back to my first roll ever!

  4. phil Avatar

    I came across you site this morning, although could have enjoyed it since inception. Originally from Ohio, for a couple of decades until 2004 I spent many pleasant weekends driving old cars around Ohio finding the old main roads taking pictures with an old camera (’73 Nikkormat). Have explored the original National Road and Lincoln Highway across PA, OH, IN, and still would like to do an Antietam to Gettysburg Tour (via Vandalia on as much of the original alignments as possible) someday. Still using that Nikkormat but it has company now (including an F and and F3—-the F is a real treat). Another pleasant past-time in Ohio and IN is chasing down the Interurban alignments…our states were laced with electric lines 30 years before the Good Roads movement, and much archeology remains especially in the rural areas.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh fun, another film-photographer roadgeek! One day I’ll do the Lincoln across these states. Dunno if I have it in me to follow it coast to coast but I would like to do it across the Midwest at least. Interurbans are interesting to me too, though I haven’t explored them much. I have ridden the last surviving Interurban many times, the South Shore, from South Bend to Chicago.

  5. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I have just returned from visiting my parents on the East Coast. They still live in the house we all grew up in. I even slept in my old room. Spent some nice days walking the streets of my old neighborhood. Even stopped by my old high school.

    I wish I still had all those negatives I shot with my Dad’s Retina and developed in the basement darkroom. sigh

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It sure is nice to go home, isn’t it? I miss it a little. But it’s very nice to have my parents close by, as they retired to Indianapolis in 2014.

      I keep trying to convince Mom to let me at the family photos, to digitize them. She’s not sure she kept the negatives but does have boxes upon boxes of square prints from the 126 camera she used for 20 years. It was an oddball, a Perma-Matic, with a built-in flash. That was pretty big stuff for the 1970s.

  6. Neil Iwan Avatar
    Neil Iwan

    I REALLY enjoy your posts about your old neighborhood since I grew up close by on E. Eckman and Dale, the northeast corner, and went to Monroe. I wish I had taken my own photos. Thank you!!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You lived right by that serious hill! I’m super glad to have my photos.

      1. Neil Iwan Avatar
        Neil Iwan

        Yes! When we first moved there when I was 4, there was an even bigger hill on most of the block bordered by Eckman, Dale, Oakside, and Miami. It was a good hundred feet high just in that block. It was there until I was about 8, then leveled and that sandlot became our ball field. Kids used to sled down that hill to Dale and then down as far as we could go. The city blockaded the road for us kids to sled safely. There was even a steeper way down the backside toward Miami that the older kids tried.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Oh wow, you must have been there before I came along then. I remember nothing but houses for blocks over there!

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