Reflection from Walk #50 – Saturday, on June 27, 2015, 7:30 am at Jane Addams Elementary School, Fresno Unified School District, on McKinley, just steps west of Hwy 99. Seven began this walk on a very warm morning. Three walkers returned to the cars about halfway, and four walkers completed the 4 mile round trip. Themes on this walk: Walkers’ assumptions challenged — the variety within one neighborhood — and the power of shared silent walking. Walkers learned three stories of people we met: Henry, Terrance, and JC. Meet these three, and see the neighborhoods in the photo album of Walk #50…
Walkers entered the usually locked campus of Addams Elementary because a teacher had returned to her classroom this morning, unlocked the gates for us, escorted us through the campus, and then joined us for Walk #50 through neighborhoods where her students live. The teacher explained that while she had previously driven some of the main streets, she had not seen the back streets of these neighborhoods and had not walked there. After the walk, this teacher and other walkers shared the following observations.
Walkers who were not familiar with this neighborhood were surprised by the close proximity of such different living circumstances within the same neighborhood. We were surprised by the variety and combination of things in the same neighborhood. We saw chickens, roosters, goats, cats, and dogs. Two dogs were attached to thick, long wires that hung high between two big trees the length of the dusty front yard. The dogs’ leashes stretched straight up from their necks to the wire above their heads. This way they could run the full length of the yard. They were barking loudly, dangerously close to the road, and we hoped the wire above would keep them a safe distance from us. Most houses had front-yard living areas or seating areas. The majority of houses had front yard fences. There was rarely a sidewalk on this walk and little shade reached onto the street. There was a handful of boarded up houses and a couple of burned out houses.
FMWalkers described how they were pleasantly drawn to the creative “sparks” in yards, such as a sunflower bush, artifacts, statutes, signs, wind chimes, and unique fountains and chairs for sitting. Walkers talked about the front yard bathtub that sat oddly dwarfed below a massive black satellite dish solidly standing on the ground.
The teacher described how, after this walk, she had a much better understanding of the variety of home circumstances that her students come from. She had only known her students to come from the large mobile home parks, the RV parks, apartments, or places on “Motel Drive.” But there were also individual homes within these blocks. There was a ‘rural’ feeling of streets just south of Addams, with some large lots and a wide range of living conditions. Walkers saw large dry dirt lots with small frail shacks. Other homes, while fewer, showed signs of care over many years, with mature landscaping and signs of major upkeep such as newer roofs, new fences, updated landscaping, paint, stucco, and some colorful front doors. Walkers noticed handicap ramps and handicapped parking permits on older model cars, and we discussed how this may indicate that seniors are still living here. Walkers guessed that this may be who resided in the most well-kept homes.
At the corner of Olive and Hughes in front of Choice Market, Walkers met Henry whose beautiful classic car had a “For Sale $20,000” sign in the window. In a brief conversation, Lori learned that Henry had lived in this neighborhood from 1959 until just a few years ago when he downsized and moved to northwest Fresno. On his fixed retirement income, he had to downsize, which meant selling this car that he inherited from his grandfather. He was proud to say it was a one-owner car. I asked Henry why he came all the way to this market, and he said because he could buy things in smaller quantities–and he needed this convenience since he was single. Henry seemed comfortable in this parking lot and freely offered greetings to those who walked by. One FMWalker knew this market opened at 8 am, and it was already bustling with business.
FMWalkers met Terrance pulling a shopping cart across the street from the recycling center at Belmont and Lafayette. Terrance was happy to talk with us. He had just earned $10 for cans and plastic he collected from one motel. He said he comes to this recycling center because they pay better. Terrance told us he lives “here and there.” Terrance grew up in Fresno and went to Fig Garden Elementary, Tioga Middle School, and graduated from Hoover High in 1978. He told us about a place just west of here that dumps outdated potato chips into a big pile to convert into fuel. He said it smells so good and makes him so hungry to smell it. Terrance told us he hears music on a radio every once in a while, and he loves music these days. It’s a pleasure for him to get to hear current music. Terrance wishes he had a harmonica. We asked Terrance where he gets mail–he doesn’t get mail.
Walkers met JC who was sitting in the shade of Choice Market. He told us he sits there often and just enjoys the spot. He builds bicycles for people. JC rides a bike for transportation and lives near Shields and Marks. He’s retired from construction. A Walker asked JC where he gets his mail, and he explained that he has a house and is not homeless. After the walk, Walkers talked about how what we learn on these walks often challenges our assumptions. Three people we talked to on this walk told us their life stories, and all the stories had elements that surprised us.
Walkers walked through a mobile home park that had many RVs. One resident who lives in an RV told us that he rents here month-by-month, and that the plan is to get rid of the mobile homes and make it all RVs. The RVs here looked settled in with multiple cars, canopies, sheds, toys, exercise equipment, and gardening. Most RVs had a “seating and/or dining area” out in front–it looked like people would sit out there in the evenings and make meals on the BBQ. Walking north on Pleasant, we walked along the back fence of a large mobile home park. Mobile home residents had placed interesting items along their back fences that could be seen from Pleasant. For example, 3 plastic horses from a child’s spring horse toy straddled an iron fence, and there was an intentional display of interesting and unusual objects carefully arranged on the sides of a wooden shed.
The teacher from Addams Elementary shared how many students come and go throughout the school year. For example, while she may only have a class of 34 per year, her roster has about 50 students because of students that have enrolled and then left at some point during the school year. She said that Addams Elementary has students coming from a large area — the motels that house many families temporarily, and the RV parks, mobile home parks, and subsidized apartments in this area send students to Addams. Walkers reflected on the implications for a student’s learning when he or she is uprooted often throughout a school year.
Walkers wondered if this area was considered ‘county island’ instead of the City of Fresno and what that difference meant. Walkers noticed the lack of sidewalks or neglect of the few sidewalks we did see. The basin park that was next to the Addams elementary was unlocked, and Walkers saw a few people using the park for walking, running, and dog walking. However, there was very little shade, just a few newer trees, and no special parking for this park, only on busy Hughes Avenue for parking or within the neighborhood. The teacher told us that this walk had covered some of the nicer streets that she had seen in this neighborhood, and she was glad to have now seen these areas.
Walkers ended the discussion with thoughts about this ‘shared silence’ experience.
These neighborhoods are filled with our brothers and sisters in Fresno. All of our lives and futures are tied together.Uncategorized