Culture of the Sandlot Grit and Grime

Eagle Field Former Home of The Pecan Park Eagles

Eagle Field
Post WWII Home of
The Pecan Park Eagles

 

We were just dirty, grimy little kids. Puberty had not yet knocked. We weren’t into “putting on social airs” for anybody in the sandlots of Houston’s east end. We just were “the way we were” at Eagle Field, that little quadruple house lot city tract of land that still exists today as Japonica Park. Besides, this was good old Houston in the late 1940s summertime. None of us had ever heard the term “air conditioning” in our part of town. Everybody we knew sweated normally in the Houston heat and humidity. Back in that day, those two qualities were the almost indistinguishable conditions of Houston indoor and outdoor air from late April to early October.

Heat? Humidity? Even those who showered in the morning prior to work or school couldn’t escape the facts. After a ten minute June ride in a car, even with all the windows down, you were going to start sweating and stinking again anyway by the time you reached your destination – so, we kids reasoned, what was the point of the bath in the first place?

And nobody wore shoes, even to the Saturday kid double feature at the Avalon Theatre on 75th, just north of the Lawndale intersection. The Avalon provided one special wrinkle to our preferred barefoot state. You had to get used to walking on the melted candy that other kids had dropped in the aisles and seat rows for weeks upon weeks of summer fun. They never cleaned the floors. It filled every rodent way seat file in the joint. What a party the Avalon’s unofficial residents must have enjoyed once the Avalon home of Roy Rogers, the Bowery Boys, and Charlie Chan shut down each evening ’round midnight.

The Avalon, however, was no big challenge to our dressing or hygienic preferences. Our calloused feet were as hard as rocks and as tough as leather – and none us individually smelled any worse than anyone else. Everybody eventually gashed a foot, once or twice, as a result of broken class or tin cans in the weed patches we all traversed, but, beyond the blood, that was nothing serious. Everybody expected it to happen to them too, sooner or later. And we all healed up on our own and kept on playing.

Tee shirts, blue jeans, and underwear were our standard attire for us guys, except for Sundays, when bathing, dressing up, and wearing shoes were the Lord’s Day penalty our parents attached to the business of going to church. Dads also were home on Sundays, enforcing an ordered way of life that did not quite exist during the rest of the week.

Of course, Sundays also were fun, especially the ones in which our destination was Buff Stadium, but we also enjoyed Sunday family dinners at Weldon’s Cafeteria on South Main or a first suburban-run A-movie at the Santa Rosa, Wayside, Eastwood, or Broadway theaters. My younger brother John and I both understood too the grown-up way of thinking – that you had to clean up and wear shoes for those kinds of places.

Come Monday morning again, however, it was back to the sandlot, where down and dirty was our way of life. Beads of sweat were our adornments, like so many pools of body ornamentation, collecting the grass, grit, and grime we rolled in on the ground – making sensational catches – or sometimes griming together in the wrestling matches we seemed to need to use up the energy that remained from a full day of baseball.

Then, on various linear-lined days that descended upon all of us from that Houston era, everything changed. First, puberty hit us all. Then came affordable home air conditioning. We now had two compelling reasons in Pecan Park for cleaning up, caring about our attire, our personal hygiene, and wearing shoes.

Before home A/C, the relative comfort of being inside wasn’t that much of a relief from the heat and humidity of being outside. Once we had home A/C in one room, we wanted it in all rooms. Then we had to have it in our cars too. And it wasn’t too long from then that people seemed to only want to go places that were air conditioned. I even remember one time at Buff Stadium in the 1950s hearing this older woman saying to a man I presumed was her husband: “Wouldn’t it be great if they could figure out a way to air condition Buff Stadium?”

“That’ll never happen,” the man responded. “Unless they also can figure out a way to play baseball indoors, that ain’t going to happen.”

Ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” He might have added that puberty is the reason that boys start taking baths, and he also could have thrown in the not-far-fetched theory that our addiction to air conditioning in Houston is what inevitably necessitated the construction of the Astrodome.

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pecan park

 

 

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2 Responses to “Culture of the Sandlot Grit and Grime”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    Last year while in Houston and after stopping at the nearby James Coney Island, I drove by your old house and Japonica Park (Eagle Field).

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Tom, In behalf of all surviving Pecan Park Eagles, we are humbly honored by this flattering news. Beyond Bob Dorrill, who made the same trip with me in 2009, you may be only the second intentional tourist that good old Eagle Field (Japonica Park) has ever registered.

      It makes me smile. Thank you. 🙂 Regards, Bill

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