When the Webb Street Gang roamed the streets

It was an age of innocence — a lifetime ago. We called ourselves the Webb Street Gang. There was no malicious purpose, just a bunch of neighborhood kids playing after school, on weekends and all summer long.

It was a time when that’s what kids would do — just hang out. Sometimes we played badminton, sometimes baseball and sometimes we just let our imaginations take us to scenarios of running businesses off the sidewalks using non-existent lines to define the boundaries.

What mattered was having the time to play, forging friendships and settling disputes. We learned the fine art of compromise and negotiation, knowing we had to come up with solutions that were fair and tolerable for everyone. It could be a very long summer if you “won” the disagreement but lost the friendship.

Looking back on those days, I realize how lucky I was to grow up on this street. At that time, it represented stability in the fact that very few families moved in or out of the neighborhood. When your surroundings don’t change much it can add a sense of continuity that, I think, many kids don’t get now.
The parents on our street pretty much stayed in the jobs they had until the day they retired. I was fortunate that my parents enjoyed their work, and I’m making a big assumption that the neighborhood parents enjoyed theirs as well. It’s not something that I ever contemplated in my youth. At the very least, they found no reason to move on.

I can’t even remember how many jobs I’ve had over the years. Some were good and I wanted to stay, but the constant flux of business life would not allow that. Some were awful and I couldn’t wait to leave, but the opportunity to move on wasn’t always available when I was itching to go. If anything, the stability of my childhood years and home life left me ill-prepared for the world I face as an adult. I’m not complaining; I’m truly grateful for that idyllic childhood and the memories I made with the Webb Street Gang, and I’m no worse off for the varied employment experiences.

As the gang grew up, we all moved away to seek our adventures in different areas of the world. I’m the only one who moved away and returned to my childhood home. For me, it was the right thing to do. I’ve had plenty of adventures, and it was important to move back to a place that has held so many happy memories for me and to spend time with my parents easing their transition from this world to the next.

Fifty years ago, our neighborhood changed as a family when four kids moved in and became part of our unofficial gang. We loved them from the start and made a pile of memories.

As adults, they moved on to different states but came back to celebrate the life of their mother who passed last week. Many of our original gang were able to attend the service. Memories are the ties that bind our hearts together with love and friendship. It was good to see the “kids” again and fun to reunite with other kids from our gang. Stories were told — some embellished, some not so clear, but there is something about reliving your childhood that is good for the soul.

Of all the neighborhood moms and dads, there is now only one mom still living, and I’m grateful for every chance I get to visit with her.

The neighborhood has completely transformed, and the houses on our street are once again filled with children. I can only hope that their Webb Street Gang will give them as many fond memories as mine did.

Miriam Nelson is the news editor of the Wittenberg Enterprise & Birnamwood News. Readers can contact her at mnelson@newmedia-wi.com