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Sheffield Neighborhood Revisited (standard:non fiction, 705 words)
Author: dcastleAdded: Dec 29 2004Views/Reads: 1579/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
This is about how life was where I grew up as a kid in Kansas city in the 50s
 



Sheffield neighborhood revisited. I took a drive through the old
Sheffield area of Northeast last weekend and couldn't help but remember 
how things were in the 50s and 60s. The area is almost a ghost town now 
but I can still picture the vibrant, bustling community of my 
childhood. 

I passed by Sheffield Steel, which once employed more than 5,000 people,
one of whom was my father, Edgar Castle. He started out sweeping floors 
at the age of seventeen and retired as a pipe fitter after 40 years of 
service. Working at the mill was both hot and dangerous. Two of my 
fathers closest friends died in accidents there. Anytime we heard the 
fire trucks leaving the station at Independence Ave and Bennington with 
their sirens blaring, it struck fear in our hearts that it might be our 
relatives this time. Due in a big part to his careful and cautious 
manner, my father only suffered a broken foot in those 40 years.  Plant 
safety improved a great deal over the years as OSHA became involved. 
Other than the safety factor, the mill was a very good to its 
employees. Good pay and great benefits. 

The mill not only supported many families in Sheffield, it also
supported the many small business that lined Winner Road for several 
blocks.  Mill workers needed gloves, work boots, overalls and safety 
equipment that were supplied by these stores. 

It was also a great place for an enterprising young person to sell
anything from watermelons to candy outside the main gates. I remember 
by brother Doug winning the candy selling contest four straight years 
at Henry Clay school and my sister Karen winning the next three years 
thanks in a large part to their being clever enough to stand outside 
the gates as the men were leaving work. 

I can still remember buying a hamburger, fries and soda for 35 cents at
Freddie's fountain in the Fordview Drugstore. This is the same store 
that would let us cash in pop bottles for two cents on the small ones 
and a nickel for the big ones. Not bad, considering that you could buy 
a candy bar for five cents and a king size bar for 10 cents. Most of 
the men in our neighborhood worked at Sheffield but there were a few 
that worked at the Chevy and Ford plants. These jobs paid good enough 
that their wives could stay home and take care of their children. We 
had five children in our family but there were several others with as 
many as nine children. Very few of them got in trouble with the law. I 
think this had a lot to do with their mothers being home during the day 
and the fact that we had a policeman that did a foot patrol. We quickly 
learned that we could trust and confide in him. I suppose that it was 
urban sprawl that put an end to this type of patrol in the late 50s in 
our little community. 

I can vaguely remember watching the trolley on Winner Road. If I close
my eyes, I can still hear the train whistles and the steady drone of 
planes with propellers. 

I miss the wonderful smell of leaves being burned on a crisp October
day. Everyone has air conditioning now so they can't experience the 
aromas of fried chicken or a pot roast wafting through open windows 
across the neighborhood. 

Life was so much slower and simpler then. In bed with the flu or another
ailment, no problem, just call the doctor and he came to your house to 
take care of your needs. Need several things from the grocery store? 
Just call one of the two mom and pop stores in the neighborhood, give 
them your list, and they would pull your order and actually pack it in 
a box for you to pick up.  I am very happy that my parents picked this 
part of Northeast to raise their children. It was a tough but safe 
environment which helped prepare me for life as an adult. I will always 
be thankful for that. 

I can only hope that someday the mill will reopen and Sheffield will
return to it's glory days. 


   


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