This is a paean to suburbs in general and to Fleming Heights in particular. It has long been trendy
to criticize suburbs, especially those with pre-fabricated houses (in the case of Fleming, Knox Homes) as â
€œlittle boxes made of ticky-tackyâ€� (from the Marxist writer Malvina Reynolds and sung left wing
singers like Pete Seeger and Peter Paul and Mary). The left complained that the children of the suburbs
went to school, summer camp, college, married and raised families â€“ they thought that was a bad thing.
Of course politicians donâ€™t like the suburbs, at least those outside the city limits since they didnâ€™t
pay taxes to support their political machines and reward their supporters with cushy city jobs and paving
contracts. The â€œold richâ€� didnâ€™t like them because suburbanites didnâ€™t pay taxes to
subsidize their orchestra and ballet tickets (though given the dismal state of American culture today, they
just want subsidized sports stadiums and cheaper sports tickets). Both sides assumed those in the suburbs
lead lives of â€œquiet desperation.â€�
But for military brats in the 1950s and 1960s, the middle and working class area (areas, since a lot of
places that werenâ€™t technically Fleming Heights were included, as well a areas around Bayville, etc and
is generically known as "South Augusta" today, I guess.) of Fleming Heights was a great place to grow up.
Good public schools like Fleming, Wheeless Road, and Bayville (and even Murphy Junior High),
Richmond and eventually Butler, still taught real stuff and prepared kids for the work force or college (the
early 1960s were when real SAT scores peaked).
Kids could also grow up safely back then (little or no crime back then), There were big yards to play in
(though few climbing trees â€“ mostly pine & scrub oak). There were school yards to play in (no chain-
link fences around schools back then). Work-in-the-home-momâ€™s kept an eye on children (even
when you didnâ€™t want them to). Almost everyone went to the same neighborhood schools, so you
knew most of the kids (and there were lots of kids born before the official start of the baby boom).
For the kids there was touch football and baseball in vacant lots organized by the kids themselves (like in
the empty lot between the former Cliftwood Presbyterian Church and Leslie Circle) -- I donâ€™t really
remember many official little league in the area except the school teams). There was, of course, Troop 99
for boy scouts, but you had to go elsewhere at the time for Cub Scouts â€“ I was a member of Pack 12,
which met, I think, at Burns Memorial Methodist Church). Dens met in Den Motherâ€™s houses, to
which you walked or bicycled. If you like stamp collecting, a very nice young lady at the contract
substation at the corner of Wheeless and Deanâ€™s Bridge would order 3-cent commemorative stamps
just for kid collectors (and one time, half-cent Benjamin Franklin Stamps, a mother lode for young stamp
collectors â€“ an entire sheet for just $1.00). Most of the stamp collectors got their foreign stamps from
mail order approvals from companies like Littleton, Mystic, Kenmore, etc. The approval stamps were
probably very common and overpriced, but they always came with thrilling descriptions which to this day,
makes some of them seem very exotic.
Of course, boys liked to live a life of â€œdangerâ€� and excitement sometimes. Every scout carried a
pocket knife to school (the blade had to be under 3-inches). For a while, the convenience store next to
the contract post office sold penny firecrackers illegally (hey they were legal for â€œagricultural useâ€�
and we were perfectly willing to scare crows away from our â€œcropsâ€� (of plastic army men) with
them. They stopped suddenlyâ€“ maybe one of the watchful parents turned the storekeepers in. Many of
the kids owned 22 rifles, and we could bike to the â€œsand pitsâ€� and target shoot (today, it would
bring the swat team).
I suppose one reason we played outside so much was the lack of air-conditioning â€“ a few window
units, but very few in kidâ€™s rooms. We got acclimated and survived in the summer heat of Georgia.
One summer in the early 1950â€™s it got so hot the pavement softened, and on a curve on Ruby Drive
traffic began to slowly push the pavement to the far side of the road â€“ my wife still doesnâ€™t believe,
me but it happened.
Other rememberd things: Bookmobiles (recently discontinued by Richmond County), pick-up trucks that
would drive down the street blowing their horn selling vegetables, twice a day mail deliveries during
Christmas season, and during the summer, the DDT truck going through to spray for mosquitos (killed the
lightening bugs, too). Today I have lightening bugs in my yard, but so many mosquitos they are no fun to
In Praise of Fleming Heights
Franklin Street in
1952. A view of
the Pack 12 Wolf
Cub Scout with the
nearly new (not
much in the way of
yards yet) houses
RIGHT: A rare snow brought out the kids on Franklin Street. Front
Row. Dorothy Murphy, snowman, unknown (possibly Bill Dornbosâ
€™s brother) . Back Row: John deTreville, Doug Chandler, Robert
Murphy, Bill Dornbos, Danny Chandler
group of young
ladies dress up
Street in the