The Carnegie sidewalks made great sounds
This is the 10th of a series on the Carnegie Library. Note: Lincoln’s Carnegie Library is currently closed, due to budget cuts in the city of Lincoln’s General Fund.
Sidewalks made it less than halfway around the Carnegie block. They started at our house on E Street, turned the corner and went past the front of the Carnegie, turned again and went down the side of the Carnegie toward the Scout Hall.
And then the sidewalks stopped. After that, the paths were dirt.
Dirt was fine. It was the necessary site for playing marbles. Clusters of boys knelt on their knees as they smoothed the dirt and traced a wide circle. Around the edges, they took their places, their marbles clicking in their soft pouches – aggies and steelies, cat’s eyes and pee-wees.
The boys played their favorites, risking and attacking, handling their marbles in the dust and the dirt as carefully and shrewdly as any uptown financial trade or military skirmish.
It was the sidewalks, though, where we girls played jacks and hopscotch.
We would drop or scatter a cluster of our jacks across the sidewalk. We bounced our little rubber ball and swept the jacks up into our hands, catching the ball before it bounced again - that is, unless we were playing double bouncies. We played cherries in the basket and round the world. We played jacks in front of the Carnegie, at school and in front of our house.
We played hopscotch, too, outlining the framework of squares on the sidewalk and then tossing our “laggies” or “charms” and hopping back and forth and over, then whirling and hopping back again.
The most fun on the sidewalks, though, was roller skating. Our skates were metal, with short leather straps and clamps on the sides that gripped the soles of our sturdy shoes.
Our roller-skate keys were on strings around our necks and we used them over and over again to
re-tighten the clamps so our skates wouldn’t drop off when we were in full speed down the sidewalk. The only dangerous spot was in front of our house where the pecan tree roots lifted a section of the sidewalk an inch or two. Going off the edge was fun because we were airborne for a moment.
But coming back and hitting the edge required timing and a careful leap. We were airborne again as our momentum carried us up and over the edge as we skated on our way.
And then there was the strange music. Our skates had small metal wheels. The sidewalks we skated on weren’t poured at the same time. The Carnegie sidewalk was all of one pouring, smooth, with no cracks or “edges.”
The sidewalk in front of Moore’s Theater was different. The various front yard sidewalks had cement squares that had been poured at different times and had haphazard cracks.
Due to the variety of finishes and densities, the pavements had different tones. The pavement music changed as we sped down the sidewalks, our skates’ small metal wheels whirring and humming, spinning and grinding, and always clicking rhythmically as we crossed each pavement square.
We liked the sounds we made as we skated the length of the sidewalks and back again as the metal wheels sang out and vibrated through our feet, ankles and legs.
But it was always the Carnegie sidewalk that was perfect for skating.
Always level, always well-tended by the city. Leaves and twigs and grass always raked away.
The little sidewalk that was the path to the sunken downstairs entry was always clean, too. We would skate in and whirl around and skate out again.
I don’t think we were old enough to have a sense of pride about the well-kept landscape that circled the Carnegie or the care given to the library itself.
Perhaps our pride took a more innocent form. We knew we were safe there. The city’s care of the Carnegie was in some way care for us, too.
Inside or outside, we felt safe, cared for as we enjoyed the sidewalk, lawn, magnolias and books.
It was beyond our imagination to think that it could ever be different.
At the Twelve Bridges Library
Free Mother Goose on the Loose: 10:30 or 11:30 a.m. Thursdays for kids
Free story time: 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday for kids
Events are sponsored by Friends of the Lincoln Library. The Twelve Bridges Library is at 485 Twelve Bridges Drive.
This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. To reach the nonprofit Friends, write to Box 1177, Lincoln CA 95648, contact 434-2404, or friendsofthelincolncalibrary.org. Jane Tahti is the Friends of the Lincoln Library secretary.