I lived on the other side of the tracks. In Junior High, I walked with a couple of friends northwest on Fond du Lac Avenue from 27 Street, under the train tracks where the Master Lock Company stood, and up the street about 3 blocks to the commanding school building, Peckham Junior High School, at 37 and Keefe in Milwaukee. I walked with kids from my neighborhood, in warm weather and in cold weather, with a few days off during the winter for snow days.
The neighborhood I walked from was distinctly different than the neighborhood I walked to when I emerged from the street under that tracks.
I’m always grateful for the education I received in the Milwaukee Public Schools, and I’m troubled by how schools in the United States are begin gutted – literally – by lawmakers who value the prejudices of their electorate over the needs of the communities they are called to serve.
Lately, I’ve discovered that one of the buildings I passed every day had been the home of the original factory of the mattress company owned by my husband’s great grandfather. The walk I took under the viaduct at 32 and Fond du Lac Avenue was a walk into a different life for me.
Peckham Junior High School has now been converted into Senior Apartments, large and beautiful apartments that have the same big windows overlooking the bungalows that line the streets in that part of Milwaukee.
In my memory, I see clearly that I had a certain consciousness about the path I was taking, that I was walking under that viaduct into a different life. It’s as if some part of me, deeper than words, and perhaps even deeper than thoughts, knew that I was walking into a way of living that my modest ancestors could not have imagined. I couldn’t imagine it, either, but there it was, “deep inside,” always.
Their dreams for me were being brought to life under the viaduct that led to the other side of the tracks.