My baby boomhood coincided with the ranch-house boom. Ours, on Sunnyside avenue in Elmhurst, Il, was built on a vacant lot among older tall homes. These jutted and strutted in tudor and colonial style. The upstart ranches that snuck in during the 1950s were intruders, keeping their roof lines low so few would notice they had got in.
My horizontally inclined house sat between two dimples of grass, like a smile. It had a front porch and front door and front yard, these used primarily to stage Easter morning photos of family in new hats and pressed suits.
Going behind my house held a hint of adventure, what with the neighbors property being less than 8 feet behind ours. I wished our neighbors, the Lawrences, had been more dramatic because I could have heard them easily from my bedroom window, say if anger erupted at dinnertime. It didn’t. In retrospect, if we could hear Lawrence goings-on, then the Lawrences were equally capable of hearing our goings-on. This is not a pleasant thought.
On the up side, Mr. Lawrence knew how to make his pack of Camel cigarettes smoke. Specifically, he could make the camel on the front of the package emit smoke. My two brothers and I figured him famous for this, though he really was humble about it.