I remember one hot mid-summer day in the ‘50s my Mom had sent me on an errand to the local grocery store when I came upon “The Wall.”

As I turned the corner heading toward the grocery store at 16th and Clearfield streets, my attention was caught by sounds coming from beside the four-story brownstone house that stood at the corner. Next to the enormous brown steps leading up to the first floor, there was a yard with a huge 50-foot (or so it seemed) wall of privet hedge interwoven in a wrought iron fence. 

I heard voices on the summer breeze and stepped nearer to the fence to see what I could see. If you stood back at the street side of the pavement, the wall looked solid green, but if you walked up to the fence, you could see through the leaves of the hedge. I saw a green lawn which backed up to a patio, with a table and several chairs. 

The women and men sitting in the chairs and standing nearby wore long flowered dresses and seersucker suits and were talking and laughing as they drank their iced lemonade from tall frosted glasses.

What if I could walk through the wall/hedge/fence? Would the men and women smile and offer me a nice cold glass of lemonade on this hot, hot July day?

The complexion of the neighborhood had changed over the last few years and these people would more likely recoil in horror if I did step thru the wall. Some of them would shriek, faint, drop one of those tall frosted glasses onto the patio floor thereby breaking it into a thousand pieces while others would run into the house to call the police. 

I was a skinny kid, so I could see the police handcuffs falling to the ground if I let my arms down in front of me. My Mom and Pop would have to bail me out of the police station and promise not to let me out of our home, not to let me trespass again. Oh, the shame of it all.

I stepped back from the wall, turned and continued on my errand, walking down the steaming sidewalk to the store. There were too many hard questions and even though I was only 8 years old, I didn’t want to know the answers.

Millicent Knight


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